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AMBANI: Betting is the youth’s answer to biting unemployment

Thursday June 20 2019

Kenyans place their bets at one of the many betting spots in Nairobi on July 30, 2016, along Market Street. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenyans place their bets at one of the many betting spots in Nairobi on July 30, 2016, along Market Street. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Dr Fred Matiang'i, the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Security, recently spelt out radical changes his ministry is drafting to regulate betting in Kenya.

And rightly so, as the betting craze has brought as much joy as it has brought misery to many Kenyans.

Betting used to be a simple matter until the introduction of online betting four years ago. This brought in a new level of gambling that has now become the bane of the society.

The idea was dangled in front of us like a carrot, starting out as an infatuation, then the wooing became serious and before we knew it we entered into a ‘marriage’ – being as clueless as a virgin on her wedding night.

And now we are stuck in a toxic relationship that no one knows how to get out from. Betting has elicited varied reactions, with a section blaming the boy child for allowing himself to be sucked into the wave.



Youths have now become professional liars just to get money from their parents to place a bet.

And grown men are betting their salaries and family livelihoods on the odds being determined by a computer.

But is succumbing to it their fault or are we laying the blame in the wrong place?

A Kenyan on Twitter who goes by the name Wordslinger and by his bio description is a lecturer, shared an emotional thread of what one of his friends was going through just to survive in these harsh economic times.

Picture this: A young man just finished university and doing odd jobs while waiting for that chance to notice his resume in the pile and offer him a nine to five job. This young man has a girlfriend who just had a baby and he does the right thing and takes up responsibility.

The guy earns Sh5000 from the different gigs he does at restaurants in the city and has to pay rent, electricity food and buy diapers for his child.

On top of this, he still has to make those monthly contributions to Mum and Dad in the village. Worst case scenario the baby develops a sudden illness and he has to divide the money between bills, food, his mother’s ‘Tuma Kitu’.

What might probably follow is for him to log into his account in one of the betting sites available and see if fortunes can turn his Sh5000 to Sh10000.

Middle aged men are also caught in the vicious web. In a separate incident, Wordslinger also narrates of a colleague friend of his aged 42 years who after years of being able to quit gambling he was forced to pick up the habit to get money to go back to his village.

This isbecause his dad wanted him to come with money to perform some family ceremony, and being the first born in the family he had to be there.

The conclusion he reached from all this is that majority are just trying to keep their heads above water.

They are trying to keep afloat in an environment where tokens are now so expensive, everything is expensive. Trying to do the right thing in difficult financial circumstances. The language of pathology must be dropped.

We can't have privileged folk who have never known lack in their lives coming out here saying, young people are gambling away their lives. No. They are gambling to try fix the economy and social systems you have killed with your greed and avarice and capitalistic tumbocracy.”

It is clear that as much as we scold our young men we need to find the root cause of it all. We cannot pretend that the economy is not playing a major role.

If the government has been reduced to beg for loans just to sustain itself, what fate is left for its people?


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