In probability, if you toss a coin, you cannot get a head and a tail at the same time. It is one or the other, a gamble. This is what betting is about — you win or lose, there is no middle ground.
Yet, thousands of young Kenyans are addicted to gambling. A GeoPoll report in 2017 shows that the country has the highest number of gamblers in sub — Saharan Africa, with sports betting the most popular form of gambling. Further, 40 percent of low-income consumers are unemployed and 29 percent are students.
The government’s refusal to renew the licences for some betting companies comes at a time when many individuals are addicted to betting and have turned it into an income-generating activity.
Is it the allure of quick riches?
Abigail Khamati, 32, has been betting for the last four years and the government’s move has left her without a stable source of income. She acknowledges that betting is her biggest hustle and yes, the thought of making instant riches excites her.
“I depend on what I get from betting to meet most of my expenses, say house rent and other personal needs,” she says. “Using the money earned from gambling, I was able to start a side hustle — selling men’s clothes.”
Although she is addicted to betting, she is quick to defend herself as a responsible gambler.
“I am a football fan. My favourite team is Arsenal and I started betting because I realised that I was good at predicting the outcome of football matches. What began as a pastime became a good source of income,” she offers.
“It derives some attributes from business; you have to be resilient and willing to take risks. I spend Sh10,000 to Sh 20,000 every weekend. I decided to bet only on weekends because that is when there are more matches and I can concentrate fully.” she says.
“Should I lose a game, I take a break, say one day, then start betting again. Last year, I lost more than Sh100,000 but also made more than that. At one time, I placed a Sh1,500 bet and won Sh 80,000,” she offers.
While she has lost thousands, of shillings, she is not ready to stop because of the returns, and the fact that it is instant money.
Clare Sunguti, 29, comes from a betting family. Her father and six siblings are also into betting, which she considers too inviting to stop. “I am not a football fan but I was inspired by my brother when he won Sh64,000 in December 2016. At home, we would regularly contribute money and bet. Once we won Sh 110,000 and my brothers encouraged me to start playing solo,” she says.
Advances in technology have made it easier to bet. Those without, say football knowledge, can ask for tips and odds through the various social media platforms.
Sunguti is a marketer by profession and sells cosmetics and groundnuts on the side. Whatever profits she makes, she channels into betting. not borrow or take loans to place bets,” she offers.
Meanwhile, just the mention of betting brings bad memories to Stephen Muriithi, whose name we changed to protect his privacy.
The former bank teller was introduced to betting by a customer in 2016, and it led to his downfall, including his job.
He started by using Sh500 a day before doubling the amount. But even the loss of Sh50,000 did not bring him back to his senses.
“By the time the bank fired me, I had exhausted my savings and was more than Sh300,000 in debt. It took my mother and a few friends to get me out of betting,” he says.
Isaac Maweu, a counselling psychologist, classifies gambling as a process addiction like pornography.
“Most people bet with the expectation of winning big and whenever they lose, the mind is conditioned to think that they might win the following day, so they continue. Before you know it, you are addicted.
The process brings about various effects such as anxiety, depression, criminal activities to support the behaviour, guilt and strained relationships,” he says, adding that it is possible to get out of it through self-regulation and commitment.