Can you gamble your way into financial freedom?

Tuesday March 15 2016

AFC Leopards' Andrew Tololwa (left) celebrates his goal with teammate Lamine Dialo on February 14, 2016 during their SportPesa Premier League match against Mathare United  at Nyayo National Stadium. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

AFC Leopards' Andrew Tololwa (left) celebrates his goal with teammate Lamine Dialo on February 14, 2016 during their SportPesa Premier League match against Mathare United at Nyayo National Stadium. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

On February 22, four lucky Kenyans went home with a total of Sh36,427,566. They had correctly predicted the results of 13 football games and scooped the Sportpesa betting game’s jackpot.

Less than a month earlier, Ms Elimah Khanaista’s life changed dramatically after she bagged a Sh22,049,424 jackpot in the same game. She had correctly predicted the outcome of 13 football games. Upon winning the jackpot, the 27-year-old mother two and her husband declared that the jackpot would go towards building their tea packaging business, Golden Tea.

Although she had been betting and winning smaller amounts prior to bagging the jackpot, Ms Khanaista’s life had not always been as rosy as it would soon become. She had been employed as an operator at an M-Pesa agency, where she was sacked after losing Sh45,000 to a conman. However the betting millions have now radically changed her fortunes.

Since launching in January 2014 with an investment of Sh400 million, Sportpesa has now given out over Sh106 million in jackpot prizes.

Sportpesa is not the only betting platform. Following the proliferation of betting games locally, multiple gambling sites have pitched camps and attracted the attention of many Kenyans.

According to James Njenga, a personal finance expert, football betting has remained the most popular due to its reach and affordability. For instance, to place either a single or multiple bet on Sportpesa, gamblers are required to top up their accounts with a minimum of Sh100.

Currently, some of the most popular sites include Bet-In, Elite BetKenya, Sportpesa, BetWay, M-Cheza, Bet-Yetu, and Just-Bet.
In November last year, Betway gave its first three jackpot winners Sh8,500,000.

Although some Kenyans have reaped millions from gambling, many Kenyans have been as lucky. Take Patrick Kilonzo. Over the past few months, he has lost Sh13,500. “My last loss was a bet of Sh1,200 that I placed on the Real Madrid versus Athletico Madrid derby game. I favoured Real Madrid which lost, taking my cash down the drain,” he says.

However, despite losing his money, Kilonzo says he is not considering quitting betting yet. “You can’t win if you don’t lose. I know I’ll recover from these loses if I keep betting.” In the next one month, he has set aside Sh20,000 from his Sh60,000 monthly salary for betting.

Interestingly, many of those taking part in the betting games consider them as a source of income that they need to work hard in order to earn.

Mr George Mwangi, who in September 2015 bagged the Sportspesa Jackpot of Sh29.5 million, said his win was not a fluke or a guess. He attributed it to hard work, his ability to study and dissect football games, and his commitment to betting.

“Winning or losing is quite hard. It’s not about guess work,” said the 50-year-old former banker and father of three after winning the jackpot.
His sentiments were echoed by Mr Faustine Asenahabi who bagged a Sh10 million Betin jackpot. According to Mr Asenahabi, betting is a form of income that pays rent and other utilities if done consistently. “I’ll keep betting for as long as I can,” he declared.

Strikingly, the annual turnover being generated from sports betting has been on a sharp rise. According to a report titled Taking the Odds: Gamblig Outlook 2015–2019 by PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC), last year, the annual gross turnover from sports betting games in Kenya stood at Sh2.1 billion. This is expected to more than double by 2019.


Apart from sports betting, gambling in casinos has been on an upward trend, with casino firms pitching camps in Kenya. Currently, some of the popular casinos include the Intercontinental Casino, Cameo Casino, Captains Casino, Finix Casino, and the Casino Malindi Group which runs five casinos.

In casino, gamblers engage in games such as blackjack, pokers, cards, roulettes, Texas poker tournaments, Punto Banco and slot machines. Aside from the fact that Lady luck may take time to smile on your path, There are other downsides with addiction to gambling ranking highest.

According to Nairobi-based psychologist Ken Munyua, you can easily become addicted to gambling and betting in the same way a person gets addicted to drugs.

Additionally, according to psychologist and author Susan Krauss, the highest risk of gamblers developing gambling disorders is likely to occur among people who engage in betting games involving mental skills such as cards, sports betting, gambling machines, and horse races.

Interestingly, as Money found out some Kenyans are viewing betting and gambling as a form of investment. Zack Kibet, a 33-year-old businessman in Eldoret town, falls in this category. He has been gambling for the past two years now. “I see no difference between committing money to the stock market and gambling. Both are risky ventures but could also reward handsomely,” he says.

However, according to Mr Njenga, gambling is far removed different from investing. “Investing doesn’t merely include placing lots based on slim facts and intuition. Rather, it entails putting your money in businesses that offer you a clear stake based on its fundamental upside potential,” he says, adding that while betting and gambling may have more excitement in them, they will always be riskier than putting money in a business.

Nonetheless, he points out that despite the downside risks of bringing gambling into business, there are investors who will be fond of gambling with financial markets.

“There are people who regard investing in the financial markets as a form of gambling. However, gambling in financial markets usually ends up increasing volatility of the markets on one hand, and increasing liquidity with minimal value on the other hand,” he says.