Well, our forefathers were right – Siku za mwizi ni arobaini. The Betting Control and Licensing Board rejected the applications for renewal of licences for 27 gambling firms.
Betting firms have been taking advantage of our lax market to offer their service to children.
The same firms, most of which have their registered offices in Europe, wouldn’t dare have children as their customers back home. But here in Kenya it is open season with cartoon advertisements being used to lure children to betting shops. Colour me surprised since this is an offence under Article 28 of the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act of 2018.
Children have now become gambling addicts, with every coin received being used to place bets in an effort to become a quick millionaire. Those who are cheeky steal from their relatives to keep up with their addiction. You thought your generation had it bad with glue sniffers and street children, try dealing with an addicted child gambler.
Gambling maybe fairly new to the market, but it is a fast-growing phenomenon quickly taking children as part of its collateral, especially with smartphone gambling. This is no surprise considering we only revised the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act in 2018. But we have to draw the line now!
This is no longer a matter of sin, as Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i put it. This is a matter of regulating the betting industry. The non-renewal of betting firm licences for fresh vetting is a crucial move, but it seems it is geared on tax matters rather than those affected by betting. While we should all render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, wholly focusing on the tax aspect of betting firms does not solve the underlying issues gambling is bringing to our children.
Hazard a guess what the penalties for advertising, receiving or negotiating a bet from a child are? A fine of Sh3,000 or imprisonment for three months or both. Is this what our children’s lives are worth? Betting firms generated more than Sh200 billion over the past five years.
What is a mere Sh3,000 for one of its agents. If betting firms are going to feel the squeeze for their actions, the firm itself should be fined hefty penalties that take into account their annual turnover, in addition to action being taken against their agents!
Children may still go into betting shops to place bets, but which firm will risk taking those nominal amounts much as they add up, over the loss of revenue? Penalties should not just be limited to taking bets from children but cover any advertising seeking to lure children into betting.
This is not an unreasonable measure or an intolerable sacrifice for betting firms considering that, in their countries of origin, hefty fines are being imposed for failing to operate in accordance with the law. Before we get too greedy and use the fines paid for personal use, a certain ratio should go to Treasury and some to the families of the affected children.
The betting firms will not be there to rehabilitate the child, assist the family salvage what they have lost to betting or tutor the child to get them up to speed where they have fallen behind, thanks to betting.
If we are intent on saving our youth from gambling, start with the children!
The writer focuses on children’s issues; [email protected]