Betting has gained popularity in Kenya especially from 2014 where we have witnessed a mushrooming of betting firms with over 21 companies in operation. Gambling has indeed taken the country by storm, the industry is thriving and sports’ betting leads the way.
Though betting isn’t illegal in Kenya, the government had to intervene and put tighter regulations as the law was playing catch up with technology as it was enacted before the era of mobile phones and the internet. Parliament passed a bill that placed higher taxes on the betting firms. This though hasn’t stopped the firms from reaping big. It is reported that at least five million Kenyans have taken up betting in the last five years as part of a multi-billion-shilling betting craze that has swept the country which has raised concerns about gambling addiction.
The magnitude of it is seen by the kind of sponsorship deals the firms are entering which clearly demonstrates how sports betting has become big business in the country joining the league of companies such as Safaricom, East African Breweries and KCB, among others.
Sportpesa for example have sponsored several sports clubs and league the most surprising being English Premier League club, Hull City is a record breaking sponsorship deal in the history of the club. They have also sponsored the Kenyan Premier League (now Sportpesa Premier League), Gor Mahia, AFC Leopards and the Kenya Rugby Union.
Negative impact has also been experienced with cases of students using their school fees to bet some losing all the money. A Kenyatta University student committed suicide mid last year in Ondome village, Migori County, after losing Sh80,000 in a football bet. Stories have also been heard of some business people closing their shops or running them down as they are busy using their business money on betting.
Fans now care lesser about their favorite team winning, all they care is which bet will win them some money.
High rates of unemployment can be one of the factors that have led to the betting craze as Kenyans are desperate to earn some money to improve their livelihood.
Though one of the biggest beneficiaries are sports men and women who have gained by the millions of shillings which have been poured in the industry, it should be a concern as we risk a rising number of betting addicts which would affect the self development of current and future generations.