Why betting culture is more than just a bit of fun for young Kenyans

  • Great demand for betting services among young Kenyans
  • Lack of regulation makes gamblers vulnerable to problems

Kenyans are becoming more and more involved in gambling as a supposed ‘investment’ as they seek alternatives to the stock market and to career opportunities, The Standard reported in an illuminating article.

Kenyan casino tax
Kenya’s economic troubles may be changing the way Kenyans ‘invest’ their money.

Betting shops are growing in popularity and the Kenya Revenue Authority expects to increase its income from gambling taxes in the coming year.

Advertising for gambling services is becoming more prevalent, and some studies suggest that the younger generations are placing their money in bets for potential short-term results, rather than playing the long game and buying land or stocks.

In fact, a recent sports punter from Kenya, Samuel Abisai, turned his $2 into $2.14 million, a rare, but well-publicised example of someone changing their life with a one-off bet.

Rise of the betting shop in Kenya

With unemployment rising and few opportunities even for qualified young people, many Kenyans are seeking a different way to make their money.

Investing in property, land or corporate stocks has been a solid and steady income for many young Kenyans in the past, but often capital investment requires a long wait for any real payoff – and sometimes a significant amount of money in the first place.

The fast turnover of bet-to-win payouts is therefore appealing to a cash-strapped young generation.

Low wages can be transformed into sizable paychecks in moments, if the right bet is placed.

This buzz is causing a surge in attendance at high street bookmakers, as well as a sudden uptick in online betting sign-ups.

Cyber cafes are also getting a boost as young betting fans seek a wireless signal so they can place wagers through their smartphones. Some firms report having to block betting sites on their business networks, due to employees spending more time making bets than doing their jobs.

Concerns over safety of gambling industry

While there is always the chance of winning big and achieving that dream, there is huge risk with any gamble: from losing the bet to potential addiction.

Many Kenyans are already proving themselves to be vulnerable to problem gambling. Betting shops and electronic gaming terminals are a relatively new concept in the African nation, especially in smaller villages and regions which did not previously have access.

However, regulation is extremely loose and responsible play measures are not often enforced by operators or officials.

The government’s recent threats to tax gambling at 50%, which it in part claimed would help stave off potential problem gambling, was eventually rowed back on to the slightly less stringent 35%.

Marketing for gambling in Kenya often focuses on the potential big wins, and pushes players to spend more and keep trying.

These tactics are prohibited in the United States and across most European nations. In villages outside Mombasa, electronic betting machines sit in the street and can be accessed by children. One Kenyan resident reported to The Standard that her six-year-old child had a gambling addiction.

While officials have made efforts to increase taxes on gambling providers and improve financial regulation, the public argues that the safety and security of players needs urgent reform – including police action to tackle rogue providers and to stop underage play.

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