A decade ago, gambling in Kenya was conducted in casinos where those at the top of the economic pyramid met to cut deals. One had to have a solid financial muscle to partake in this game.
Fast forward in 2016, a 14 year old in my native Munugi Village just need her mum’s identity card number, a mobile phone and perhaps steal Sh50 to try his hand on a million dollar promise.
A recent Gambling outlook by PricewaterhouseCoopers ranks Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria as fast growing gambling markets in the region with their combined revenue expected to hit $37b by year 2018.
The report shows that the general gambling industry in Kenya will average 6.8 per cent on a compound annual basis, rising from $18.4 m in 2013 to $25.6 m in 2018.
Sports gambling advertising spend is now on a record high with at least a fifth of all ads appearing on three major TV stations in the country falling under this category.
This, despite the slower economic growth and high withholding tax on gambling winnings of up to 20 per cent imposed last year.
Kenya is officially a gambling economy no wonder queries on how to bet on either sport betting platform often top Google search.
Even though gaming companies are positioning themselves as responsible in a bid to have a slice of the lucrative gambling market, researchers are worried over the trade’s social economic impact on both the country and participants.
‘’Betting makes one hopeful, lazy and desperate. No economy thrives in this kind of environment,’’ quips an economist Donald Komen.
He explained that although the government is generating handsome revenues in form of tax from the sector, the game is polarizing the country’s primary social economic fabric-household.
‘When the family’s savings are spent on betting with no sure returns, it simply means double poverty-no food, education and work’.
He added that it is worst when the youth- the country’s economic engine is gambling than investing in profitable ventures.
In 2012, a study on gambling by America’s National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) termed it more dangerous than drug or alcohol addiction.
According to the council, one in five problem gamblers attempt to kill themselves, about twice the rate of other addictions.
The study quoted another one conducted in Hong Kong in 2010 which revealed that of the 233 gambling suicides in the city over the course of a year, 110 of the victims had significant debts related to their problem.
The study found out that majority of these was male, middle-aged, married and employed.
Few showed evidence of prior psychiatric problems because they appeared normal in every way except that they had gambled their way into a bottomless pit.
Although much is not said about social effects of betting on participants in Kenya, a popular market analyst who asked for anonymity forecast a negative economic impact of betting on the country.