Sport Betting in East Africa: Gift or Curse?

They are flashy with attractive color coordinates that scream welcome as you see them. They are always heard and seen on every advertising platform and very easy to spot. They dominate the audiovisual and as attractive as your next desire. Guess what? They are meant to be that way with huge numerical figures and ‘jackpot’ being the key word in flashy brightly colored font or under blast effect to depict that such kind of money won is the bomb of a lifetime.

Image Credit:PAUL OGEMBA

Get rich quick syndromes is a fallacy and those testimonials with dummy cheques smiling all the way to the bank are the lucky few consistent participants. The majorities are just contributors to a running business but Michael from kawangare area in Nairobi differs with me purely on the fact that he admits he cannot live without sports betting.

He says that sports betting spark a nerve of life to him, it is his fix. He does it when he wakes up on a break and in the evening, this must be like a compulsory routine of which he religiously adheres to. Michael doesn’t like it when someone refers to it as an addiction but a hobby just like chess or gameplay on a phone only that it involves money.

Currently, in Kenya, there are numerous sports betting companies fully fledged on every platform and highly used on smart phones.

Michael shares on how he had an analog phone and upgraded to a smartphone courtesy of his winnings. He has made a killing of winnings and more devastating losses on various platforms.

He has a preferred platform/ Betting app which he claims has brought both joy and misery recalling how he failed to give his young family a great Christmas like he did in the previous year due to miscalculated odds. You could see the disappointment on his face, but he has since moved on and keeps trying a hand at it with the hope to one day get the mega jackpot and transform from rags-to-riches.

I ask him about his biggest win “Kshs. 87,600 an equivalent of $876. I have played for 3 solid years and now its part of me” he says. He claims he has self-control and is a bit more cautious when placing bets. “I am no longer a fan favorite because right now odds matter than team loyalty,” he adds.

He comes from a neighborhood of poverty and a couple of thousand shillings can truly make a difference for a few months and some savings, but yet again the suicides associated with taking loans for bets have been a grim face in the same neighborhood.

Gambling addictions have rendered some homeless, bankrupt and depressed. And on the upside has made a living for some mostly those who study their craft and as much sports betting is never a guarantee. It has made an impact without a doubt a Pandora’s Box for sure.

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