‘I am a betting addict and I want to quit’

AFP No-one under 18 is now allowed into a betting shop

Gambling is a multi-million dollar business in Kenya, but there are more losers than winners – with an increasing number of young people chancing their luck, writes Anthony Wanjiru.

The grey weather had not dampened the mood at the Mozzart Betting Shop in Westlands, Nairobi.

The punters continue to loudly place their wagers in the betting store, which is one of the many that dot Kenya’s capital.

This is where I meet Ken Karanja, 29, who best embodies the gambling culture beguiling many young people in the city.

Ken Karanja, truck driver:

“I am a betting addict”

He lives in Rwaka, a cosmopolitan area about 15km nine miles north-west of Nairobi, and makes 3,000 Kenyan shillings £22; £30 a day as a truck driver – money which he often gambles away.

“I am a betting addict. I bet 100 Kenyan shillings a day and 1,000 to 1,500 Kenyan shillings during weekends,” he says.

He used to frequent what were known as gambling dens, which were unregulated and where children could also place bets.

In the last four years, agen sbobet these have closed down, to be replaced by online gambling services – with people using their mobile phones, cyber cafes or one of the chains of new betting shops to place bets online on anything from the local league to World Cup matches.

Allure of instant money

This move has made it easier for people to place bets.

Mr Karanja has lost about $5,000 during a six-year gambling period. He bets because he wants to recover what he has lost, sometimes borrowing money or even charging his clients before doing a job.

Kenya has the highest number of young people in sub-Saharan Africa – between the ages of 17-35 – who gamble frequently, a 2017 GeoPoll survey found.

Another study from 2016 estimated that 78% of university students were problem gamblers.

The country is the third-largest gambling market in Africa, after Nigeria and South Africa.

Figures from the gambling regulator, the Betting Control and Licensing Board BCLB, show that gross gambling revenue for the 20162017 financial year was $198m £151m – equivalent to about half of the annual health budget.

However, the allure of instant money has come at a cost.

In 2016, a university student hanged himself after losing about $790 on a bet. Since then, more than five suicides and cases of bankruptcy, domestic violence and evictions have been reported.

To deter Kenyans from becoming problem gamblers, the government has introduced some taxes – the first, which came into affect in January, means betting firms must hand over 35% of their profits.

Nelson Gaichuhie, a senior official at Kenya’s Treasury, says a second tax, to be introduced soon, will target gamblers themselves – taxing winnings.

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