An investigative report by the Standard has exposed how love for quick money by Kenyans has overshadowed normal 'traditional' ways of acquiring wealth.
A normal morning at the Nairobi city centre, Kenyans are rushing to make it on time to their job places, two sharply young gentlemen walk along Market Street. If they are headed for a job interview, or a business appointment, high chances are that they will make it.
It later appears that they are neither headed to an interview, after a few metres walk, they enter a gambling shop at Post Bank Building on Koinange Street. The shop is Betin Kenya’s pioneer gambling shop that remain open daily, for 13 hours.
At the shop, 18 huge flat screens are mounted on the walls, each displaying various matches of the day in different parts of the world and the kick-off time, ranging from football, basket ball, dog races and several others, the Wi-Fi strength reads “excellent” and the two quickly grab sits, ready to make 'investments'.
“I told you Liverpool was not going to win last night. I got the cash,” one of them, obviously happy, starts off.
It is working day for them, the size of their pockets at the end of the day will be premised on how accurately they can predict the outcome of next matches.
“There is one guy who came here with just Sh1,000 and predicted the order in which six dogs would finish a four-minute race. He walked away with Sh500,000,” James, another young man buying a ticket told the Standard.
About a mile from the city centre, there is an Exchange Building along Westlands Road in Westlands, it is 9.00 am and the bell rings to usher in stoke brokers at Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). Only one large screen is can be seem displaying how various stocks are going at for the day, a section believes it is their right time to sell while another one strongly feels it is time to purchase. They all think they are right.
Beside gambling shop at another city centre, here is another place where another investor hopes to transform himself into a millionaire, but not as quick as in gambling.
“Gambling and stock brokerage are just similar. They both involve speculating and risk but somehow, gambling connects with masses,” someone argued.
In Embakasi's pipeline area, another shop is barely four months old, the situation is the same: young men and women banking their luck in machines with hope that, they will one day enrich themselves from the engagement.
They represent millions of youth who are turning to trying their lack in gambling, in the absence of jobs.
Statistics show that unemployment levels in Kenya continue to rise even as the number of college levers is rising each year.
For others, they view gambling as a means of supplementing their ‘tattered and strained’ pay slip. Murimi Nyaga, a degree holder working as a cashier at one of the British cuisine joints at Nairobi’s Westlands says he is forced to engage in gambling, since his salary is not enough to cater for all needs.
“Back in college, it was this betting that helped me meet my daily needs. Even right now, waiting for the end month’s pay seems too far and betting fills the gap that the salary does not cover,” he told Financial Standard.
“In this economy, what can Sh100 do for you? Probably just buy airtime and talk to three friends. Betting with this little money could help me achieve my dreams of a better house, car, land and financial freedom much earlier. What else can I do?” he asks.
Capital Markets Authority (CMA) — the regulator of capital markets, thinks that the gambling craze is one of the reason behind the disappointing start of most of the recent products unveiled on the NSE.
“At the small retail investor level, and particularly among the youth, the surge in mobile based betting and the promise of significant short-term returns has re-directed substantial amounts of small savings that might otherwise have found their way to the capital markets,” says CMA.
Betting Control and Licensing Board estimates the number of registered and licensed casino operators at 50 and bookmakers at 25 in the country.
Kenya Revenue Authority data shows that eight major players in the betting sector have cumulatively contributed Sh4.71 billion to the revenue since June 2014.
In May, 28-year-old Samuel Abisa hit the headlines after winning Sh221 million Sportpesa jackpot , which the betting firm hailed as “the biggest payout in African football history.”
Abisai used Sh200 only to correctly predict outcome of 17 football games. A worker in formal employment taking home net salary of Sh100,000 match Abisai's windfall in 2,210 months or about 184 years.
Such cases, coupled with lack of employment opportunities and the love for quick cash could be the motivating factors and explanation why most Kenyans are crazy about gambling today.