Addiction to betting poses a great risk to the youth

Close up of someone betting using a mobile application on a phone.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Addiction to betting is becoming a major problem in our society.  The Central Bank of Kenya recently revealed that Nakuru, West Pokot, Nyandarua, Busia, Trans Nzoia, Siaya and Nairobi counties have the highest number of youths participating in betting and gambling activities.

According to the report, while all the above counties are beyond the national average of 11 per cent, Nakuru (25.6 per cent), West Pokot (25per cent), Nyandarua (23.7 per cent) and Busia (22.3 per cent) are notorious for betting addiction. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to come across young people engaging in betting in the hope of getting quick riches.

Video games have become the order of the day and the ongoing 2022 Fifa World Cup in Doha, Qatar, is a lucrative business for national and international betting firms. Statistics indicate that lottery is one of the most popular forms of betting. 

Statistics from the Betting and Licensing Control Board indicate that more than 100 betting firms were registered by June 2022, compared to 76 in 2021.

While these are legally registered betting firms, there are hundreds of illegal gambling dens around the country.  The high number of unemployed youths, widespread poverty and insatiable thirst for hitting the jackpot some day have been the factors fuelling the betting craze among the youth.

 Unfortunately, many of these mainly gullible young people have been impoverished by betting. Losing their hard-earned cash leaves them heartbroken and depressed, some wallowing in insurmountable debts.

Betting shops

The betting craze has seen college and university students skip lectures as others play truant or drop out of school altogether.  Other students spend their time around the betting shops, where they could easily be sucked into drug and substance abuse.

These betting shops are ever busy.  The trend could trigger a wave of crimes as these young people try to raise money for betting.

During this festive season, when learners have closed schools, parents should be extra vigilant lest their school-age children are introduced to the betting craze. 

Despite earning the Kenyan government revenue to the tune of Sh204 billion in 2018, betting and gambling have far-reaching ramifications for young people. 

Uncontrolled betting has wrecked lives and could continue doing so if it is not checked. Statistics show that Sh169.1 billion was spent on gambling between March 2021 and March 2022 through mobile money.

 While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is an urgent need to slay the dragon of betting addiction in our society.

We need to act fast before it is too late. The government needs to do more in terms of regulating the industry to curb the current obsession with betting.

Mr Muthama is a business and strategic management lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), consultant, and author. Email: [email protected]