A report, released by Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) this week indicates that a majority of adults in seven counties spent most of their time gambling and betting their fortunes away far much more than the national average.
The counties of Nakuru, West Pokot, Nyandarua, Busia, Trans-Nzoia, Siaya and Nairobi are some of the counties with the highest number of youths participating in betting and gambling activities across the country, the report shows.
According to the CBK FinAccess Household Survey report, the seven counties recorded an increase in betting and gambling activities above the national average of about 11 percent, meaning that a good number of their adult population preferred betting as a means of making quick and easy money.
Of the seven counties, Nakuru had the highest number of individuals aged 18 years and above involved in betting and gambling activities at about 25.6 percent, followed by West Pokot at 25 percent, Nyandarua at 23.7 percent and Busia at 22.3 percent.
Trans-Nzoia county came in at position five with about 20.9 percent, Siaya at number six with 19.3 percent and Nairobi at 19 percent, according to November 2022 report.
“Nakuru, Busia and Siaya counties recorded the highest cases of gambling at 26 percent, 22 percent, and 19 percent, respectively, above the national average of 11 percent,” the report says.
“It is worth noting that Nakuru is among the counties with the highest financial literacy levels of 67 percent proxied by the ability of the respondents to calculate the cost of interest on a loan, and just below Nairobi and Bomet counties at 70 percent,” it adds.
And on average, gambling activities across the country has also increased over the past one year with more than a half of the 47 counties sampled recording figures higher than the national average.
The report shows that of all the counties, at least 27 counties had an average of between 25 percent and 11.6 percent, meaning that more adults had resorted to gambling and betting as a means of earning a living.
Some of the counties which recorded the high numbers besides the seven leading counties include Machakos at about 18.5 percent, Mombasa at 17.8 percent, Murang'a 17 percent, Kajiado 16.9 percent, Homa Bay 16.6 percent and Laikipia at 16.1 percent.
Others were Kisumu at 15.9 percent, Bomet 14.5 percent, Kirinyaga 14.4 percent, Kiambu 14.4 percent, Kericho 14.4 percent and Kakamega county at about 14.2 percent.
Turkana, Bungoma, Kisii, Taita Taveta, Tharaka Nithi, Migori, Uasin Gishu and Vihiga counties also recorded higher figures at about 14 percent, 13.2 percent,13 percent, 12.1 percent, 11.8 percent, 11.8 percent, 11.6 percent and 11.6 percent respectively.
The revelations by the report comes amidst a concern by the government over the increase in the number of betting firms in the country and their impacts on the youths and other gamblers.
According to data from the Betting and Licensing Control Board, betting firms licensed to operate in Kenya hit over 100 in June this year up from 76 last year, defying a government’s policy to clamp down on gambling through higher taxation both on the companies and their customers.
Some of the new entrants into the market include Mofabet registered as Johannes Swift, Zukabet registered as Muvana Limited, Unibet, Hollywood Bets and Safebet.
Online sports betting companies such as SportPesa had also grown rapidly owing to the sports enthusiasm in the country before the government imposed the higher taxes. The gaming industry, according to the government, achieved a combined revenue of Sh204 billion in 2018.
On the flipside, the CBK report indicates that the vice was however less prevalent in the counties of Kilifi, Makueni, Nyeri, Isiolo, Nyamira, Lamu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet and Kitui which all recorded figures less than the national average of 11 percent.
The nine counties recorded an average of between 10.6 percent and 8.6 percent.
Others on the list also included Embu at 7.7 percent, Narok at 6.6 percent, Samburu 6.4 percent, Mandera 5.1 percent, Meru 5.1 percent, Kwale 4.6 percent, Tana River 4.1 percent, Nandi 3.8 percent, Wajir 1.5 percent, Marsabit 0.7 percent and Garissa county at 0.5 percent.
The country had last year reintroduced excise duty on betting stakes to 7.5 percent, which means the government first takes Sh7.50 for every Sh100 a gambler places as a bet irrespective of winnings.
Betting is most popular among young people – both the employed as well as the jobless — who see it as an avenue for making quick money.