When laying out cash is a bit of a gamble – and why it rarely, if ever, pays off
When a young man won a staggering Sh221 million on sports betting site Sportspesa, it made international news — and cemented the reputation of taking a gamble on the impressionable minds of Kenyan youth.
Samuel Abisai’s win was the biggest the country has seen and is sure to attract even more punters.
But even before Abisai’s win, sports betting had already grabbed the imagination, with a survey showing Kenyan youths gamble the most in the region and more even than in Ghana and Nigeria.
Around 76 per cent of this country’s young people have tried their hand at gambling, with regulars placing bets at least once a week, according to the survey published by GeoPoll, They bet mostly on football and rugby and spend roughly Sh5,000 a month.
Big wins such as Abisai’s are sure to fuel the fire.
However what gambling firms don’t tell you is that for every Abisai, there are thousands of others who lose a lot more than they win, and it is on their backs that the industry runs.
Gambling, after all, is an activity built on losers.
Without the billions pumped in by hopeful gamblers, huge pay outs would not be possible.
And that is a lesson that Nelson, a 30-something father of two boys, has learnt the hard way.
When you live in a country with the highest youth unemployment in the region (17.9 per cent, according to the latest World Bank statistics), you know that job prospects are dim and that maybe you would be much better off if you could piece together enough money to start your own business.
That is exactly what Nelson did.
He started a livestock feed business in Meru last year and watched happily as it grew, attracting many customers and making him a tidy profit every day. But soon, Nelson became greedy. Spurred on by stories of big windfalls, he started visiting sports betting sites, sometimes spending as much as Sh10,000 in a day, placing his bets across various sites and various teams.
Then he waited.
“While people all around me won decent amounts of money, some as much as Sh30,000 on a bet of Sh1,000, I never seemed to get lucky. If I ever won, it was very little, say Sh5,000 after a week of betting around Sh50,000,” he said.
But every time he thought of quitting he would hear of someone who had just won big or the media would publish a story about yet another betting millionaire.
In a span of less than four months, he had sunk more than Sh450,000 into sites such as Sportspesa and Betway, money he had siphoned from his fledgling business. He was soon struggling to pay his suppliers and distributors, and was fast losing customers due to consistently empty shelves at his shop.