Sports Betting Craze Part 1: Kenya taken by storm

Sports-betting has swept the country like a storm, giving a large portion of the population hopes of joining the exclusive millionaires’ club by hitting lucrative jackpots offered by firms that have set up shop and Citizen TV’s award winning journalist, Waihiga Mwaura, ventured out to establish what is fuelling the craze.

All what one needs is to place a wager starting at Ksh100 (less than a dollar) to join the fastest growing industry in a country where most youth are finding it difficult to get jobs.

Football is at the centre of the sand storm, with Kenyans betting on 267 leagues that are played across the world, betting their stakes on teams they have never even had off in a trend that has roped in both sports and non-sport lovers.

In short, sport betting has become the fastest ticket out of poverty for a population disillusioned by sky-rocketing costs of living, mega corruption and ever diminishing opportunities of gainful employment.

It has led to the mushrooming of a new career that has seen thousands of youth turn into sports betting to eke a living. Some ‘experts’ who are hired to bet on behalf of others are making a killing, with punters even taking loans in the hopes of striking it rich.

In the first part of his series, Sports Betting Craze that aired on Friday, Elinah Khanaitsa, 27, who won Ksh22m (USD 216,589.79), a fortune by any standards narrated how she struck the elusive jackpot.

“In my life the most money I have ever held with my hands is Ksh15,000 (USD147) for school fees. I never imagined that in my lifetime I would hold shillings Ksh22m.

“I would use my husband’s loose change that he would leave in his trouser pocket to bet. I would take it and then later when he asked, I would say that I have bought food. ” she told.

Her spouse, Ezekiel Besamage, however, disagrees with the betting idea despite the fact it transformed their lives beyond their wildest dreams.

“I didn’t know that my wife was betting. If I knew then that, it would’ve been a problem because I believe betting is for lazy people and idlers,” Besamage revealed.

When Besamage got home on the material day, he knocked on his door and his wife dutifully opened but she was so nervous, staring at her phone.

Puzzled, the husband took away the phone and saw the words ‘Congratulations’ on the screen and when he inquired what it was all about, all his wife could mutter was she might have won something.

“Shortly someone called me and I was suspicious but my husband told me to pick up. The lady on the other side announced that I had won Ksh22m. I told him and he went quiet…He had nothing to say,” the jackpot winner took up the conversation, describing the moment their lives transformed forever.

She confirmed the first Sh11m has already been deposited in her bank account.

To understand how passionate sport betting fans are, one simply needs to log on to popular social media site Facebook and search the word ‘betting’.

A myriad of groups will pop up, some with 98,000 members.

Curious to learn more about this growing phenomenon, the reporter requested access to the biggest Facebook group titled SportPesa Bet Prediction and within seconds it opened an entire world where football, odds and money are the only talking points.

Here, one discovers WhatsApp groups specialized in sport betting such as one called SportPesa Analysts exist.

is an upcoming sport-betting consultant who bets on behalf of at least 10 of his peers. He shed light on how he got started on a new professional path that is sustaining his livelihood.

“On that day I placed bets on six teams using Ksh10,000 (USD98.45) and I made Ksh100,000 (USD984.50). I went to my guys and showed them the message. They were so excited and they asked me to place bets for the following day and I did.

“The first partner was my friend I placed a bet of Ksh5,000 (USD49.22) and he won Ksh12,000 (USD118.14). I now have 10 clients. Some I know, some I don’t know. They send me their mobile phone number, password and betting money.

“They know the terms and conditions and if they win, they send me something small,” Mumo explained.

With his list of clients is growing, the 24 year-old university graduate hopes to fully commercialize his venture in the near future.

But not everyone’s story has a happy ending.

Kennedy Namu, a 26 year-old university student, borrowed Ksh40,000 (USD393.80) from his sister under the pretence of starting a business but his real intention was to make a quick killing in betting.

“When I went on holiday in December, I told my sister we should start a business. We own laptops and with Ksh40,000 we could open a Cyber Cafe in school and she gave me the money.

“There was a (Spanish La Liga) game between Real Madrid vs Real Betis. It was a sure win for Real but unfortunately, I had put Ksh10,000 (USD98.45) on that game and I lost.

“I then put Ksh2000 (USD19.69) on another bet and also lost it. When you bet, you go to club to watch the game. If you win you will pay bills. I now have only Ksh6,000 (USD59.07) left and will use the money for survival this semester,” Namu, who quit gambling narrated.

“I would urge Kenyans not to bet. It shouldn’t be there. It’s easy come easy go and there is nothing you gain,” he advised.

Robin Mwenda, a local footballer agreed with Namu .

“I would urge parents. When your children ask you for money to bet please do not agree. Children come from upcountry to Nairobi and all they are doing is betting,” he lamented.

Namu and Mwenda disclose most university students in Kenyan campuses have turned into sports betting zones, sometimes at the expense of education.

“Someone will take Higher Education Loans Board money and put it on what they expect to be a sure bet. At the end of the day, what all students are doing is betting,” Mwenda added.

On social media, Kenyans had interesting responses on the ill effects of sports betting when this reporter posted the question on groups and chat forums devoted to the craze.

“A guy used his school fees amounting to kindu 40k (Ksh40,000/USD393.80). He was sure Real Madrid would take the day. He lost everything. He was expecting an extra of 20k (Ksh20,000/USD196.90),” Muhuha Simon posted without disclosing the identity of the unlucky punter.

“Oh. There was a neighbour of mine who quit his job to bet. That’s what he does all day every day,” Walter Ayallo added.

“Waihiga I have my pal in Komarock. He used money for his sister’s Rurashio (dowry), 60k (Ksh60,000/USD590.70). Imagine he placed bets and at the end alikuliwa zote (lost it all). The brother-in-law got so mad that he nearly got him arrested,” another user posting as Robin Gustavo Mediskah Alcantara claimed.

The second part continues Saturday featuring the biggest players in the betting game.