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SPORTS BETTING: WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?

Insights into reasons for growth, effects and regulatory measures.

Like a cancer, sport betting has continued to eat into the lives and the careers of many youths. Attempts to regulate betting have proven futile. Betting companies have continued to grow exponentially. They have exploited a major opportunity in the market: the people’s love for football, alcohol, women and technology. They have combined these aspects into a multi-billion industry that has wreaked havoc in the careers of many youths. They have come up with a system so addictive other than perhaps cocaine.


Boom in gambling.

The industry has burgeoned in Sub-Saharan Africa and Kenya has not been left behind. According to a series of surveys by Geopoll Kenya was ranked as having the highest number of gambling youth and sport betting was categorized as the most popular form of betting. The growth in sport betting has been attributed to many factors. To begin with, the integration of technology into sport betting has introduced aspects such as live betting. With live betting, one can stake on virtual games and win big or lose. Secondly, with the increase in unemployment, many youths are looking for ways to make quick money. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, as at 2018, seven million Kenyans were unemployed and 1.4 million others were desperately looking for jobs. Due to this, many youths are turning to betting as a source of income. Thirdly, stories of overnight successes and the allure for quick money propagated by betting companies have also contributed to an increase in sport betting.

More so, betting companies allow one to gamble with any amount even as little as 20 shillings. Shabiki.com allows one to stake with 20 shillings. Therefore, the promise that the money will multiply overnight lures the youth to stake and probably will lose.

Fourthly, betting companies invest huge on advertising. According to a survey done by Reelforge on top ten advertisers between April and June 2018, gaming companies were huge spenders. Tatua for example spent 1.8billion, Sportpesa spent 432 million on advertising. The problem is not even the budget, but the marketing strategy. They show stories of overnight successes, others use individuals considered by the youth as role models. As a result, some youth argue that the reason that they engage in betting is because their favorite person does that. And maybe he doesn’t. For example, Bet In uses McDonald Mariga in their adverts. This is an individual who the youth look up to when it comes to football. Automatically, some think that he gambles, and maybe he doesn’t. Furthermore, the increase in betting companies has also led to an increase in sport betting. Sport betting has negatively affected the youth.

Effects of gambling

To begin with, there is loss of income. In betting, one stakes an amount, hoping that their favorite team wins. And this is not absolute. For example, many gamblers lost heavily yesterday when Real Madrid lost to Ajax. There have been instances where people have staked on their salaries and lost everything. The problem persists as when individuals lose, they don’t stop, so they continue losing.

Secondly, gambling has eroded the traditional values of hard work, resilience and persistence. Stories of overnight successes have been carefully tailored to manipulate people. Youths no longer want to work. Bet and become a millionaire from 100 shillings.

Betting has also eroded the beauty of football. Traditionally, men would meet up to watch the game because they love it. However, these days, people are flocking entertainment scenes just to ascertain whether their team has won and if the ‘bet has gone through.’ Betting has had adverse effects on households as husbands are selling away their property so as to gamble.

It has also led to suicides. Sometime back, a student hanged himself after staking his school fees on a Germany v Italy game in which the teams drew. The boy had staked 80,000 for a win by Germany but that did not go as expected. Given the negative effects of betting, governments have tried to intervene but there has been a paradox.

The betting paradox.

Betting companies contribute a lot to the economy. According to the Business Daily, betting companies paid USD $28.3 million in taxes. In addition, betting companies have revitalized sports in Kenya. Sportpesa funds major sport leagues in Kenya. It has also sponsored Gor Mahia to play in the UK and has brought Hull City to play against Gor. This is a spectacle that could not have been witnessed if the government was still funding sports in Kenya. Betting is like alcohol. It has negative effects on the people and yet it is a major contributor of taxes in the economy. Given this paradox, governments have been puzzled on how to regulate betting companies and at the same time enjoy the ‘fruits’ that come with betting companies. Kenya attempted to reign on this by increasing the corporate tax payable by betting companies. This did not resonate well with the companies as they threatened to withdraw the sponsorship of major leagues. Given that taxation did not fully address this problem, what other measures can the government deploy?M

The Measures

First, is limiting the amount in which one can stake. Given that individuals are staking high and there is no absolute possibility of a win, there is need to limit the maximum amount one can stake. The problem with this is that one can stake in 100 shillings in ten different accounts, there is need to limit the betting accounts that one can open. For this to be operational, betting companies can be required to integrate their data on existing users to avoid the instances of dubious accounts being opened. Therefore, there is need for proper data protection laws for this measure to be effective. This will ensure that individuals do not stake all their monies.

Secondly, governments should limit the number of betting companies being registered. The number is burgeoning with new companies being registered each and every time. Thirdly, is the linking the proceeds of betting to social security and health contributions. For example, one has to contribute a certain amount of money to NHIF. So, when one stakes and wins, a portion of the proceeds has to be contributed to NHIF. The advantage of this is to ensure that as one gambles, he has his health on check. At the same time, it can also discourage betting as individuals do not like contributing to worthy causes.

Another measure is for companies to deploy strict vetting procedures before one opens an account. The advantage of this is that it ensures that Under age people do not bet. There have been instances of young people using login credentials of older siblings and proceeds gotten are shared equally among them. The problem with this is that it nurtures the culture of gambling from a very young age, erodes the values of hard work and becomes hard to stop.

The role of the media is also paramount here. Instead of glorifying overnight winners, it is up to them to show instances where individuals have gambled and lost everything. They should also educate the public on the negative effects of betting. The show Last Week Tonight gives a true picture of how the media can portray gambling companies. It shows an individual who stakes, loses and eventually wins $6 dollars. Though humorous, the story explains how betting ruins the careers of many people. Lastly, the government should also nurture and promote sports. Some of the biggest earners in the world are in the sports industry. The advantage of this is that even when the government deploys measures such as increasing taxes on gamblers and the companies, it will not fall prey to the blackmail of ‘withdrawal of sponsorship.’

By the year 2022, the global gambling market will be worth USD $ 635 billion. A gambling outlook report (2017-2021) by PWC projects that yearly turnover of sport betting would reach USD $ 50 million in 2020 as the demand grows. It is up to the government to have a Damascus moment and realize the potential and the effects of the industry. As a wise-man once said, prevention is better than cure. Rather than wait until then when the effects of betting will be prolific, the government should act now. In the UK, Labor Party is pushing to overhaul the online gambling law, include restrictions on how much a customer can bet and a system of checks to stop people placing wagers that they cannot afford.

The world has come to learn the lessons of failure to regulate big tech companies in the hard way. The USA is still grappling with the effects of an election manipulated by Facebook. The EU had to adopt the GDPR rules.

For the government to succeed, there ought to be the input of users. Bet reasonably. Don’t be fooled by stories of overnight success.

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