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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Big gamble: How families are suffering as men lose millions to sports betting

Big gamble: How families are suffering as men lose millions to sports betting

By Gardy Chacha | Monday, Jun 27th 2016 

Betting has taken a toll on many families in Kenya     Photo:Shutterstock
Sport betting is the latest scourge stealing happiness out of marriages and throwing relationships over the cliff. This is an industry valued at more than Sh5 billion by Betting Control and Licensing Board and through which men lose millions of shillings daily.
So far this year; a man in Eldoret committed suicide, leaving his family behind, after losing Sh45,000 which he had borrowed as loan from Kenya Commercial Bank. Kennedy Kosgei, it was reported, borrowed the sum to place as a wager on a match between Spanish football clubs Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Real lost to Atletico, a topsy-turvy result for Kosgei, who had predicted a win for Real. Kosgei was later found dangling from a tree, lifeless.

“He was clearly devastated. I believe his intention was to win more money so that he could use the profits to attend to household needs. But he lost and he just couldn’t face his wife and family to tell them his misfortune,” comments David Otiato, a married sports fan himself.
Why Kosgei put Sh45,000 on the line is a secret that will forever remain with him in the grave.
Later, a gambler, John Muchanga, went berserk and slashed to death two managers of a casino after he had gambled and lost Sh30,000 in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate. The man was, however, confronted and killed by a mob as he tried to attack a third person. All the three could be the sole bread winners to their families.
Genesis of betting craze
However, a quick survey Crazy Monday conducted from the streets of Nairobi indicates that many sport betting clients suffer illusions of grandeur, a scenario that is made worse by harsh economic times and high rates of joblessness.
“I saw on TV a couple who won Sh22 million and I just couldn’t stop fantasizing about winning such amounts. My life would change instantly. I would have a lot of money to buy land and build a mansion. Buying food would be light work,” Josiah Wanyama, an ardent AFC Leopards fan tells Crazy Monday.
Titus Osanjo, a self-confessed football addict, believes that sports was primarily consumed by fans as a form of entertainment. Hear him: “Betting has monetised sports. Now fans are shifting focus towards making quick bucks.”
Allure of quick cash
The allure of quick cash, made with nearly zilch calorie expenditure, is no doubt irresistible to many. “The betting companies have taken advantage of the human desire for riches,” observes Ken Andika, a frequent gambler. “I have lost so much money myself that I feel like I am depressed throughout the weeks.”
Andika works at a loading and offloading section of a shop owned by an Indian along River Road, Nairobi. The first time he tried it out the team that he had vouched for won and with it he received Sh3,000.
“From then on I couldn’t stop playing,” he says. Unbeknown to him Andika, who earns a meagre Sh8,000 at the end of the month and lives with a wife and two children in Mathare, was nonchalantly walking into gambling addiction. A spate of losses later the gambling took a toll on his life, family and marriage, sending the middle aged man tumbling towards insanity.
“Sometimes I used half of my salary to bet. I could walk to work and save the fare – just so that I could place a bet. If I had exhausted all options I would borrow from friends. The funny thing is every time I lost I felt like playing again to win back what I had lost.” 
Andika has never recovered his lost money. Instead he kept losing. First, his friends deserted him – at least those who lent him the hundreds when he cooed, promising to pay back at end month, and never meeting his end of the bargain. Then the warm welcome his wife treated him to back home dissipated like magic fog.
His wife stopped warming bath water for him. She grew reclusive and distant.
Stealing wives’ money
“I struggle – worse than I did before – to put food on the table. My wife does not want to understand. She despises me and tells me I am no longer a man,” he says.
Andika has spent thousands betting for wins and losses and has mostly enjoyed the latter. It is an ordeal that has put a wedge between him and those in his life. His marriage, he says, is practically over as his wife, since last month, has repeatedly shunned bedroom overtures and has covered herself in impregnable garbs that Andika can’t get past.
“We put up with a lot of nonsense from husbands. But when it reaches a point where they are ‘stealing’ from their wives, or from the family coffers to gamble, it is time the wives say it is enough,” states Millicent Kabuchi, a marketer for a leading telecommunications firm in Nairobi.
Millicent herself is not married and is merely reacting to reports that sports betting is leading many fanatics into financial problems worse than the Greek recession.
“A man should first make sure that everything at home is attended to and that the family is well taken care of.
He can then use whatever silvers left to place bets. Any man using money that is otherwise supposed to pay school fees for their children or pay rent for the house is deranged and does not deserve a woman’s affection,” comments Sheila Wacira, a married mother of three, the sneer on her face suggesting complete disgust.
Catherine Mbau is a psychologist at Arise Counselling centre in Nairobi.She says that sport betting is a form of gambling, which, like any other kind of gambling, can be addictive, “at which point it becomes trouble”.
“First, players are lured by the possibility of millions. It gives them a certain high to place a few hundreds or thousands in return for possible millions.” The truth is betting companies are in business – the more players lose the better for them,” Mbau says.
Yes! The allure has all the hallmarks of a Ponzi scheme; a hypnotising fetish that eventually consumes dreams whole.
As for the strife betting is putting on marriages and relationships, Mbau points out that spouses who have lost money through betting lose their partners’ trust because, in most instances, the offending spouse bets alone without discussing it out.
Unmet financial obligations
“The health of marriage depends very much on healthy communication. If one of you is risking money that belongs to the family, money that the family depends on, then it is only proper that a couple discusses it. If betting is done in secret then trust within the relationship is broken,” she admonishes. 
This year it was also reported that a 42-year-old banker lost Sh500,000 that he had borrowed to bet on the same match as Kennedy Kosgei.
From what we have learnt, betting losses come in twos, and so the man also lost his marriage when his wife decided to pack up and flee from his humongous self-inflicted debt.
The former Betting Control and Licensing Board chairman chairman Prof Paul Wambua Musili had alluded before that betting carries potential harm to the consumers and their families.
Betting companies, through terms and conditions drafted in microscopic fonts, also advise clients to place wagers with money they can afford to lose.
Men who stop working to bet fulltime
Tales abound of men who have abandoned their work to bet fulltime. However, the responsibility of the amount one bets rests with the player and the company is not liable.
“Bet for fun but it should not be taken as a fulltime economic activity,” Musili said
Sports betting, since the registration of the first online sports betting company in 2013, has pervaded Kenyans’ lives. The winners are paraded by the same betting companies through various media, attracting more wishful players.
Behind the façade though many relationships are taking a hit.
Moses Omwayo, another victim whose story got media attention, and a Maseno University student, lost Sh40,000 loaned to him by the Higher Education Loans Board.
Like Mose, Douglas Kinoti, a university student in Nairobi, won’t be attending lectures this semester after he lost Sh25,000 (given to him by his parents to pay fees) he had placed two months ago.
His girlfriend – a lady he says has expensive taste – has taken off and moved on into another relationship with a hunk whose pocket has no dents – at least not from gambling.
“The girl can go,” he says. “What I am worried about is my parents. They are yet to find out. They think I am in school when I am just shacking at a friend’s.”
Kinoti believes that his mother may forgive him but his father (who works hard in the miraa business) could consider denouncing him as his son. 

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