World Cup gambling in Kenya

Five African nations are competing in the FIFA World Cup, and it is anticipated that an incredible 86% of the contine...

Posted: Jun 19, 2018 1:14 PM
Updated: Jun 19, 2018 1:14 PM

Five African nations are competing in the FIFA World Cup, and it is anticipated that an incredible 86% of the continents' population in Sub-Sahara alone will be tuning into the matches, a new GeoPoll study says. Sports-mad Kenyans are no exception.

Kenya is home to world-class athletic champions, Safari Rally enthusiasts, and a rising international rugby sevens team. But football is the most popular spectator sport in the country; the English Premier League is followed religiously.

INTERACTIVE: World Cup in numbers

SCHEDULE: Matches and kickoff times

Footballer Nelson Mandela Oballa, says: "Football is life, like part of the daily routine -- you wake up, eat, football, then sleep, it goes deep." He adds that in his neighborhood, "it's all about football." Groups here gather around screens in cyber caf-s, a furniture shop, in the street, sports bars and video halls to watch a game.

READ: Spain sacks coach after he takes Real Madrid job

READ: US-Mexico-Canada win 2026 World Cup bid

'Betting has spoiled the game I love so much'

Named after the former South African President, Oballa has been playing football for as long as he can remember.

"We used to go outside and play for like the whole day then my Mom would really get mad," he says.

"She had this saying 'You think I'm stupid cooking while you go and play out all day? Fine! When you come back to this house feeling hungry eat that ball, also let the football go to school and read for you, and as for this dirty dishes you are supposed to wash I hope the football washes them for you.' So my love of football started way back!"

READ: Your Country Needs You! What nationality means to the modern-day footballer

READ: And the winner of the 2018 World Cup will be ...

Oballa says that in addition to Kenyans' love of the game, on the sidelines, betting on matches is a culture that is rapidly gaining root in the country.

"Everyone is betting. I think betting is spoiling the good game. It's become more of a business to some people," Oballa said.

"It's spoiled the game I love so much."

In Sub-Saharan Africa, gambling is highest among Kenyans -- where betting is legal over the age of 18.

The proliferation of betting firms in the African nation is giving rise to growing concerns about the addictive nature of gambling, and the lack of any apparent safeguards to prevent underage gambling.

Authorities by their own admission recognize the need to provide a safety net for addicted gamblers falling through the cracks.

A government spokesman, Mwenda Njoka, tells CNN: "It's only now that Kenyans have woken up to the dangers of gambling."

READ: Mexico stuns Germany

Njoka notes that, "the regularity framework for advertising is weak," and that whilst it is the government's responsibility to ensure proper warnings about responsible gambling, he says, "we need to do more."

'When I bet, I feel good'

Twenty-year-old Richard Ndungu is one of many people for whom football and gambling go hand in hand. At the juice bar he runs in a busy market on the outskirts of Nairobi he tells us "I get like 60 dollars per week, and I spend 35 dollars on betting."

He bets every day without fail. When we meet up with him a week later, at "Stone Cold" -- a local dive bar, he's betting again, flipping through a newspaper to "Kona Ya Kubeti" (betting corner) on the betting tips page.

As he watches a game of football, he tells us how he recently placed all his rent money on a bet -- "5K" (50 USD).

"I lost. I had to deal with the landlord, I had to tell him like 'Wait, the next month I'll pay,'" he said.

"I really want to stop betting but I can't."

READ: France's 'Rainbow team' looks back on historic win twenty years on

Ndungu is no exception. Last weekend, with the World Cup only a few days away, queues of punters were already lining up outside a popular sports betting shop in Nairobi to place bets on the friendlies.

We meet up with Kevin Ochieng, who just bet on Brazil to beat Austria. A group of gamblers, some of them his friends, most of them jobless tell us they're going to bet every day, "It's for the grind."

The following day we find Kevin back at the betting shop. He says he won 180 shillings yesterday.

Kevin started betting in February after losing his job. "It was the English Premier League. I won like 20,000 (200 USD) from 100 bob (1 USD) the first time."

Now, he adds, "it's where I'm trying to buy daily bread. When I bet, I feel good because I have a lot of hope."

Kevin has been lucky -- "I never lose" -- but some people, he says, have to steal to place bets.

"People do gamble with so many reasons. My reason; I have dreams, I don't have cash."

Imelda Ominde does have the cash, she's a professional nurse, who says she's not really a football fan but she bets regularly and can't miss a game, "I'm addicted to it. I can't do without betting."

She's lost almost as much as she's won, but says, "I have the money, little which I can waste a bit in."

We ask her if the World Cup will be about the game or how much money Kenyans can make -- "It will be both."

The injection of money into the game, for better or for worse, is best illustrated by SportPesa.

It's Kenya's most successful online sports betting company (literally meaning SportMoney.) Locally they're shirt sponsors for all major league football teams, and in the English Premiership for Hull City and Everton, and they have signed agreements to build local and international partnerships in soccer, rugby, boxing, motorsport.

CEO Ronald Karauri says he started the company four years ago, and that by 2016, they were posting profits of 2 Billion shillings, around $20 million.

The swanky SportPesa Nairobi offices are decked with soccer memorabilia -- signed English Premier League shirts lining the walls, football-shaped chairs and lighting; and a gigantic mobile phone, symbolizing the enormity of online betting, which is only a few digits away.

Underage gambling

We discuss the dangers of underage online gambling, and Ronald Karauri insists, "It's not affecting children."

He adds: "There's no way unless the kid had access to your phone, which is the same as you know you have a loaded gun and you leave it on the desk and you don't secure your device."

READ: Maradona and 'the only miracle of the 20th century'

In downtown Nairobi where life is less glitzy, children typically play in the streets unsupervised while their hard pressed parents go out to work.

It is here that we meet 12 and 14 year old Cousins Brian and Teddy, with their parents' permission. Teddy tells us he uses his friend's phone to gamble online, and Brian says he gets older youth to place bets in the shop on his behalf.

"Last week there," Brian says pointing to a betting shop. "We were two people, I'm 12 and he's 18, he have an ID card so I just told him how to do those things and I waited outside there. And he get inside and bet. After that he come back and he won 400 Shillings."

He explains that after splitting the prize money, he bought a $2 pair of socks with his share of the winnings. When Brian is 18 he says he will start betting on his own.

"Betting helps people, sometimes you may not get money but if you bet you can win and get money. The thing to do, you should not give up."

READ: Goals, tears and earthquake alerts on the road to Russia

Underage gambling has become a growing concern in Kenya, enabled with mobile money and easy access to the internet.

Government spokesman Mwenda Njoka tells CNN that some youth have paid the ultimate price.

"We've had cases of children committing suicide after losing bets," he said.

"What is lacking is we need to have some counseling not just for the physical but for the mindset, for people who are addicted to gambling."

Visit CNN.com/sport for more news and features

Now, because of the internet, Njoka said, it's become difficult to control and manage to prevent underage people from betting.

West Lafayette
Partly Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 76°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
71° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 71°
Rensselaer
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 70°
Fowler
Partly Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 76°
Williamsport
Partly Cloudy
71° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 71°
Crawfordsville
Mostly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 70°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 70°
Delphi
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 70°
Monticello
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 70°
Logansport
Partly Cloudy
70° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 70°
Big weather change ahead!!
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 734736

Reported Deaths: 13471
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1005261750
Lake54085975
Allen40876680
St. Joseph36249552
Hamilton35783408
Elkhart28784442
Tippecanoe22449219
Vanderburgh22359397
Porter18894310
Johnson18053381
Hendricks17298315
Clark13026191
Madison12740339
Vigo12490248
LaPorte12040214
Monroe11936170
Delaware10738187
Howard9974218
Kosciusko9455117
Hancock8346142
Bartholomew8091156
Warrick7795155
Floyd7682178
Grant7090174
Wayne7067199
Boone6732101
Morgan6603139
Dubois6165117
Marshall6092112
Cass5864105
Dearborn582678
Henry5772105
Noble564484
Jackson503273
Shelby493896
Lawrence4580120
Gibson436592
Harrison436472
DeKalb430185
Clinton428353
Montgomery425589
Whitley397539
Huntington393580
Steuben390757
Miami383268
Knox372790
Jasper370848
Putnam362660
Wabash355080
Adams342555
Ripley340470
Jefferson331781
White316354
Daviess298299
Wells292081
Decatur285792
Fayette281862
Greene280485
Posey272033
LaGrange268370
Scott267354
Clay260947
Washington241932
Randolph241781
Spencer232631
Jennings230749
Starke218454
Fountain213646
Sullivan212242
Owen202556
Jay197230
Fulton195740
Carroll190120
Orange184354
Perry184237
Rush173725
Vermillion170044
Franklin168435
Tipton163145
Parke146716
Pike135334
Blackford135132
Pulaski117245
Newton108634
Brown102641
Crawford101415
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82415
Switzerland7938
Union71410
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events