Is Gambling Reshaping Kenyan Society?
02 May 2016, 12:34
The respectable looking gentleman to my left, complete with smart clothes and designer perfume is totally oblivious to my staring at his computer screen. He is too busy on the Sportspesa site, one of many online gambling outlets today. This scene is repeated among the youth and even women. Is he the new face of sports betting in this town? Betting is a phenomenon that knows no age, education, status. It is our new pastime, all in the hope of striking it rich and possibly alleviating all our problems.
The Lotus Eaters
Percy Jackson, demigod son of Poseidon, ruler of the Oceans, stumbles upon the Lotus Hotel and Casino, located in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. A remarkable place, so because while inside it, times seems never to pass, and nobody wants to leave. It was created by the Lotus-eaters so that anyone entering would never want to leave because of all the addictive games, food (in the case of the movie), and other activities, combined with the unlimited money on plastic cards.
The hotel causes those inside never to age, while time goes on at a seemingly accelerated rate outside. Known victims include Darrin, Nico and Bianca di Angelo, as well as Percy Jackson and his companions Annabeth Chase, and Grover Underwood for a short period of time. In the movie, the cause of staying is eating "Lotus Flowers" while in the book, they stay there because of the games.
In Greek mythology, there was a tribe called the Lotus-eaters, who were addicted to the fruit of the tree. When Odysseus encountered this tribe during one of his travels, some of his men tasted the fruit and never wanted to leave again. Odysseus solved this problem by binding them and dragging them back.
What is Gambling?
The phenomenon we call Gambling is the wagering (betting) of money or something of value (referred to as "the stakes") on an event with an uncertain outcome. The primary intent is to win additional money or material goods. The three major requirements for gambling to exist are benefit, chance and prize.
Like the case of drug-taking, gambling often proves addictive, driven by an urge to keep winning. This in turn creates a situation of blurred boundaries – where does one stop or how much should be enough? Ludomania is the scientific name for problem gambling or gambling addiction. This is an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop.
Problem gambling is often defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gambler's behavior. Pathological gambling is a common disorder that is associated with both social and family costs. Issues such as substance abuse, stealing and mood-related disorders are part of this problem.
Kenyan newspaper, The Standard, carried a story of a gambler who went berserk in February and killed on realizing he had lost all his money. He had earlier gambled all he had before opting to sell his motorcycle, from which he earns his livelihood. Having lost this sum too, the irate reveller killed casino stuff before a mob lynched him. Is this a one off incident or part of some big evil?
In Kenya, the sector, which has only 13 licensed casino firms and currently ranked third in Africa after South Africa and Nigeria, has its revenue expected to grow from Kshs 1.7 billion in 2013 to Kshs 2.3 billion in 2018. The information is according to auditing firm PriceWaterHouseCoopers.
In 2014 the New York Times published an article on the “Largest Gambling Cities in the World,” indicating evidence of gambling having taken place in China around 2300 BC after the invention of paper, whose ripple effect was the creation of paper money and playing cards.
Today the Chinese city of Macau is the largest gambling centre, having overtaken Las Vegas in 2006. Macau raked $45 billion (Kshs 45 trillion) in revenue last year which is slightly more than 20 times Kenya’s annual budget. CNN reported that gamblers bet a total of $600 billion, the biggest anywhere in the world. The desert town of Las Vegas, which is globally known as Sin City because of its huge entertainment menu and has built its entire economy based on gambling raked in $6.5 billion (Sh6.5 trillion). After legalising gambling in 1931, it is today littered with casinos and luxury hotels. Its key attraction is a town known as Jackpot.
There is a danger we are fast becoming a nation where less people want to invest in hard work and patience, to one where short cuts are rife. This might explain why corruption remains high in this land, or why the youth prefer snaring older partners with a bit of money to spare. The social fallout, including bankruptcy and inadequate funds left to develop the family is a by-product, as is suicide from the depression of losing. Are we developing a short-termist approach to life instead of earning our way to success? According to Australia’s Productivity Commmision, the most common motivation for fraud was problem gambling, with each incident averaging a loss of $1.1 million
Solutions available include counselling, Step-based programs, peer support and encouragement of self-help (tapping into individual willpower to take charge of their own problems). Inculcation of self belief in the ability to earn through one’s sweat, from an early age, is a critical weapon here.
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