Sports betting remains a very divisive subject in Kenya.
Despite experiencing significant roadblocks along the way, the Kenyan betting sector has generally flourished over the last decade, emerging as one of the top three gambling industries in Africa.
Not everyone in Kenya is on board, with some groups still frowning furiously at gambling activities in the country.
The Kenyan government in particular has been a major antagonist, imposing tough tax laws on betting operators.
This has led to a long-running dispute between the government and top players in the industry, some of whom have been forced out of the East African nation.
The government wants a share of the huge betting revenue, and at the same time, is looking to lower the rising rate of sports betting in the country.
And at the heart of this rising rate are Kenyan youths.
According to a GeoPoll report in 2017, Kenya has the highest number of youths engaging in gambling in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 76% of young people taking part in betting. That number has obviously gone further up since then!
It is true that sports betting breeds vices like addiction and mental health problems, but there is no doubt that it also has its good sides when channeled in the right way.
Sports betting has had a positive impact on Kenyans through the creation of start-up and employment opportunities.
Many betting operators have physical shops in Nairobi, Mombasa and other big cities, where Kenyan bettors frequently visit to place their wagers.
These shops are managed by local agents, on behalf of the betting companies. The start-up capital is very manageable, compared to the relatively higher income.
Being a betting agent has become a very popular source of livelihood for young Kenyans in the last ten years.
However, with the advent of online sports betting, the business is not quite as lucrative as it once was. Many punters have now migrated from physical shops to the numerous online betting sites in Kenya.
That is not to say that physical betting shops are no longer in existence. They are still very much around and remain viable sources of revenue.
If you want to manage a shop for a betting company, you can always find all the information you need on their website.
Apart from having physical betting shops scattered around the country, betting sites also have big offices where they employ Kenyans into different positions.
When betting giants, SportPesa ceased their operations in Kenya in September 2019, about 400 employees were reported to have been laid off as a consequence.
This gives a clear idea of just how many job opportunities betting sites have created in the last few years.
By working with these international betting companies, young Kenyans also have the chance to interact and exchange ideas with co-workers from other parts of the world. They are exposed to new people, language, culture and business opportunities, thus improving their knowledge and professionalism.
Sports betting has also kept young Kenyans off the streets by redirecting their focus to betting shops and betting sites.
Rather than being idle and possibly causing mayhem on a Saturday afternoon, they’d rather be in betting shops or on their mobile phones hoping to make some extra cash from sports betting.
Having said that, betting is no substitute for proper jobs, and should never be seen as such.
Sports betting will always be a source of great debate in Kenya. Good or bad? Right or wrong? There are arguments in all directions.
However, there is no denying that it has done its fair share of good for Kenyan youths and the Kenyan public in general.