Research reports the rise of betting addiction in Kenyan youths

A 2022 research report by MIT Technology Review shed light on the ongoing escalation of betting addiction in Kenya, particularly sports betting.The ease of mobile money transactions and widespread smartphone usage were fueling the concerning surge in betting addiction across the nation.

The problem was initially recognized in the mid-2010s. Ever since, Kenya has transformed from dingy betting parlours to extensive online activity.

A GeoPoll survey revealed that 84% of Kenyan youth polled had experimented with betting as part of their “hustling” to earn more money easily. From within those, one-third admitted to betting daily.

The accessibility facilitated by smartphones, high-speed internet, and mobile money has made betting commonplace, extending to college campuses, rural villages, and even those behind the wheel.

Furthermore, Kenya is the birthplace of M-Pesa, the continent’s first mobile money service.

The M-Pesa has played a big role in encouraging savings and broadening financial access, but it has also facilitated a surge in sports betting. It has also opened doors for Kenyan youths to play various online games, such as the Fortune Tiger.

Gambling sweeps across Africa

A significant proportion of Kenyans who bet show signs of gambling addiction and technology has been a major driver of the sports-betting phenomenon.

“We’ve been using mobile money for so many years, it’s become part and parcel of how we conduct business. When online betting came along, it found this ideal system was in place.”

Fabio Ogachi, a professor of psychology at Nairobi’s Kenyatta University, said.

In Kenya, there are already several prominent traditional casinos available. Notable establishments include Finix Casino, Ngong Racecourse, Golden Key Casino, Captains Club & Casino, and Senator Casino Mombasa Coast. However, the number of online ones is even more numerous, which is easily accessible for many Kenyans.

The rising trend of online gambling addiction is not confined to Kenya alone. Across Africa, from economic powerhouses like Nigeria and South Africa to more fragile states like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, online betting is on the rise.

As per the 2021 GeoPoll survey cited by Business Insider in 2023, Nigeria and South Africa both see 78% and 74% gambling participation, respectively.

Nigeria, in particular, is also highlighted as having a significant sports betting industry, with bettors contributing an astounding $2 billion per year.

Meanwhile, the soccer mecca Senegal experienced a late start but is witnessing a 50% annual growth in online betting. The nation sees a rising number, particularly after its 2021 Africa Cup of Nations triumph.

Ghana, on the other hand, is renowned for its regulated gambling. Ghana has implemented gambling laws since the 1960s. The National Lottery Authority oversees lotteries, while slot machines and sports betting thrive, especially in European football leagues. Ghanaian punters face no restrictions registering on foreign gambling sites, contributing to approximately 283 online gaming websites.

Demands and answers

While betting activity is on the rise across Africa, Kenya is definitely at the epicentre of the gambling surge. According to the same GeoPoll survey, Africa’s “Silicon Savannah” leads in gambling with 83.90% participation. In response to concerns, online casinos actively incorporate a range of safety measures to safeguard players. One key aspect is licensing and regulation. Players are urged to verify the online casino’s licensing status and consult online reviews to confirm its legitimacy and safety.

Furthermore, many casinos are executing stringent compliance with regulations, which is integral to the operational framework of online casinos. This involves adherence to regulatory and licensing requirements, necessitating regular audits, inspections, and the implementation of robust data protection policies and procedures. Many casinos are actively implementing responsible gambling measures and collaborating with awareness organisations like the Gaming Awareness Society of Kenya.

These efforts aim to strike a balance between entertainment and responsible gambling, promoting a safer and more regulated casino landscape amidst the challenges posed by online betting addiction.


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