Pray tell me, what value do we really gain from betting and gambling? Can a nation prosper through betting and gambling? These are pertinent questions that we must confront in the face of the rapid increase of lottery, gambling and betting companies in Kenya. I recently took count of the number of adverts that ran during the television news hour between 9pm and 10pm. Almost 90 per cent were on various forms of betting and gambling. One would imagine that the only business that we do in this nation is lottery.
In a recent outrage, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i decried the betting craze, especially among the youth. The shocking revelation was that up to 76 per cent of young people are involved in one form of betting or the other. He further revealed that more than 500,000 youth have been blacklisted by lending agencies. This means that these young Kenyans may never access credit for any gainful activity. Instead, they have most likely been consigned to a life of poverty and dependence – if not of crime!
Suspend betting licenses
What is unfortunate is that the key stakeholders have never given any serious consideration to this ticking time bomb. The greed of the owners of betting companies blinds them to any moral responsibility and as long as they rake in their millions – nay, billions of shillings– they care less what the future portends. The government appears to have taken a similar stance. As long as they can benefit from a portion of the illicit money through taxation, they appear perfectly at peace with the growth of betting and gambling. That may explain why the recent government directive was to suspend all betting licenses in the country effective July 1 “unless the holders pay all their taxes.” Really!
It is a proven fact that if a child brings home a stolen book or pencil and the parent does nothing about it, that child is being trained to be a thief. Worse still, if a child brings home a stolen bunch of bananas and all the parent asks is to be given one or two pieces to eat, that child is headed towards becoming an all-time thief or robber. It is unfortunate that our government seems quite content with getting a portion of stolen money arising from gambling, simply terming it “Sin Tax” to justify taking a bigger portion.
Let’s face it. Gambling is not and has never been a legitimate business, or a valid source of income. To the contrary, a study by the Australian government found that the negative actions of one gambler affects the lives of between five to 10 others – including friends, family and employers.
Many gamblers were found to suffer quietly, with some getting into drugs and alcohol to drown off their sorrows, while others simply commit suicide. That is why many governments have taken bold moves to strictly control gambling.
Empowers its people
At the core of lotteries, betting, and gambling, is the fallacy that one can grow rich purely by chance. That is a lie from the pit of hell. It goes against our divine mandate as human beings. Contrary to what many people think or believe, work is not a curse. God created us to work. This truth was ably captured by our founding fathers in our national anthem. When they prayed for plenty to be found within our borders, they acknowledged that this would be possible only when all we with one accord, in common bond united, build this our nation together. Thus, they declared “And the glory of Kenya, the fruit of our labour (not our lotteries, corruption, or theft), fill every heart with thanksgiving.”
For a fact, only a nation that empowers its people to do fulfilling and rewarding work is guaranteed a thankful, happy and productive citizenry. Check out men and women who have lived off the sweat of others – either through corruption, exploitation, gambling or drug dealing. They may rejoice for a season, but in the long run, there is a tapestry that runs through such families – misery. Because, God promised to bless the labour of our hands, not theft or luck in lotteries. That is why we must deal decisively with all sources of free money. The recent directive by the betting control board, banning various forms of adverts – outdoor and social media adverts, TV ads from 6am to 10pm, and endorsement of bets and their firms by celebrities – is definitely a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done.
- The writer is the Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]
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