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Nothing good comes out of betting and gambling

By David Oginde | August 21st 2016
David Oginde

The rapid increase of lottery, gambling and betting companies in Kenya has caused alarm in several quarters. Billions of shillings are being wasted in this fledgling industry. Wasted, because gambling is not and has never been a legitimate business, or a valid source of income. To the contrary, in a recent study by the Australian government, it was found that the negative actions of one gambler affects the lives of between five to ten others — including friends, family and employers. The study further found that, though gambling is addictive and highly destructive, only around 15 per cent of gamblers seek help. This means many gamblers suffer quietly, with some getting into drugs and alcohol to drown their sorrows, while others simply commit suicide. That is why the Australian government has taken the bold move to not only control gambling but also offer help to those affected. Sadly, in our nation, few are taking this matter seriously. I personally know a few people whose lives have been totally ruined after losing their salaries month after month due to addiction to lottery.

It is therefore unfortunate that our National Assembly has been pussyfooted in setting up regulations for the betting and gambling industry in Kenya. Under the current regime, where betting is easily available online and on phones, it is quite easy for even minors to engage in this dangerous practice. In so doing we may soon end up with a generation of gamblers than a skilled workforce for the nation — a challenge that must be considered seriously.

At the core of lotteries, betting, and gambling, is the fallacy that one can make lots of money purely by chance. This undermines the very core of our human dignity. God created us to find dignity in work. Every human being finds greatest fulfillment in utilising their talents, skills, or abilities in doing work — even if such duty is done free of charge. That is why many people would rather volunteer their services at a place of work, than sit idle in a comfortable couch at home. Likewise, few enjoy sitting idle at an empty desk with no work, even if they are being paid a handsome salary.

It follows therefore that a nation that empowers its people to do fulfilling and rewarding work, is guaranteed a happy and productive citizenry. Nations that have committed to train and equip their people with a variety of knowledge and skills, and then create a conducive environment to utilise those skills; produce highly patriotic citizens and enjoy low crime rates.

Conversely, nations or communities where people are brought up to depend on handouts, or easy money, produce people who tend to be idle, unhappy, and prone to crime. It can destroy a nation.

Back in 1996, the love for easy money drove Albania into the trap of pyramid schemes — formed in collusion with top government leadership. Albanians sold their houses to invest in the schemes; farmers sold their livestock, and many abandoned legitimate work for easy money. Sadly, several banks played ball. Despite repeated warnings from the IMF and the World Bank, President Sali Berisha came to the defence of his people. Press and public reaction was also mostly negative, accusing the IMF of advocating the closure of Albania’s most successful firms that were trying to empower the poor — an argument I have heard from some Kenyans in defence of lotteries. But soon the collapse began and by March 1997, Albania was in chaos. The government was forced to resign. Two things can get us there easily — corruption and lotteries.

That is why it would be tragic if as a nation we seem to be training our people not to work. But that through corruption, connections, or the lottery, one can make easy money and live happily ever after. This spirit is already prevalent among many young people, especially young graduates who languish in poverty six to ten years after graduation, while their “well connected” counterparts make it in record time. It is a spirit that must be killed.

The truth is, wealth and riches that do not derive from legitimate work, are under God’s curse, and rarely results in true prosperity — a holistic wellbeing in life. It often carries with it a leanness of heart. Because, God promises to bless the labour of our hands, not to provide luck for our lottery.

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