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Parents' nightmare as gambling and betting craze grips estates

A resident operates a gambling machine at Nyalenda estate in Kisumu county on October 26 2016. Parents in the town are now headed for more complex challenge brought about by the machine as children spend most of their time in the game. [Photo:COLLINS ODUOR/Standard]

Starting tomorrow, students will be under the full care of their parents and guardians as schools close for the long holidays.

But unlike in past school holidays, parents and guardians will have to worry about their children for two months.

Another complex issue is the fresh gambling and betting craze that has swept over every little shopping centre across the country.

At first it was the lottery, then followed the sports bets. But now, a Chinese made machine that is readily available and easy to play is relegating the dreaded sports betting to the reserves.

Mary Auma, a resident of Nyamasaria Estate in Kisumu, knows this all too well. As a mother to a teenage son, she has had enough of the new addiction that is corrupting the minds of children as well as young adults. At Nyamasaria shopping centre, there are more than 20 such machines strategically located at the entrance of popular shops and stalls.

The machines, which resemble ancient telephone booths, have small slots that only take in Sh20 coins. Once the coin is pushed in, a player is then required to dial one of the seven buttons at the base of the machine.

A neon light will then appear, rotating on the numbers. A player only wins if the light comes to rest on the number they had dialed. One can have up to seven plays in a single session with possible wins of Sh60, Sh100, Sh200, Sh400 and Sh1,000.

Auma’s 15 year-old son, a Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) candidate, is addicted to the gambling machine.

“I have to safeguard my money nowadays. Those manning these machines do not turn away children and don’t bother to inquire the source of the money they gamble with,” she says.

 A spot check by The Standard on Sunday revealed that the machines have moved deep into the villages.

“This machine will break marriages as young wives gamble away the money left to them by their husbands for domestic use,” said Samson Ochieng, a resident of Manyatta.

Last week, a pastor with the Roho Msanda Church was lynched in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County, after he allegedly stole a gambling machine. The pastor said he stole the machine to save his village from being impoverished by the gambling and betting menace, but the mob could hear none of it.

Unknown owners

Administrators say they are paid between Sh500 to Sh5,000 daily, but most of them admit they don’t know the owners of the machines.

“This machine was brought here by a Chinese national who passes by after every two days to check his catch. I do not know him that much, and I have just saved his contacts in my phone as China,” said Winnie, an administrator in Nyalenda Estate.

 

“I earn 20 per cent of the proceeds as agreed with the owner. My earnings are pegged on how much the machine generates, and I have to pull in more people to increase my pay.”

Nyanza Regional Education Director Richard Chepkawai said they have received numerous complaints from parents.

“I was surprised that the machines have found their way into the villages. We do not know whether they are licenced or not, but ours is to ask all education stakeholders to help us identify those operators who allow school children to get involved in gambling so we can take appropriate action,” he said.

Kisumu County Commissioner Maalim Mohammed said the gambling business has become a menace in the county, especially in the town’s Kaloleni, Manyatta, Nyalenda and Obunga slums.

Mr Maalim said he has sent a circular to all the seven Deputy County Commissioners in the area to enlist the help of chiefs and security intelligence committees to clamp down on the business.

“We know few gambling shops which are licenced, but a number of them are operating illegally, and do not follow the rules hence endangering the society,” said Maalim.

On Tuesday, five Chinese nationals who came into the country in September as holidaymakers were fined Sh100,000 each by a Kisumu court after they were found guilty of operating unlicenced gambling machines.

 Alarmed by the betting craze, Kisumu MCAs now want the gambling machines banned.

In a motion moved by Kondele MCA Gabriel Ochieng, the MCAs said operators of the machines are exploiting young children.

“A number of school going children have now resorted to hanging out at the many gambling joints that are now almost everywhere in the city,” said Ochieng.

Acting Speaker Samuel Ombogo however ruled that the house could not impose a ban on the machines until it is established that the owners have no authorisation to opearte them.

“We will make the decision after we have established whether they complied with the regulations as required by the law,” said Ombogo.

He directed the house committee on trade to investigate the matter and report back in 21 days.