The worst thing that can happen to you when you gamble, is winning. That is the best free advice you will never get. What you hear instead is “Bet what you can afford to lose”. You could be the next lucky winner, like the token role model who shot from destitution to prosperity, all over your TV screen, assured of happiness ever after. He used to be a broke farmer.

Now he is rich and he invested so wisely, all his ex-wives who dismissed him as a deadbeat dad are pleading pardon at the door of his new mansion.

That story is relatable. It could be any of us desperate to escape from poverty. Gambling has gone viral with the proliferation of mobile and online betting sites. Only that it is called gaming and advertised as premier entertainment. For a little bet of Sh100, a cool 5 million could be yours. Place your bet or wager. Let the games begin.

Sports betting is the old long con, the card game of Pata Potea, dressed in a new frock. The basic principle of bookmaking is to take more money in than you pay out. The bookie never loses. They set the odds for all the wagers and guarantee the profit in the long run. It is a mathematical advantage. There is always more losers than winners.

This art form has been perfected by casinos. The slot machine is programmed to deliver three outcomes: a win, a loss, and a near miss, to induce that feeling of ‘I almost won’, which lures losers back for more punishment. After all betting is all about luck. Bahati na sibu. If you lose, you ran out of luck. All part of the ingrained national gambling culture. Vote, play, text, scratch, bonyeza, send and win big!

Moral dilemma

Corporates have refined the concept as stock-in-trade. We call them sms promotions. The same principle by a different name. It is legit and regulated. The company is there to give you a protected entertainment and gaming environment, as an integral part of the comprehensive customer care program.

The Company is not liable for any errors in respect of bets or wagers, but they are ready to assist as long as you have not breached any of the terms and conditions that you agreed to, upon registering with the company. All 11 pages in fine print.

The aggrieved can always take complaints to the regulator, the betting control and licensing board whose mandate is to ensure that gambling does not become a runaway vice. To ensure that companies make positive contributions to the economy and give back to society.

The jackpot is all about changing the fortunes of ordinary folk, creating overnight millionaires. Ultimately, gambling should be a pleasant and exciting experience if you play wisely and bet within your means. Don’t be greedy.

Gamble what you can afford to lose. The thing to remember is staying in control like all ten of our satisfied customers you have seen prosper on TV. Chasing your losses will only put you on the suicide watch list.

Keep track of the time and amount you spend gambling like all responsible gamblers do. If it looks like gambling is ruining your life and draining your finances, seek help. There are organisations out there that support “problem gamblers” those irresponsible gamblers giving gaming a bad name.

Gambling is addictive. It clogs reasoning and causes financial distress and ruins families.

Continuous gambling creates a reward system and stimulates a feeling of pleasure, releasing the feel-good chemical in our brains known as dopamine. Once the brain gets attached to the dopamine-induced euphoria, it keeps seeking the stimulation.

The gambler, like all substance addicts believe that they can control their behaviour. As the gambling habit progresses they lose control even as life gets screwed up as they lose money and face. But they keep seeking stronger hits and taking greater risks, repeatedly pursuing the reward.

Responsible gambling is an oxymoron. A choice most people think they make until it too late to stop the consequences as they continue sinking deeper through the power of automatic habit to satisfy the craving of another win, seeking that high.

All the betting advertising on our TVs is Pavlovian marketing. There is enough evidence out there to show that gambling destroys lives and just creates more problems than betting companies claim to solve.

Yet the Kenyan government and media has refused to deal with the moral dilemma of promoting gambling as entertainment. Like alcohol, cigarettes, online porn, gambling is far too big to be banned. We can, however, regulate it, which is the government’s euphemism for, ‘screw you fools, we are coming for your money”.

This is a warning. Please gamble responsibly. The thing to remember is the more times you play, the higher your chances of winning. This is the enticing catchphrase that has seduced our nation into the abyss of gambling addiction