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Sports betting not an investment opportunity for the youth

By Ben Mokamba | April 5th 2019
Think twice before you place that bet today [Photos courtesy]

There is a craze in sports betting among young people in the country. This craze has been driven in part by young people’s interest in sports; what better way to enjoy watching your favourite team thrash the other team than to place a wager on the match itself and cash in on the win? In addition to the interest in sports, sports betting among the youth seems to be driven by something deeper.

First, the world is increasingly becoming an uncertain place, especially for young people.

The culture of sports betting seems to point at an attempt to grasp at this uncertainty and possibly turn it to their advantage. Perhaps this is why many young people, now including those who are not avid sports fans, are increasingly turning towards sports betting.

Talk of town

Granted, every young person in Kenya is now familiar with the concept of sports betting. True to it, if you listened to many conversations among young people, there is a chance that the topic of these conversations is often on what team to bet on, which match to place a wager on, and what the odds of winning are. 

Second, the culture of sports betting in my view is driven by misinformation about the nature of betting.

Sports betting is defined as making a prediction of the outcome of a sports event, and placing a wager, usually in form of money, on the prediction.

We make predictions every day. When you wake up in the morning, you might decide to leave the house at 6am, after making a prediction on the state of the traffic jam on the road you drive on as you head to work.

More often than not, you base your prediction on how the traffic jam has been in the past few months, the likelihood of an unusual event that might increase the chances of you being stuck on that road for hours on end, and lastly, a stroke of your intuition.

The same way, betting on sports involves prediction. A young person analyses the outcome of previous games between the two opponents, the venue of the match and how it might affect the confidence of the players, the strength and weaknesses of the players expected to grace the match.

Ultimately, the young person placing the bet will look at all the variables that he possibly can, and in the end, add a stroke of intuition before placing the bet. This is both an interesting and exciting exercise. So where is the problem, you might ask.

The problem is in viewing sports betting as an investment opportunity.

As we can all agree, prediction is a way to make sense of life, and we are all compelled to embrace the risk of uncertainty every day. However, young people, myself included, ought to understand that betting is an all or nothing affair.

When you place that bet, you risk losing your ‘invested’ money in its entirety, even as you stand a chance to ‘win’ a ‘return’ on the wager you placed.

With this in mind, sports betting is at best a past time activity and a hobby, not a money making venture.

Where we go wrong

When you stake in your rent as a wager, you understand that even though you stand a chance to cash in on the bet, you also risk an altercation with your landlord at the end of the month.

Ultimately, when we put this into perspective, we can understand that young people are looking for viable investment opportunities. Then what makes investing fundamentally different from betting? True, both involve a risk and a choice to indulge in the uncertainty of the risk.

Even then, investing is not a game, while betting is. Proper investment opportunities will offer young people many benefits that betting cannot.

For instance, an investment allows the investor, however young he or she might be to own a stake in the company they have invested in. 

What is more, investing offers an opportunity for wealth creation over time, while betting is a one-time event that could make you earn or lose money.

Undeniably, young people need to invest for their future. What role can we all play to confer the opportunities for young people to make healthy investment choices? In my view, we need multi-sectoral efforts between the government and the private sector, to create an environment where investment opportunities are readily available to the youth.

When young people become more aware of the investment opportunities within their reach, perhaps they will also come to the understanding that a bet is not an investment; hence, it is unwise to take a loan from a financial lender to place a bet.

Mr Mokamba comments on social issues

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