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The football betting fever has hit Thika soccer fans so hard that when one walks through any place in the town they will be guaranteed to find men who are keenly following football matches with so much nostalgia. 

Sport betting has become so accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. With the spread of betting platforms like the mobile-based SportPesa, the wave seems to have caught everyone, especially the low income earners in their quest to get rich quickly and lessen the poverty burden placed on their shoulders.  

The SportPesa website, which is run by Pevan East Africa, requires individuals to register as a member with their phone numbers as the user name. For every match, SportsPesa gives the betting odds of the teams by indicating chances of a team winning against another or the chances of the match ending in a draw. The bets, which start from Sh100, are then multiplied by the odds of the team winning, which later earns you a cash bonus if your prediction was right. There most one can bet on a single match is Sh20,000.   

The portal also gives gamblers the choice to make a single or multiple bets. At the end of the game, the results are given and those who win can either claim their winnings or use them to bet again. Most participants find multiple bets more lucrative than single bets. They will therefore bet on multiple games at once as well as betting against the odds as a way to spread the risk while maximising the returns you will get in case your predictions are correct.  However, the chances of winning multiple bets are lower than those of a single bet. Those eyeing the jackpot bet on all 13 games with a stake of Sh100, that puts them in the running to win Sh5 million.

Participants follow every bet through the local dailies, copy or photocopy this data, run to the nearest cyber or use their cellphones check the latest football facts and rumors. They spend hours analysing recent performances by the various teams before placing their bets. It is about studying trends and odds but there is no way you will tell what will happen every time you place a bet otherwise you will not place the bet.

After a lot of soul searching and consultation with fellow gamblers, these fellows then deposit money from Mpesa to SportPesa to top-up their SportPesa account, select the games to place bets on. The participants then start placing bets on the team they think will win in a particular match, or predict a draw before the game starts.

An internet ranking system, rated Sportpesa as the 18th most popular website in Kenya for the year 2015. This shows that gambling has now turned from an obsession or a mere game to an income generating activity to majority of these people. This psychological persuasion is what makes it difficult for them to stop the habit once they start. It is like trying hard drugs. The feeling they get the first time they win makes them want to do it over and over again and they would do anything to get that feeling again. Stories of how one won and another lost have dominated conversations on radio and between friends, who still go back and bet more even after losing.

Whenever an individual feels that his life is stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty, such easy come alternatives such as gambling or betting present the only hope of neutralising such desperation. Winning lotteries or gambling is considered a way of climbing up the status ladder and skipping a few rungs on the way up. This is the reason majority of participants in these promotions are the poor and those generally stuck in the lower rungs of the status ladder.


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