Casinos have been legal in Kenya for decades. Until recently, they were reserved for the rich. A betting craze began a few years ago and it has taken the country by storm. The number of betting and gambling companies continues to increase.
Growing Gambling Culture
The gambling culture in Meru, Kenya continues to thrive. Community members have become addicted to gambling. Many of them were drawn in by their initial successes and good fortunes. There are several unregulated gambling dens located throughout Meru County. The community concern is that young people seem to be frequenting them.
The government attempted to curb the issue. Illegal gambling dens were shut down by Fred Matiang’i, the Interior Cabinet Secretary.
Mr Matiang’i ordered regional and county commissioners to confiscate all unlicensed gambling paraphernalia. Despite the threat of incarceration, residents continue to gamble.
In Kenya, gambling is only permitted in licensed betting and gambling premises. On these premises, strict regulations must be adhered to. Persons under the age of 18 are not allowed to take part in gambling of any kind.
Gambling machines have come back with a vengeance. This is evident in the Gitimbine and Makutano townships of Meru. Residents have raised their concerns over the return of gambling, and for young people wasting their time and money. Even as they voice their complaints, gambling machines remain in licensed bars throughout the county.
John Mutuma, a resident of Gitimbine, said that some bars have cordoned off areas with locked rooms. These rooms are allocated to unabated gambling. Mercy Murithi, Meru Municipality Chief, admitted that illegal betting is a problem in the area. The youngsters frequenting illegal casinos are also not observing COVID-19 health protocols. She expressed her fears of these dark, congested areas in which the virus can spread. Despite the raids and destroying of the gambling machines, traders continue to replace them with new ones.
Betting Control and Licensing Board Takes Action
Mr Peter Mbugi is the Chief Executive Officer of the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB). He has acknowledged the complaints received from residents. He said that the BCLB would be sending officers there to inspect these businesses. In a phone interview, Mr Mgubi added that the machines are illegal as they are not certified.
The sports betting and gambling industries have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. This comes amid very aggressive marketing campaigns led by betting firms. Both levels of government have been unable to curb the purchasing and regulation of slot machines in the region.