By Mbugua Muchoki
Somebody must stop this gambling fraud on Kenyans before it degenerates into a catastrophe. The maddening rate at which these gambling shows are sprouting in our media is reason for concern to the authorities, and the citizens too – themselves victims of a calculated con game. Worryingly, and the more reason for concern, is the inclusion of the media either as channels or as the proprietors of the games. Why do I call these shows a fraud? Few facts, in the expansive ocean of reasons, stand out.
Take the example of a question in one of the shows where participants were asked to solve a mathematical problem (33-11×2+100-5×5+103=). While it is common knowledge that such shows ask simple questions to encourage participation, this one dumbfounded many with the answer given as correct (312). How? Only they know!
Also, while such games are by law required to share a percentage of their earnings with a charitable organization, this remains doubtful especially with the low enforcement of the Betting Control and Licensing Board. However, this board should be commended for raising the red flag and moving to court to enforce the law on one of the largest game shows to be run in the country.
Ordinarily, with a mobile subscription of almost 20 million, when only about 1 million subscribers participate – many of them poor mobile phone owners, these companies are making about 50-60 million a day at the participating cost of between Ksh. 50 and Ksh. 60. Compared to less than a million shillings awarded, less advertising costs and other incidental costs, these companies rake in tens of millions of poor peoples money. Painfully immoral in a poor country like Kenya!
Again, the sheer number of participants largely fuelled by poverty and the illusion of emancipation from hopelessness, coupled with the cost factor of participating only leads to more anxiety, poor spending, and ultimately increased hopelessness on the vast majority of these poor participants. And with over half the Kenyan population living below a dollar a day (Ksh. 80), when almost all their earnings are spent on chasing the wind is worrying. The spiral of poverty, with even more alluring shows being introduced, will thus become endless and entrenched.
What an assistant minister called the sequel to the Pyramid schemes that cost Kenyans, again many of them poor, billions of shillings must be investigated and proper action taken. A true account and the political linkage to the many shows should be established. Coincidentally, and like the Pyramid schemes, these shows seem to gather pace only closer to electioneering period. Is it a new way of raising campaign cash? May be, or may be not. But the coincidence is inescapable.
But even then, the poor and middle class should be more prudent in their decisions and must choose not to be the unfortunate testing balloons in every fraudulent financial venture by the elite in Kenya. Before the government comes to their rescue, as it diligently did with the Pyramid schemes whose report still gathers dust, they have the power in their hands, and minds, not to participate and continue perpetuating fraud on gullible poor Kenyans.
By Mbugua Muchoki