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Times | Gambling, Africa’s new child plague

Andrew Gilligan, Nairobi | The Sunday Times

Betway, one of the British-based companies in the Kenyan market, gives kit to youth teams
ANDREW RENNEISEN

Super-rich Premier League stars are heroes to the children of Kenya’s slums and UK betting firms harvest millions from their obsession. British betting companies and football clubs are “luring” hundreds of thousands of African children into an illegal gambling craze that Kenya’s government says is “destroying” their lives.

Using techniques banned in the UK, the companies appeal to youngsters by using cartoon characters and free branded merchandise. At a British company’s betting shops in the Nairobi slums, The Sunday Times witnessed children as young as 14 gambling freely, in breach of Kenyan law.

Tracey Crouch, who resigned as sports minister in protest at the government’s lack of action over gambling, said she was “deeply concerned” at the revelations, adding: “It is reminiscent of the way that tobacco companies are seeking new markets among young people in Africa.”

Top English football clubs, which have millions of fans in Africa, are closely involved in the promotional efforts. Arsenal sent its former star, Sol Campbell, to Nairobi for children’s coaching sessions with SportPesa, a Kenyan betting company that is its African sponsor. Hull City players went to a Nairobi shanty town, where they handed out SportPesa-branded wristbands and football strips to schoolchildren.

One British company, Editec, which trades in Kenya as PremierBet, made pre-tax profits of £17m on a turnover of £51m in 2017, almost entirely from Africa.

Children in Kibera, Nairobi, Africa’s biggest slum, told The Sunday Times that PremierBet staff let them gamble knowing that they were underage. The Kenyan government last week launched a crackdown on foreign and local betting companies, suspending many operators’ licences, banning mobile payments to them and threatening to deport or even arrest foreign managers. As of yesterday, however, the firms continued to operate.

In the middle of Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum, almost the only proper buildings are a school, a church — and the betting shops: islands of brick and concrete in a tin-and-plywood sea.

The Kibera branch of PremierBet is clean and well lit, with video screens showing English football. For Geoffrey Mwicha and his friends, aged 14, 15 and 16, it is their gateway to a better world. “If you get money, you just take it for betting, because you may win there,” he said. “You don’t have another mind but for betting. You don’t even think to eat. If you have a good luck, then you eat.”

Geoffrey, 15, once won 200 Kenyan shillings (£1.55) betting on Chelsea. “I only put 10 bob on,” he said, his face lighting up at the memory. In a video on its YouTube channel, a PremierBet manager says the company’s purpose is to “change people’s lives”.

For Geoffrey and his friends this is a promise kept. After they started betting, they dropped out of school: there was no money to pay the fees. Their parents abandoned them. Now they fetch and carry for a local water dealer — most of Kibera’s supply is controlled by gangs — earning £8 in a bad month. But still they clutch their dream. “You want money and you want to enjoy your life,” said Alfred Otieno, 14. “If you bet every day, God may give you a chance of good money.”

For some British companies, and several of England’s best-known football clubs, this is a new African gold rush. In recent years betting has exploded in Kenya and among its children, surfing the wave of a fanatical following for English Premiership football. Betting adverts plaster buildings, vehicles, even the hi-vis vests worn by the motorbike taxi drivers. Families watch television adverts featuring Arsenal, which is sponsored by a betting firm. The slogan is “They play, you win”.

Kenya’s interior minister, Fred Matiang’i, said 76% of his country’s young people now gambled and 500,000 Kenyans, most of them young, had been blacklisted by credit reference agencies for gambling debts.

Jennifer Kaberi, a youth rights activist, said: “My own children say, ‘Mummy, why don’t we bet and then we can get a lot of money?’ People don’t realise that only one person in a thousand can win — they think it’s a shortcut out of poverty.”

Betway said it did not sponsor any children’s teams
ANDREW RENNEISEN

It is a route to riches for some companies such as Editec’s PremierBet. Its enviable margins are achieved with the help of practices not permitted in the UK: companies appeal to youngsters by using cartoon characters and free branded merchandise for school and youth sports teams.

Kenyan law bans gambling by under-18s but enforcement is sporadic. “You can go there [PremierBet] and play if you have 10 years,” said Stephen Bukomi, 15.

“On the weekend they don’t want children,” said Geoffrey. “In the week there’s no people for betting, so we are being allowed because we bring money.”

Do the staff know how old they are? The boys all laugh. “They know,” said Jackson Nzomo, 15.

“They want our money,” said Geoffrey.

The “casino” section of PremierBet’s Kenya website has cartoon-character gambling games that appeal to children. They have names such as Lucky Pirates, fronted by a friendly toucan, Spellcraft, with smiling witches, and Rainbow.

To get children hooked, the games can be played in “fun” mode, betting notional money. It is these casino games, among others, the boys say, that they play for real money in the Kibera betting shop. Such games have been removed from UK gambling sites to protect youngsters.

In Cameroon, PremierBet has even sponsored a school, with its corporate logo on the wall. In Malawi, its national marketing manager, Fady Younes, said in a video: “We hope that everyone who places bets will win up to 20m [kwacha — about £21,000].”

Editec describes itself on its website as “able to manoeuvre through landscapes of unregulated markets, setting highest and marketleading standards”. A spokesman said it was “extremely disappointed” by The Sunday Times’s findings, which it said were “totally against our culture and our values . . . We can assure you, our customers, partners and all stakeholders, that we will investigate and act accordingly.” It said its school support was “giving disadvantaged people opportunities to better themselves”, not promoting gambling.

PremierBet is not the only British-linked gambling company involved with African youngsters. Six of the eight betting shops that The Sunday Times visited in Nairobi had children in them, some so young they struggled to reach over the counters to place their bets. At the Betin outlet in Kibagare, Ian Odielo, 16, had just won 250 shillings (£1.95). “I lose many times but this time I won,” he said. “I put 50 back on and I lost it. The rest will keep me alive today, just for today.”

Arnold Okote, 15, who goes to the same shop, has learnt that the television adverts are wrong. “The amount you lose is more than the amount you win,” he said. Why does he keep doing it? “It is an addiction.”

Betin is closely linked to a company called Logispin, domiciled in Malta and with back-office functions in eastern Europe but apparently run from West Byfleet, Surrey. Betin is variously described as operated or licensed by Logispin. Senior Betin staff, including its head of sportsbook trading, are based at Logispin’s West Byfleet offices. Logispin did not respond to questions.

Betway, another Malta-registered but British-based company in the Kenyan market, gives sponsored kit to youth football teams including Kibagare FC, many of whose members are under 18. The team’s coach, Johnson Ntali, said about half the child players had started betting as a result. “They like Betway because they gave them the strip,” he said.

Betway said it did not sponsor any children’s teams and “the shirts in question were explicitly donated for over-18 use only”. But the most interesting British players of all are the Premier League and Championship football clubs that take millions to promote gambling firms. In Nairobi, the Tottenham and England star Harry Kane stares out from giant billboard adverts for 1xBet, Spurs’ “official betting partner for Africa”.

As of last month, 1xBet’s Kenya site was offering odds on children’s sport, including under-16s basketball and games that appeared to be taking place in school gyms. Tottenham has not been involved with promotional activities for children in Kenya.

In 2016 Arsenal sent Sol Campbell to Nairobi for children’s coaching sessions with SportPesa, a Kenyan betting company that is the club’s African sponsor. It is the one that makes the “They play, you win” ads. The event, which received saturation coverage in local media, was plastered with SportPesa branding and the children wore strips with the company’s “JengaGame” slogan.

“SportPesa and Arsenal have put together a collaboration . . . for young kids, identifying young talent,” Campbell said during the trip. “For me, teaching the coaches and the players the Arsenal way, that’s why I’m here.”

SportPesa also sponsors Hull City and Everton, to which it is paying a reported £48m. Everton visited Kenya last weekend, where several players, in SportPesa-branded kit, took part in an event at a project for slum girls, Let Our Girls Succeed, funded by Britain’s Department for International Development. Everton said players and staff wore club kit to club-related activities but the event was not associated with or sponsored by SportPesa or aimed at promoting gambling to youngsters.

Last year Hull City players went to Kibera, picking their way gingerly across the open sewers with a police escort. The squad and the manager, Nigel Adkins, handed out SportPesa-branded kit and wristbands to children.

“We want to share, we want to give back, we want to help,” Adkins told them. “SportPesa, Hull City, kits for Africa.” Hull’s “multimillion-pound” deal with the company, “the most lucrative in the club’s proud 112-year history”, was nominated for partnership of the year at the 2018 Football Business awards. The club said it “takes its role in promoting responsible gambling seriously, regardless of territory”.

In Kenya there is growing alarm over the partnership between betting, football and addiction. “Uncontrolled gambling has reorganised the financial lives of poor Kenyans in very drastic ways,” said Matiang’i. “Let us stop pretending. We must stand up and call sin by its name for the sake of our children.”

The Kenyan government now appears set on a showdown with the betting firms, announcing last week that it would suspend 27 companies’ licences, including those of

SportPesa, Betway, Betin and PremierBet. It has also suspended their ability to accept money through the country’s popular mobile phone payments service and threatened to deport or even arrest foreign managers. As of yesterday, however, their websites were still operating.

Patrick Lumumba, pastor at the Everlasting Gospel Mission Church in Nairobi, said his church was caring for a child whose father had killed himself because of gambling debts, some run up by the boy.

“He took a piece of paper and wrote to me, ‘I am leaving this family for you to take care of,’ and then he took rat poison,” Lumumba said. “The betting companies lure them in.”

He added that he spent a lot of time trying to sort out the chaos that gambling caused in his congregation’s lives.

“When they are given money to pay school fees, they rush to the betting shop,” he said. “Then they have to steal. You ask these children, ‘What do you expect to do when you grow up?’, and they say they will live by winning money on the betting.

“What I say to these [betting] companies is that they should stop doing this. It is ruining the lives of our children.”

Bron: The Sunday Times

Naschrift KKC

The Curacao company 1xCorp NV, operator of the many 1xBet sportsbetting websites, is directed by Carmanco NV, sublicensed by Curacao eGaming (Cyberluck) and hosted by UTS Curacao
The Curacao company 1xCorp, the operator of the many 1xBet sportsbetting sites, was founded in 2013, is directed by Carmanco NV and sublicensed by Curacao eGaming (Cyberluck) and hosted by UTS Curacao

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1 reactie

  1. Hier heeft dhr.Servania iets belangrijks te doen: pak dit bedrijf aan
    zo dat ze ook belasting betalen voor hun groot gok inkomen/verdiensten in het buitenland. Eventueel zou hij zo ook de kinderen en jongeren in Afrika mee helpen om van hun door dit bedrijf veroorzaakte gokverslaving af te kikken.

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