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Parents' nightmare as gambling and betting craze grips estates

By Kevine Omollo and Harold Odhiambo
Updated Sat, October 29th 2016 at 17:22 GMT +3

A resident operates a gambling machine at Nyalenda estate in Kisumu county on October 26 2016. Parents in the town are now headed for more complex challenge brought about by the machine as children spend most of their time in the game. [Photo:COLLINS ODUOR/Standard]

Starting tomorrow, students will be under the full care of their parents and guardians as schools close for the long holidays.

But unlike in past school holidays, parents and guardians will have to worry about their children for two months.

Another complex issue is the fresh gambling and betting craze that has swept over every little shopping centre across the country.

At first it was the lottery, then followed the sports bets. But now, a Chinese made machine that is readily available and easy to play is relegating the dreaded sports betting to the reserves.

Mary Auma, a resident of Nyamasaria Estate in Kisumu, knows this all too well. As a mother to a teenage son, she has had enough of the new addiction that is corrupting the minds of children as well as young adults. At Nyamasaria shopping centre, there are more than 20 such machines strategically located at the entrance of popular shops and stalls.

The machines, which resemble ancient telephone booths, have small slots that only take in Sh20 coins. Once the coin is pushed in, a player is then required to dial one of the seven buttons at the base of the machine.

A neon light will then appear, rotating on the numbers. A player only wins if the light comes to rest on the number they had dialed. One can have up to seven plays in a single session with possible wins of Sh60, Sh100, Sh200, Sh400 and Sh1,000.

Auma’s 15 year-old son, a Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) candidate, is addicted to the gambling machine.

“I have to safeguard my money nowadays. Those manning these machines do not turn away children and don’t bother to inquire the source of the money they gamble with,” she says.

 A spot check by The Standard on Sunday revealed that the machines have moved deep into the villages.

“This machine will break marriages as young wives gamble away the money left to them by their husbands for domestic use,” said Samson Ochieng, a resident of Manyatta.

Last week, a pastor with the Roho Msanda Church was lynched in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County, after he allegedly stole a gambling machine. The pastor said he stole the machine to save his village from being impoverished by the gambling and betting menace, but the mob could hear none of it.

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