The local sports betting scene has grown by leaps and bounds ever since its explosion nearly four years ago. Betting firms have mushroomed the industry with no less than 15 companies battling for a slice of the billions of shillings Kenyans are willing to dish out in the hopes of a winning slip.
Almost all firms have multi-million shilling jackpots, where a player is required to predict the correct outcome of select matches, and in the event one does so, he/she would kiss poverty goodbye quite literally.
The leading name in the game Sportpesa runs two weekly jackpots; one on the weekend that now stands at an all-time high of over Sh200 million, aptly dubbed as the mega-jackpot, and another in the middle that is currently at over Sh60 million.
Now getting Sh 200,542,550 is bound to whet the appetite of any Kenyan. Even the top honchos wouldn’t mind a bit of the action. All that stands in their way of being a dollar millionaire is correctly predicting the result of 17 games starting this Saturday.
The mega-jackpot has had no takers ever since its inception in the last quarter of 2016, ballooning from its initial Sh100 million value.
The closest a player ever got to the mind-boggling figure was a lucky hotel worker who got 16 out of the 17 games right to bag a cool Sh36 million.
But have you noticed that the jackpot has been won only by individuals on the lower side of the economic scale.
A security guard, hotel worker, college student, farmer, housewife and an unemployed lad have had the enviable pleasure of raiding the Sportpesa coffers and beamed in front of clicking cameras as they smiled away millionaires holding dummy cheques in posh hotels after been driven in stretch limos.
But why them? You would think that somebody already rich (and probably well-known) would have already won by now. Except this isn’t the case.
Let me walk you through a timeline of past winners who have had little or nothing to their name but earned a call from the bookmakers over at Sportpesa’s executive address on the 3rd floor on Valley Road’s The Chancery.
Jobless accountant Andrew Mganga had only Sh100 in his Sportpesa account when he placed a bet predicting 13 matches’ outcomes on a weekend in July 2014 and forgot about it. Two days later he was the winner of Sh5,351,700, the first of the jackpot instalment.
Forward to March 2015 and Huruma resident Paul Wainaina could not believe his luck when he discovered that he had correctly called the predictions, bagging Sh8.9 million. So smitten was he that he called Sportpesa to confirm his victory and not the other way around.
2016 introduced us to boda boda cyclist Geoffrey Kipngetich whose dream came true after he won Sh12 million in early December. Introduced to the game by a neighbour, the Nakuru man who had never held a bank account in his 34 years of existence was all smiles as he was paraded as the newest millionaire in town.
Two weeks earlier, Nandi-based electrician Shadrack Kitur was so shocked when he found out he had won Sh22,842,642 that he turned his phone off for a while.
And just two weeks ago, a student struggling to pay her fees at the Eldoret College of Professional Skills was the darling of Kenyan men after winning Sh31,002,159. 23-year old Quinter Chemei won the bonus pay-out together with security guard Julius Kerich after correctly predicting 16 out of the 17 matches.
And who can forget Uthiru-based hotel worker Peter Byegon who bagged Sh36,089,533 in December last year. The father of one had a reason to smile for the Christmas holiday after investing a paltry Sh100.
The tide of struggling winners is not restricted to Sportpesa alone. 63-year old Joseph Onywera, whose wife left him for failing to cater for the family’s basic needs, won the Betway Sh20 million jackpot in August 2016.
(Suffice to say the woman offered to come back but the guy would have none of it).
Other promotions by non-gambling companies have also been claimed by ‘penniless’ Kenyans. A sugarcane cutter, a high school student, mechanic and a hustler have all been rewarded with millions from Safaricom’s never-ending promotions.
30-year old construction worker Mbonya Shamola was the winner of a Subaru Impreza in the Kenafric Industries Fresh National Consumer Promotion about two weeks.
All the above mentioned winners have a common denominator; they would be described as lower middle-income Kenyans.
Considering that almost all betting firms with jackpots have an option of placing double-chances, hence a higher possibility of winning, wouldn’t it be plausible to assume that a rich individual would invest shillings in the hopes of winning?
And in the case of telecommunication company promotions isn’t it highly likely that a well-off person makes more calls than his less endowed partner thus bolstering his odds of bagging something in return?
What about any other product? From draws in supermarket raffles to random calls in radio stations offering a prize, chances are you will hear it has been claimed by an average Joe.
Also, most of the jackpot winners won without the use of specialized analysis of selected matches employed by most gamblers.
Heck, some of them didn’t even use the Internet in arriving at their decisions let alone have smartphones at their disposal.
“I went to visit my friend at Kapsokwony trading centre in Bungoma county and found him betting using a small piece of paper which he had copied from one of the daily newspapers. I asked him if he had ever won the game and after he replied yes, I was convinced to participate after he accepted to introduce me to the game,” Chemei the student said.
In the grand scheme of things, it makes mathematical sense for rich guys to win anything really as they have better purchasing power and willingness to make acquisitions, utilities and consumptions.
Meanwhile, studies show that 70% of jackpot and lottery winners usually go broke or bankrupt within a few years. In addition the thrill of winning vast sums of money eventually wears itself off, with winners finding themselves accustomed to their new-found wealth over time.
I also noticed another sub-plot in recent Sportpesa jackpot winners. Why are most of them from the Rift Valley, specifically from the Kalenjin community? That is a discussion for another day.
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