Untold stories of youth betting their future on gambling

Tuesday November 01 2022

Thousands of young people in Kigali wake up every morning and crowd themselves in sports betting shops in the hope of earning a living. PHOTO | Cyril NDEGEYA


The youth are suffering from untold stories of betting addiction, which has disrupted their daily work routines and saving culture.

Many youth addicted to betting, Rwanda Today established, report religiously to betting shops instead of engaging in productive income-earning activities.

Some are said to have abandoned work like operating taxi motor and small-scale business to throng betting shops.

Scores of youths who migrated to Kigali in the past 10 years in pursuit of jobs which range from household chores, mobile money agents to construction workers — have since been addicted to betting.

Nsengiyunva Matthias came to Kigali seven years ago to work on a construction site as a porter, after a while, he got a driving permit to become a taxi moto operator. He did this job while saving and after three years he bought his own motorcycle, but around the same time

At the beginning, he could win most of his bets and make money, so he got hooked on the habit as betting went on consuming his mind and eating a lot into his time and other resources .


After just one year, Mr Nsengiyunva was a betting addict, and the next threes years was like a shipwreck, a man who had an ambition to develop himself, regressed in all aspects of his life.

“When I look back all I can say is that betting stole my life, as we speak I am hollow, there’s nothing inside me, I have lost everything, the saddest thing is that I don’t know how to get myself out of this hell,” he said.

He started by betting on football games on weekends, and this took whatever money he made, as the addiction got worse it ate into his working time and started betting on animated electric horses during the week.

A time came and he sold his motorcycle to support the insatiable habit, he has now gone back to doing casual work on construction sites, but he could not concentrate on his job due to the addiction.

Another addict said he has lost up to eight jobs in a space of five years due to betting addiction.

He says he knew the addiction was worse when he sold his boss’s equipment from the warehouse all in the name of raising money to finance his betting habit, which ended up getting him jailed for three months.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry recently launched an operation to close all betting companies operating without proper guidelines, among which includes having in place protocols to curb betting addiction.

Authorities confiscated dozens of slot machines around the city where they were being operated illegally. Mulindankaka Evalde, the acting director general of industry promotion and entrepreneurship department at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said they will continue the crack down on gambling houses that work in ways that violate guidelines to weed out errant operators.

“We have faced a lot of resistance in this operation, those we’ve closed down end up opening in other places but we shall continue until the industry is rid of unscrupulous gambling and betting operators” he said.

Betting and gambling both physical and virtual has been legal in Rwanda since 2011, but virtual sports betting and fantasy football, loot boxes, as well as social gambling are not specifically regulated in Rwanda.

Gambling age in the country is 18, and only betting on blood sports like boxing, MMA and other forms of combat sports that are not allowed in the country. An executive in one of the country’s 24 betting companies said that although addiction to betting has been largely affecting older people who have a source of income, the trend for young people getting addicted has been rapidly going up in the last few years.