The loopholes mCHEZA and other betting companies could be using to siphon money

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  • 4 years ago
  • Posted: April 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Negative Social Media posts about mCHEZA started on Sunday when a number of mCHEZA gamblers reported that they were not receiving message feedback from the bets they had placed via the mCHEZA platform. As Techmoran reported, there was an outage on the servers hosting mCHEZA USSD platform, making gamblers unable to bet or get compensated for their successful bets. mCHEZA issued a statement saying, “Dear Esteemed Customer, Safaricom servers are currently unavailable and have made the content of this website inaccessible. mCHEZA and Safaricom teams are working on it. The Jackpot draw will be announced as soon as the servers resume normal service.”

When the servers resumed and two winners of the shs 21,448,629 Jackpot announced, some mCHEZA gamblers took to Twitter to complain that their bonuses were abnormal where instead of winning a bonuses of between shs 3,000 and shs 200,000, many gamblers reported to have won bonuses of between shs 175 and shs 800 for 10, 11,and 12 correct match predictions. Since then, the messages on Twitter about mCHEZA have been on one theme; mCHEZA is siphoning money from the public.

The possibility that mCHEZA could be siphoning money from the public exists, and I have written about that possibility in relation to Safaricom promotions in the article; On a serious note, Safaricom competitions should be banned. As noted in that article, one serious loophole that can enable fraudulent betting organizations to siphon money from the public is unaudited technology systems.

In the Safaricom’s case, non-existent winners were able to win Twitter targeted promotions, where what Safaricom terms as bots that had no tweets, no followers and were following no one, bots that hadn’t answered the questions that the Safaricom promotion needed them to answer in order to win, ended up being the winners of those Safaricom promotions. The same hitch had happened in Safaricom promotions targeting Facebook users, although in the Facebook cases no one bothered to inform the public.

Similar to the Safaricom Twitter targeted promotions that started with a claimed “hack”, the complains about mCHEZA started when the mCHEZA USSD server hosted by Safaricom went down, just hours prior to the announcement of the shs 21.4 million Jackpot winners. A technical hitch that happens hours prior to an announcement of a Jackpot that runs into millions of shillings is very suspicious, and this suspicion is given credibility by subsequent complains that gamblers who were expecting bonuses of between shs 3,000 and shs 200,000 only received bonuses of shs 175 to shs 800.

Product promotions and all other gambling activities are supposed to be closely monitored, with every system, algorithm, technique, method, instrument, device, and personnel involved in the entire gambling process thoroughly vetted, tested, and approved by a betting board. An effective vetting board should also be available at all times to constantly verify that the already vetted and approved betting systems, processes and technologies haven’t deviated from the approved standards as long as the betting is still ongoing.

In Kenya there is the Betting Control and Licensing Board that is supposed to take care of licensing, controlling, monitoring, and approving all betting activities in Kenya, be they offline or online betting activities. The Betting Control and Licensing Board however, does not exist online, despite the fact that almost all betting activities done today are done via online platforms that include SMS, USSD and Internet Systems.

For example, before penning down this article, I called the phone numbers I found after Googling “Contacts of Betting Control and Licensing Board” so as to obtain clarification on the status of mCHEZA in regards to the numerous complains and negative feedback mCHEZA has had since Sunday from its users. The numbers I found are 020316471 and 0202220186. The feedback I received while trying to call those two numbers was that the first number has been changed whereas the second number is not in service.

When gamblers experience problems, and when they feel conned or cheated, they are supposed to report anomalies they have noted to the Betting Control and Licensing Board so that the board can take immediate action to investigate those anomalies and if irregularities are found, the Betting Company ought to be penalized. But as already described, the Betting Control and Licensing Board cannot be reached via any online communication channels, neither do they have working phone numbers.

I am not privy to the details of how Betting Control and Licensing Board operates, but I can bet that they do not carry out stringent background checks on founders and personnel of betting companies nor do they perform adequate audits on the systems, instruments, devices and algorithms used in the entire betting proces. For example, the Betting Act 2012 require that betting companies submit audited financial statements to the Betting Control and Licensing Board, but I honestly haven’t seen any Financial Statements from SportsPesa, mCHEZA and any other betting company in Kenya. This fact alone means there exist a serious regulatory loophole that betting companies can use to siphon money from the public, and as it appears, there is nothing the public can do get help.

In Jubilee Manifesto, we have a commitment by the Jubilee Government to use lottery as a serious revenue collection avenue and this led to the establishment and promotion of the many betting companies (see Njoki Chege rubbished betting out of ignorance – Here is the economics of betting). These companies were however established before a proper legal framework is in place as the law that is currently being used to regulate the betting industry is a 1966 law amended several times over the years with latest revision being the 2012 amendment. The law including the 2012 version does not have important modern day terminologies like SMS, USSD, App, Online, Internet, Mobile Phone, Computer and many other tech based betting devices and systems in use today.

Regulatory frameworks and “accidental” technical hitches are the two most serious loopholes that exist in the betting sector that betting companies can use to siphon money from the public. Also, the fact that the public is not privy to how much the betting companies make for themselves from the betting wagers means the betting companies can easily get away with the siphoned money. I therefore recommend that those of you practicing betting should pause your betting activities until such a time that a serious Betting Control and Licensing Law is enacted and a serious Betting Control and Licensing Board established to promptly control and regulate the betting activities in the country.

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Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Analytics Ltd
Film Director, Tech and Business Blogger, Chess Player, and Photographer. God is Science.
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