The Aviator craze, Betting imewekwa mafuta

Have you stumbled upon the latest internet craze? Well, let us tell you about a game that’s been sweeping through the online world, causing memes to go viral and ads to pop up unexpectedly. It’s called Aviator, and it’s taking Kenya by storm. Naturally, we couldn’t resist the urge to find out what all the fuss was about.

So, picture this: there’s this fascinating game nestled in the casino section of various betting websites, and it’s shaping a whole new cultural phenomenon around itself.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, you’re in for a treat. They say, ‘Ndege Imeisha Mafuta,’ which roughly translates to “the plane has run out of fuel.” What’s that supposed to mean, you ask? Well, it’s all about simulating the flight of a virtual toy plane while you’re playing the odds game. And here’s the kicker – if you miss the plane, you lose.

The objective of the game is simple yet thrilling: you place your bet before the plane takes off and then try to cash out before it disappears into the virtual horizon.

And let me tell you, when that plane starts its journey, it’s like a suspense-filled movie scene. The odds start at 1.00 and just keep climbing, with no apparent limit in sight.

The longer that little virtual plane stays airborne, the higher the odds soar, and the fatter your potential winnings become. But here’s the twist – if you don’t cash out in time, your hard-earned money is as good as gone. In local slang, they say, “pesa yako imekunywa maji,” which roughly translates to “your money has been swallowed up.”

Ndege imeisha mafuta

And believe me, there are moments when that plane, with odds as tempting as 1.01, takes off and vanishes within mere seconds. I mean, who expects a plane to disappear into thin air just moments after it starts? It’s a nail-biting experience that keeps you on the edge of your seat, praying that you cash out at the perfect moment. Aviator is not just a game; it’s an adrenaline-pumping rollercoaster ride that’s got everyone talking.

“Ndege inaweza amua ianze tu ivo alafu fwaa mafuta iishe, the house ichukue doh zako” – The plane can just take off and fly off the screen and the house always wins, Eugene a friend of ours who plays the game tells Maudhui House.

According to Eugene, this game is so compelling, it is taking young people by storm mainly because we all had a phase when all we wanted in life was to grow up and be pilots, of course that’s before we knew its requirements. Little by little we grew up and less of us could be pilots.

“Siku hizi si pilots pekee wanaweza endesha ndege, mimi nikishika yangu pale aviator hamnipati, bora isiishe mafuta”- Nowadays it is not just pilots alone who can fly planes, I take hold of mine on aviator and all you see is dust, so long as it does not run out of fuel, Eugene says.

It’s not just the allure of casual fun or escaping into fantasy that’s attracting young people to this gambling sensation. What’s truly captivating is the ability to place bets for as low as Kes2 on Sportpesa or Kes10 on Betika.

However, this accessibility is raising concerns about the potential for minors to get drawn into the mix.

Picture this: there’s a section where you can input your desired stake amount, and right beside it, a vivid green button beckoning you to “place bet.” The moment your bet is in, your stake starts multiplying in tandem with the plane’s coefficient.

Automatically cash out

During this intense moment, your eyes are inevitably drawn to the yellow cash-out button as the virtual plane gradually departs into the horizon.

If you’re nimble and manage to hit that cash-out button before the plane vanishes or “iishe mafuta,” your earnings instantly reflect in your account. But should the plane slip away, that green button turns an ominous red, and your losses are immediately subtracted from your account balance.

Interestingly, there’s an additional feature – the auto cash-out button. You can set your desired limit based on a specific odd, like 1.5, and if the odds reach that threshold, it’ll automatically cash out your bet. But let’s be realistic, the odds are stacked against you; as the old saying goes, “The house always wins.”

Ms Esther Argwings, the Assistant Director of Gaming at the Betting and Licensing Control Board (BCLB), reveals that this game received its initial license in Kenya two years ago as a forex trading-inspired multiple-bet game.

Kenyan punters, however, injected their own creativity, concocting multiple odds strategies that injected a potent dose of excitement into the game. This, in Argwings’ opinion, is the driving force behind its skyrocketing popularity.

Minors in betting

It’s worth noting that betting companies, including Betika, SportPesa, Odibets, and Sportibets, have all embraced the Aviator game on their platforms. This just goes to show how swiftly this game is soaring in popularity, quite literally flying off the shelves of the betting world.

“We advised the punters that the game could only be offered as part of the other games and that is why only those with bookmakers licenses have it as a virtual game alternative on their landing page.,” she said.

Ms Argwings said that despite the fact that the gaming regulator advocates that the betting amounts should not be so low as to attract minors, the game got away because it is set on various stages increasing bets and odds as you progress from one stage to another.

“It is not a stagnant amount and keeps increasing the stakes and odds as you progress,” she said.

This new game is sort of helping the betting scene re-invent itself after state clamp down with a barrage of taxation that had has threatened to collapse the lure of betting.

There have been comparisons about Kenya’s betting and stock market fortunes, but nothing illustrates it more than the betting boom fueled by Aviator craze, a moniker of forex trading, while the Nairobi Securities Exchange is collapsing. Over the last two years the NSE market cap has halved from Kes2.94 trillion to Kes1.56 trillion.

Kenya’s betting scene has evolved from casinos in the 1990, to Kenya Charity Sweepstake raffles in the early 2000s. The betting landscape in Kenya underwent a transformative shift with the rise of mobile betting.

Companies leveraged the growing popularity of smartphones and the convenience of mobile money services like M-PESA which made it easier to place bets easily using their phones, and this accessibility became a game-changer for the industry.

Regulatory challenges

As we approached the close of the 2010s, Kenya’s burgeoning gambling industry found itself grappling with a series of regulatory challenges.

These concerns centered on issues of problem gambling and the involvement of underage individuals in betting. In response to these mounting concerns, the government took decisive action by introducing stringent regulations and imposing higher taxes on the industry.

This move had far-reaching consequences, most notably on the largest player in the market at the time, SportPesa, which was forced to temporarily suspend its operations in 2019 due to hefty tax claims. This suspension was a clear signal from the government to the entire industry that they meant business.

However, this regulatory crackdown had an unintended consequence – it created opportunities for other betting firms to step into the void left by SportPesa’s absence.

Companies like Betika and Odibets seized this chance to gain prominence and have since been actively diversifying their offerings.

Virtual gaming and online casinos

They’ve expanded beyond traditional sports betting, now including virtual gaming and online casinos in their offering. Betika, for instance, introduced virtual football and casino games, broadening their appeal to a more diverse audience.

The government’s attempts to regulate the betting and gaming industry date back to 2012 when they first introduced a 20 percent withholding tax on winnings from betting and gaming through the Finance Act. However, the industry successfully lobbied against it, resulting in the withdrawal of this tax.

Nevertheless, the government persisted in its efforts. In 2013, the 20 percent withholding tax on winnings was reintroduced as a final tax, effective from January 1, 2014.

This move prompted the Association of Gaming Operators to file a petition at the High Court, challenging the constitutionality of the new Income Tax Act amendments, citing a lack of public participation in their introduction.

In 2015, the government made further amendments to the Income Tax Act, shifting the responsibility for the withholding tax from the gamblers to the bookmakers. Simultaneously, the tax rate was reduced from 20 percent to 7.5 percent.

By the Finance Act of 2016, in a bid to streamline taxation and promote compliance, the government transferred the regulation of the industry from the provisions of the Income Tax Act to the Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming Act. This marked a significant change in the industry’s taxation structure.

Give Zakayo what belongs to Zakayo

In 2017, the Finance Act amended the tax rates under the betting Act to a standard 35 percent rate on all gambling activities. Notably, the National Assembly had earlier proposed a 50 percent rate, but later changed their position to 35 percent.

The new tax rates caused an uproar in the gambling industry, with one of the biggest players, SportPesa, withdrawing all their sponsorships of Kenyan sports teams worth Kes600 million. Further, SportsPesa threatened to exit the Kenyan market.

In 2018, the President in his refusal to assent memorandum on the Finance Bill (2018) proposed the reduction of the standard 35 percent tax on all gambling activities to a new rate at 15 percent citing the burden of the withholding tax on winnings.

Today, the taxman has interlinked its tax system with the betting sector to track taxes real-time which Kenya Revenue Authority belives will catch the ndege before iishe mafuta.

From January 1, 2017, Kenya adopted a taxation model akin to the United Kingdom’s, placing the tax burden primarily on the bookmakers rather than the players. Under this Act, bookmakers were subjected to a monthly betting tax of 7.5 percent on their gaming revenue.

Additionally, a monthly lottery tax of 5 percent was imposed on lottery turnover, and casinos faced a monthly gaming tax of 12 percent on their gaming revenue. Prize competitions and promotions were not exempt; they too were subjected to a monthly prize competition tax of 15 percent on their total gross turnover.

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