In 2018, over 4,000 miles away in Kenya, thousands of viewers paid close attention to this second-tier contest.
Staring into their smartphones or craning their necks to watch the game amid the bustle of a betting shop or internet café, they hoped and prayed for a goal, a moment of brilliance, that would make or break the weekend.
Why is so much interest placed in the clashes of mid-level English football clubs?
A clue lies in the brand emblazoned on Hull City’s shirts. SportPesa, a Kenya-based sports betting operator that also sponsors Everton FC, is one of the most successful players in Africa’s booming sports betting market.
This young, brash, multi-million dollar sector is mushrooming in size and capturing African imaginations and wallets.
The Business Of Sports Betting
Sports betting is very popular in Africa, especially in Kenya. More so, the business of sports betting in Kenya promises to make you rich overnight!
But it’s not only football betting that is booming in Africa.
Casinos, lotteries, and internet gaming are taking off as economies grow and the emerging middle class looks for entertainment.
Increasing internet penetration and the popularity of smartphones and online payment systems offer an unparalleled opportunity for firms to reach middle-class consumers far from the smoke-ridden dens of the past.
Rwanda has become one of the most business-friendly countries on the African continent.
Thanks to an advertising strategy that aims to change the country’s image, Kigali wants to attract more and more investors. And it works! More and more investments are being made.
Kenya has the highest number of youths who have participated in gambling or betting at 76%, followed by Uganda at 57%.
The Kenyans surveyed bet on average once a week, mostly on football, spending around $50 per month. “The general proposition is that Africa has a fairly young population.
“We’re seeing tremendous growth in certain territories—more people are getting connected online, and mobile banking apps are very prolific. Payment systems, particularly in Kenya, are very well developed, “says Garron Whitesman, a gambling sector lawyer at Cape Town-based Whitesmans Attorneys
If you look at the benefits, there’s no doubt about it: a new industry has opened up, and there are new opportunities for entrepreneurs, affiliate agents, and employment,” says Maikori.
The savvier the regulator, the more taxes – there are lots of taxes to be made from it.
If you look at the internet dividend that comes to local people because of gaming, there’s even an infrastructure tax and office and retail store rental.
So eventually the whole ecosystem will get bigger, and in the next three years, I see Africans providing most of the services in this industry.
However, “corruption levels have tended to create a scenario where there is a perceived benefit to quick and easy money.
Strong advertising by providers shows instant millionaires. That’s an incredibly attractive proposition for those who need hope because of high unemployment, “says Victor Owuor, an industry critic and senior research associate at OEF Research.
“My issue with sports betting is that it’s mushroomed into something unimaginable… “Until you go to the continent, it’s hard to describe, because the prevalence of it is clearly the biggest danger.”
While the problems cannot be overstated, there is little doubt that the industry offers exciting revenue streams and opportunities for governments, businesses, and even the occasional lucky gambler.
Whether those winnings will ever be cashed in will depend on the agility and intelligence of the continent’s regulators.
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