Sports Betting: Highway To Hell Or On-Ramp To Digital Finance?
To get a sense of how pervasive sports gambling has become in Africa, where large numbers of young people are using digital financial services (DFS) for the first time, chances are you need look no further than your favorite soccer player’s jersey. Betting companies’ logos now appear on 9 of the 20 English Premier League soccer teams' uniforms, and companies are paying big money for this visibility. Kenyan sports betting company SportPesa reportedly paid $10 million to feature its logo on the Hull City players’ shirts. SportPesa is also sponsoring Everton’s shirts at a cost of $12.5 million a year for five years. Sports betting is a money-spinner. The gambling industry in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa was projected to be worth $37 billion in 2018. iAfrikan notes, "In Nigeria, 60 million people aged between 18 and 40 spend up to $5 million on sports betting daily. The majority are unemployed or underemployed young people who stake an average of USD 8.40 daily." MSC’s work shows that this trend is reflected across Anglo and Francophone Africa. A recent survey by GeoPoll revealed that more than 54 percent of youth (ages 17 to 35) in Sub-Saharan Africa have tried some form of gambling - primarily sports betting. An estimated 2 million individuals engage in mobile-based sports betting in Kenya alone, most between the ages of 40 and 21. GeoPoll notes that 96 percent of Kenyans use their mobile phones to bet, and 75 percent of all wagers are placed using smartphones. Small wonder that one Kenyan government minister calls sport betting "a curse on youth." There is evidence that gambling is destructive to Africa’s youth There are growing concerns that sports betting among students distracts many from their studies. Dauti Kahura reports that students are "… now spending all their energies dreaming every single day about betting and winning big-time money. It has become a full-time occupation for them. Studies have become secondary." As one chemistry student at the University of Nairobi told him: "Here at Chiromo, there are betting groups, just like there are tutorial groups, but the betting groups are superseding the tutorial groups by the day." The consequences can be devastating. There are a growing number of reports of students committing suicide after losing bets and of other students at high school and university dropping out after using their school fee money to gamble. So why are young people drawn to sports betting? About 35 percent of Africa’s young people are unemployed. Only one in six African youths is in gainful wage employment, and all African youth are susceptible to the aggressively marketed dream of "winning big" and transforming their lives.