While betting on soccer and horse racing has a long tradition in Africa, the modern version, using digital platforms and heavy marketing, takes gambling to a new level. What are the consequences for society if what is now considered fun turns into severe addiction? Mushtak Parker discusses.
In the first week of November, Kenyan football giants, Gor Mabia played the English Premier League's (EPL) Everton in the SportPesa Trophy final at Goodison Park in Liverpool.
Gor Mahia, as the winner of the SportPesa Super Cup, an annual eight-team knockout football tournament featuring four teams each from Kenya and Tanzania, earned the right to play Everton in the SportPesa Trophy. The event usually coincides with pre-season friendlies involving EPL clubs, but was rescheduled after management changes at the English club.
What is revealing is not the fact that a Premier League club should be playing an African one as the 'prize' for winning a tournament, but the fact that the organiser of both the SportPesa Trophy and Super Cup is SportPesa, one of the fastest growing online sports betting and gambling platforms, with operations in Kenya,
Tanzania, South Africa, the Isle of Man and the UK, where it operates in conjunction with TGP Europe.
At SportPesa's Tanzania platform, for instance, punters can bet on 10 different sports including Egyptian Second Division, Vietnamese and Turkish Amateur League football matches.
That is not the only connection between Gor Mahia and Everton. Their shirts are both sponsored by SportPesa, which is also a sponsor partner of Arsenal--one of the most successful clubs in top-flight English football--Southampton, Hull City and La Liga in Spain.
In East Africa, SportPesa sponsors the Kenya Premier League and clubs such as Singida United, Young Africans and Simba Sports Club.
Bold reverse investment
This bold 'reverse investment' initiative by SportPesa through its foray into the European market suggests the arrival and consolidation of the 'Betting without Frontiers' concept.
Sports betting and gambling is a multi-billion dollar business and, empowered by the Internet, mobile telephony and social media, it transcends national boundaries and can reach even the remotest communities.
Sports and betting have been virtually synonymous for centuries. Some events, in horse racing for example, are staged specifically for betting, and gambling on football has a long tradition not only in the UK but across the world.
Betting on English...