September 25, 2015

Sport betting spawns Kenya’s newest brand of millionaires

George Mwangi, who earlier this week won the Sh29.5 million Sportpesa jackpot prize is a living testimony that sports betting is alive and well in Kenya.

Mwangi became the newest millionaire in town after placing a bet and rightly predicted the outcome of a series of football games. He spent a sum of about Sh16,00 before hitting the jackpot, having started placing bets in May.

“I do not consider this gambling otherwise I would not have wasted my money on it. I take it as a game of fortune where you combine luck and commitment to succeed,’’ said an elated Mwangi during the unveiling on Tuesday.

“I recall the starter was 2/13 and the most games I won were 8/13 in multiple bets. I deployed computation skills and analysed every game for three hours beforehand. There was no guesswork.”

He is just one of a growing crop of middle-class Kenyans who are taking up sports betting as a hobby and while at it making money. Besides Sportpesa, other recognisable betting sites in the country include Elite Bet, Kenya Gold Bet, Just Bet, Bet Yety, Royal Kenya Bets and Go-Bet.

The industry has grown in leaps and bounds overtime to become a money-spinner, attracting the attention of authorities with the National Treasury recently imposing tax on winnings.

Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich in his budget statement in June announced that there would be between five per cent and 12 per cent tax on gross earnings by every 20th day of the following month from participating bet firms.

The betting industry drives its business mostly through online platforms and the mobile telephony networks. Sportpesa, that has been in operation for just under a year, was established by Pewans East Africa at a cost of Sh300 million and commands around 800,000 registered users on its online platform.

It focuses on soccer only and has a variety of markets to choose from. One of its unique features is that unlike other Kenyan bookies, Sportpesa alongside Royal Kenya Bets has a jackpot. The Jackpot value keeps on increasing on weekly basis until there is a winner.

The approximate growth rate of the Sportpesa Jackpot is Sh2 million. Sportpesa Jackpot is played at a cost of Sh100 per jackpot pick. The sports betting industry arguably continues to earn hugely as a result of exceptionally well researched interest points.

In Kenya, the focus is mainly on football which has a large following, especially the English Premier League. According to Kiko Dewal, an industry expert, betting firms are shrewd in calculations and understand the market dynamics.

“The business has liquidity and is very fluid. Money is always moving in and out seven days a week and like traders in the stock market, firms understand the intricacies involved to detail,’’ he said.

From soccer to Formula One and even horse-racing, all punters and betting organisations know how to strike the right chord by offering such incentives such as a consolation prize to losers.

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