The History of Sports Betting & Its Economic Potential in Africa

Chris Cleverly
Jun 12 · 7 min read

For thousands of years humans have been engaging in sports betting and lotteries. From ancient Roman sports betting on gladiator fights, to state-run lotteries in Ancient China, activities like these have been at the heart of our culture. While sports betting and lotteries have existed in Africa for thousands of years, coordinated governmental involvement has only occurred since the middle of the 20th century. The normalizing of sports betting and lotteries has the ability to not only transform the continental economy, but it also has the ability to increase peace amongst neighboring peoples and countries.

Origins of Sports Betting

In any sport, there are at a minimum, two competitors. What makes sports so exciting for billions of people is the rush of pride they get when their team or player competes against another competitor, usually of equal skill. When fans have ultimate belief in their team’s superiority, that their team will win no matter what, wagering on these events or matches becomes inevitable. Sports is no longer just about who wins the match, it’s about winning money for millions of people.

Today’s sports betting industry is gargantuan and reaches every populated continent in the world. It is hyper organized with professional bodies that govern the mechanics, ethics, and money market. It is a far cry from the decentralized, bookie sports betting, that typified the industry for thousands of years.

Modern Sports Betting In Africa

Sports betting in Africa today focuses primarily on horse racing and football. In Northern Africa, sports betting on horse races dates back to the 15th century, as the sport became a staple of the Ottoman Empire’s North African territories. Sports betting in Football has been around for the last 70 years, since football became the most popular sport in Africa.

The structure of sports betting today occurs between “bookies” and the person placing their money up for a bet. The bookmaker is an organization which takes inbound bets and wagers on sporting events at predetermined odds — the ratio of payoff to stake based on the possibility of a win/lose/draw scenario. Once the match is complete, if you have won the bet, you retrieve your earnings from the bookmaker. If you lose the match, well, you’re out of luck for this round.

Sports Betting Across Africa

Across Africa, sports betting has exploded in the last decade. In the most developed and sophisticated market in Africa, South Africa, nearly half of all adults participate in the sports betting economy regularly. The sports betting market totaled nearly $40 billion combined in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa in 2018. This craze though is not limited to more established, modern economies in Africa. Countries like Nigeria have a burgeoning industry, even if the average amount remains small on average:

“According to a recent investigation, roughly 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are involved in active sports betting. On average, these punters spend around 3,000 Naira (about $15) every day on bets.”

According to the government of South Africa, over 50% of South African adults engage in sports betting routinely. South Africa has a longer history with sports betting than most countries, but not necessarily an amicable one. Heavily curtailed since 1673, it would take 300 years for sports betting and general gambling to see changes in government regulations. In 1965, the country legalized betting on horse races, but full legalization and reformation would not occur until 2004.

Why Sports Betting Is Prepared to Spread Across Africa

1) High Level of Sports Enthusiasm

Sports are popular globally, but for anyone familiar with Africa knows that sports hold a special place in the hearts of many Africans. While football is the most popular sport across the continent, it is by no means the only game in town. Rugby, cricket, and running events routinely have millions of viewers and fans who cling to bars and cafes to watch matches and tournaments.

The high interest in Football does benefit from the numerous leagues that exist globally, leading to a plethora of teams from which to choose allegiance for. There are the various football leagues in Europe and South America, national countries that compete in Fifa, and then the local and regional teams across Africa. With hundreds of matches per season, and millions of viewers, the possibilities are endless for the amount, and variety, of bets which can be placed.

Just look at how popular the English Premiership League is across Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa alone nearly 280 million people watch every year, which is also expected to increase quickly. In Nigeria, English Premier League is so popular that they have begun partnering with local brands, creating a key driving force for economic growth. Some states in Nigeria have even set up holidays based around English Premier League, such as “Arsenal Day”, which shows the level of brand devotion that is present in Africa for EPL.

The high level of interest in English Premier League specifically, can be traced to the emergence of many African players playing for teams in the EPL. Now, everyday Africans can see their own starts playing at the highest level of sport, broadcasting across the world. Seeing themselves on TV playing in stadiums across the world, has led to a higher devotion to these teams and their heroes.

2) Population that skews Younger

Africa is first in the world when it comes to the amount of people aged 15 to 24, coming in at over 200 million young adults. This poses a unique opportunity for the growth of digital sports betting because globally, younger populations are using tech in higher proportions than any generation previously.

“In this kind of environment, it’s easy to see how the value proposition of mobile-based sports betting is so attractive to young people given that bets as small as $1 can deliver a win of $500.”

One of the interesting crossover points with the high youth population is the high youth unemployment across Africa. This relationship could lead to an increase in sports betting altogether. The reasoning behind this is that unemployed persons will seek a source of income, and with a continent that already has high interest in sports — specifically football — it is logical that the more widely available sports betting is across Africa, that its proliferation will likely be heavily adopted by younger people.

3) Increases in Digital Literacy & Mobile Phone Penetration

The potential increases in economic activity from sports betting will result from its transition from paper ledgers to digital ledgers and applications. Another reason why Africa is primed for a revolution in sports betting is because of increasing — with room for growth — mobile phone penetration levels.

The growth of smartphone usage across Africa is advancing at an unprecedented rate not seen in the region before. One third of mobile phone customers currently own a smartphone, which is set to double in the next 5 years. Therefore, if sports betting were to digitize more profoundly, with interfaces that are intuitive and easy to use, then the activity will only continue to proliferate.

Taking Sports Betting To Next Stage In Africa

As sports betting regulations liberalize across Africa, and millions of participants join this activity, it is critical that sports betting also become more secure and more equitable, in order to have a true and lasting impact for Africa. There is a new company that is utilizing blockchain technology to bring sports betting into the digital age.

Kamari is the brainchild of a group of entrepreneurs with deep roots to Africa, who are looking to pioneer a blockchain system that empowers Africa through access to an online gambling platform and borderless payment solution. Kamari recently acquired sports betting licenses in twelve African countries. They also have pending licenses in several African countries, with expansion plans for others as well. Over the next five years, Kamari plans to have betting licenses in 21 African countries, and reach Africa’s +500 million telco subscribers. Kamari will help support sporting leagues on the continent, and help create economic growth that will lead to the development of African sports, and bring world-class athletes to play in African leagues.

Sports betting is not a modern phenomenon. As long as humans have had sports, they have waged on their outcomes. What has changed is technology, and the ability to run sophisticated, trustworthy sports betting apparatuses. With the capacity for ensuring that no books are stacked and that operations run legally and fairly, sports betting is entering a new era. This technological reality, combined with the favorable demographic changes occurring in Africa, is creating an opportunity for sports betting to escalate in popularity, and therefore economic growth.

To stay up to date, to ask questions, or to share comments make sure you connect us in one of our social channels:

Telegram Chat — https://t.me/KamariOfficial

Telegram ANN — https://t.me/KamariANN

Twitter — www.twitter.com/KamariCoin

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/KamariCoin

Kamari in the News

###

Kamari

Kamari integrates existing infrastructure & licensing with a standardized currency for gaming & payments, and will instantly offer a better experience to hundreds of millions of people across Africa. We are creating a world without borders.

Chris Cleverly

Written by

CEO of Kamari, Founder of Made In Africa Foundation

Kamari

Kamari

Kamari integrates existing infrastructure & licensing with a standardized currency for gaming & payments, and will instantly offer a better experience to hundreds of millions of people across Africa. We are creating a world without borders.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade