Betway Africa director Laurence Michel with Kenyan country manager Wanja Gikonyo . Credit: The Star

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ports betting may have taken root only a few years ago but has grown so in leaps and bounds to become one of the leading industries in terms of contribution to revenue growth in the economy. This means it is supporting other sectors of the economy.

The Finance Act 2016 highlights gaming as the new tax frontier with earnings expected to triple by 2017 even as analysts project that by next year it will have injected up to Ksh3.2 trillion into the economy.

According to a GeoPoll Survey released in March, Kenya tops the chart of Sub-Saharan countries, with 76% of respondents engaged in betting.  Kenyans are avid gamers and will drive the envisioned growth within the industry, while the increased investments into the industry will ensure just about any Kenyan gets their chance to try their luck as more platforms emerge.

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This optimistic outlook notwithstanding, there remains challenges of entry and access associated with mobile penetration and cost of data. Granted, most sports betting companies’ traffic is online. A deep dive into the GeoPoll report reveals that most of the players do so on mobile phones, where at least 96 per cent of the bets are placed.

Although huge investments have been made to ensure more people can easily and seamlessly access innovative, highly interactive websites to place and track their bets, the cost of mobile data stands in the way for most users especially within the lower economic cadre.

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At Betway, we have noticed new longer betting sessions mostly associated with concurrent match researches before placing the bet.

Our responsible betting campaign supported by user infomercials online has ensured that our players spend more time online researching on games before placing the bets.

While the love of the game brings individuals to the platforms, the high cost of mobile data in Kenya discourages betters from staying online for long conducting more game research and/or enjoying the vast gaming opportunities with the betting sites.  On average each session lasts for about five minutes which translates to an estimated Ksh50- 200 daily and about Ksh5,000 monthly spend on mobile data.

Most gamers will access varied betting platforms at least once a day, to either place a bet or track ongoing matches. This in itself, and not at all associated to any winnings, is a deterrent to many regular gamers.

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My interactions with most of Betway loyalists, the love and participation in gaming has been discouraged by the growth of internet charges as well as mobile money transfer charges that always eat into the wins. It is therefore important for all industry players to rethink how the games are played, and to invest more on access.

While the high spend by gaming companies on marketing initiatives is important in educating the public on how and where to play, it is important to keep punters’ online sessions longer as a way of sustaining the industry’s growth momentum.

There should be a way to counter those painful charges and enable players to bet freely without having to deal with the extra charges. Betting companies such as Betway are looking for ways to make betting more manageable and easing the process for bettors. For a fact, Kenyans love to bet and if there is any way betting companies can better the experience it should be implemented.

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About the Author

Ms Gikonyo is Betway Country Manager for Kenya.

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