Lottery business is well patronised in Africa, with Ghana not an exception. Lottery kiosks are visible in various corners across the country. Weekly lottery results used to be shown on national television in times past; an indication of its popularity back then. It still is.

But a different kind of lottery is growing leaps and bounds in the country—sports betting. This is where sports fans wager or place a bet on the outcome of a sporting event with the payment of a small fee. If the odd bet comes through, one wins a bigger amount. They capitalize on the fans’ passion and love for European football like the English Premier League and other leagues around the globe. But the fans also place bets on other sports including boxing, rugby, tennis, NBA basketball and others. Many also offer Virtual Gaming for patrons.

Within the last few years, as much as five companies have invested to set up operations in the country. Their operations are legal and are regulated by the country’s Gaming Commission. They are well-patronised and successful to the extent that, they open more branched than mobile telecom or banks do.

Premier Betting has operations in 27 other African countries and currently has 5 shops in Ghana and growing, a testament to the increasing popularity of the sports betting business in Africa. Speaking at the launch of their newest shop, the Operations Manager of Premier Solidere Ghana Limited, operators of Premier Betting, Tony Hill said “it is our belief that Ghana and Africa as a whole has tremendous potential for expansion of Premier Betting Solidere Ltd”

The shops are normally packed to capacity with young men especially on weekends and match days. Giant flat screens showing various sports events are a massive draw for fans. Bets can also be placed on the phone and via online channels. Betting shops are strategically located in densely populated areas of the city where large and mainly unemployed sports-loving fans can be found.

It is these jobless youths that Africa Gaming and Entertainment Limited, operators of Safaribet, another of the betting companies, seeks to offer employment to. The company currently has 4 shops in the capital Accra and employs 140 people after six months of launching. Safaribet hopes to create 4,000 direct and 15,000 indirect jobs within the next three years to tackle the unemployment menace in Ghana. Unemployment level currently is quite high. Additionally the company hopes to take the business to as many fans as possible through shops, franchise shops and online betting.

Chief Executive of Safaribet Ghana, Halit Karabashoglu explained “also we want to partner with small businesses for franchising in order for them to grow and also employ others”.

Sports betting can also be used to raise the profile of domestic football leagues in Africa when they are included in the bouquet of sporting events that can be waged on, according to Kwaku Ohemeng Adjei, CEO of mybet.com. Mybet.com has been on the scene for about a year now but the success it has chalked in this short time in Accra has led firm to open branches in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city.

The popularity of the local Ghana football league has waned and sports fans prefer to watch European matches every weekend instead.

But Mr Adjei is hoping to change that. “Since we came to the market, we have included the Ghanaian Leagues in it, so as to give it more of a local content”. Now we have bookmakers across the globe inquiring about the leagues, thinking that if we are taking bets on the local league, then there is credibility to the local league”, he says. The company is hoping to branch out and take bets on social events in the future such as political elections.

Mobile phone usage and specifically internet use is growing in the country. The mobile phone subscription rate is about 103% and increasingly more people are using smartphones, especially cheaper versions imported from China.

In February this year Recognition Limited, launched a unique Mobile betting product called ‘Dreambet’ to tap into the growing internet use among consumers. It allows bets to be placed via a text messaging short code and it promises a much higher payout on winnings. It also aims to provide a better betting experience for sports betting lovers in the country. Another innovation from the same company is an innovative pool betting to establish a broad channel of ways to bet on football and win.

South African company, Supabet is also active on the market.

Sports betting business offers employment, quick money for patrons, tax revenue for government and economic growth as a whole, but it is not without its critics.

Some believe that the quick money nature of betting, just like lottery is addictive, and will make many young people lazy and not seek productive means of getting employment. If not checked children can use the available channels like phone and online to partake without being detected.

The benefits of sports betting across Africa far outweigh the negative sides and it represents investments into Africa that governments have been seeking for.

So for now, let the betting machines roll on.

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