Betting and sports-related sites dominated the top internet search queries in Kenya in 2018, a new report showed, pointing to a gambling craze in the country.
A massive 11 of the top 20 Google search queries were directly related to betting, according to an annual report for 2019 by Hootsuite and We Are Social.
SportPesa, a leading betting site, emerged at the top of most searched topics. Among the top sports gambling related sites that featured in the list include Livescore (3), Betpawa (5), Betin (7), Prediction (8), Betika (9) and SportPesa Login (10). Others are Forebet (13), Livescore CZ (17), SportPesa Livescore (19) and Games (20).
Also in the top searches were Arsenal (12) and Chelsea (16), both English Premier League teams, another sign of the rising football and gambling craze in the country.
Besides the football and gambling sites, other top Google search queries included Kenya (2), News (4), Facebook (6), Tubidy — a music download site (11) and Gmail (14).
Nation news site was also among the top searched words at number 18.
The report also revealed that betting sites featured prominently in Alexa Website Ranking with Sportpesa.co.ke (9), Betin.co.ke (10), Betpawa.co.ke (17) and 1XBET.co.ke (20) being among the top 20 most visited websites in 2018.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kenya is the third largest gambling market after South Africa and Nigeria respectively in Africa in terms of revenues. However, in terms of participants, Kenya could be ahead of its peers in the region.
Based on a 2017 Geopoll survey, Kenya had the highest number of millennials who take part in sports betting in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
“About 54 percent of youth in SSA have tried their hand at gambling. Kenya has the highest number of youth who have participated in gambling or betting in the past at 76 percent followed by Uganda at 57 percent. Ghana has the least number at 42 percent,” said the 2017 Geopoll Survey on Gambling in the SSA region.
The report noted that while in other countries the frequency of betting was once a month, in Kenya it’s once a week, a sign that young people could becoming gambling addicts.
Further, the Geopoll Survey found that 79 percent of bets placed in Kenya are on football games, making the country the leading in football betting. Majority are placed on English Premier League games, owing to its popularity in Kenya.
The rise of sports betting in Kenya is fuelled by increased internet penetration and use of smartphones.
According to the We Social Report, Kenya has an 84 percent internet penetration with about 43.33 million users online, higher than the East Africa Community average of 32 percent.
About 43 percent of the total population who own mobile phones have a smartphone. Therefore, the proliferation of these devices has increased access to sports betting.
Kenya boasts of a better ranking in terms of affordability of devices and services, scoring 63.06 out of a possible 100. Tanzania scores 41.24 and Uganda, which put a ban this month on online betting has 38.42.
“The mobile phone has become the most convenient tool for those gambling. About 75 percent of those who bet do so using their mobile phones with Kenya having the highest number of mobile usage for gambling at 96 percent,” Geopoll said.
Despite having a higher internet and smartphone penetration, the 2017 Geopoll Survey on gambling found that South Africa has the lowest number of people who use mobile phones to gamble.
The rising participation in betting among young people may be as a result of their love for sports and aggressive marketing strategies by industry players.
The social impact of gambling in Kenya is yet to be known. Earlier efforts by the government to introduce a 30 percent tax on gambling companies were thwarted after heavy lobbying by the players.
Evidence that the online gamblers could be headed to ruins is hidden in the figures which show the popularity of the betting companies and growing number of users as well as money spent.
Based on Geopoll report, Kenyan youth spend more than the average of $50 that other sports gamblers spend in SSA.
“Kenya is the leader in the most amount of money spent on gambling. Youth elsewhere spend less than $50 a month and most bet only once a month,” Geopoll said.
According to research on gambling, poverty is constant risk factor for problem gambling and mostly affects already vulnerable populations. With high unemployment rates, the high gambling habits among young Kenyans could be a cry for help as many seek financial independence.