East Africa’s burgeoning gambling industry has plummeted in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced all major sports to shut down their seasons, removing the lifeblood of sports betting in just a few weeks.
East African betting shops closed recently as African nations scramble to deal with the pandemic, which has left nations reeling from the loss of revenue. Kenya’s annual gambling sales are roughly $20 million, Uganda’s sales are $12 million, and Tanzania’s sales are $10 million.
Gambling industries across the globe have been impacted by the lack of games to bet on, but East Africa was impacted much more severely due to customers’ preference for offline bets.
According to brand ambassador for GAL Sport Betting, Ivan Kalanzi, due to shutdowns of non-essential businesses to contain the spread of the coronavirus, gambling sales have been reduced to a mere 1% of their normal take. This is because most East Africans shy away from online betting.
According to Kalinzi, only an estimated 30 percent of East African gamblers place online bets—most of whom are middle-class, and interested primarily in The English Premier League football games. Due to the absence of professional sports leagues today, the few online bettors in East Africa have nothing to bet on, leaving gambling operators at a total loss.
With no clear end in sight for the coronavirus outbreak, it is unclear when major sports leagues can resume operations. Industry experts note that this will likely have disastrous implications for the gambling industry in East Africa.
Gambling Industry Losses Mount
A prominent European betting group has stated that they stand to lose $100 million or more if sports restrictions continue until August which will delay major sports events such as the 2020 European Championships.
The $100 million estimate is likely a conservative estimate, as horse racing another major driver of bets in the UK has also been put off indefinitely.
Many East African gamblers are taking the loss of games in stride. Some view the lack of games to bet on as a respite from their gambling habits, allowing them to save more money. Others, however, are disappointed at the lack of action due to the hope gambling brings them to win a life-changing jackpot.
Currently, GAL’s site offers some football bets, as well as dog and horse racing. Other gambling sites are offering virtual or eSports bets. However, many East Africans continue to shy away, both from online bets, and from betting on sports they do not know.