A yellow booth stands on the kerb off Kaunda street looking like a watchman’s, quarters of sorts but for many who stop by momentarily, it is a shop for buying Safaricom and Airtel scratch cards. On rare occasion, though a customer would buy a raffle ticket and try their luck.
The Kenya Charity Sweepstake for a very long time has been a household name making TV appearance with its famed hype song each evening where dummy checks were handed out to smiling players behind the yellow gaudy Humpty Dumpty bag of money.
But in came the mobile betting craze and out went the scratch cards, the booths and a theme song we have loved to sing along. The Kenya charity sweepstake, the Keenya Chariiityyy Sweeepstake.
The new King of the betting fad has been SportPesa the ubiquitous brand that according to Alexa is Kenya’s ninth most popular site. Sportpesa is so magnetic that people spend as much time on the site as Facebook. At number 11 is the next big betting house, Bet-In.
Online betting has been the revolution from the old days of Charity Sweepstake now Lotto which managed to revive the relevance of Kenyan cyber café’s that had died to home fiber and mobile internet.
However, the more things change the more they remain the same.
BetIn, a global conglomerate that entered the market in 2015 is bringing back physical locations for betting houses in a big way. Betting firm Betin Kenya pegs its deposit at Sh150,000, of which Sh100,000 has to be paid immediately, while the remaining amount can be paid in monthly installments of Sh10,000 for five months.
The success story of Sportpesa was mainly Kenya’s heretical band loyalty that calls all margarine BlueBand and all detergents Omo. It had a Kiswahili sounding name which is a plus in a market where Safaricom embossed in the natural greenery has acquired a pseudo nationalistic appeal. And third, it was everywhere.
The ubiquitous nature has seen the company invest in remote bars branding venues for catching up with the local and international games and even installing betting display screens, labelling towns, billboards and massive TV campaigns.
BetIn countered with increased odds and counter campaign hanging on the bootstraps of former national football hero Macdonald Mariga and former Citizen TV anchor Joey Muthengi. The firm also piloted the franchise model where it operated physical locations and looks as if their strategy is the silver bullet that will crack the market open.
It is being marketed as a virtual experience shop, free DSTV for watching games, quick betting payout and counter to its rivals dominance in bars.
“The agency model worked for Telcos, it worked for banks too. Can it also work for gambling? Is this how Betin plans to dominate and lead the rest? I would like to know how this works,” M2Random, a user of social platform KenyaTalk wrote.
The test is however in the pudding, whether the new owners who carry all the liabilities and costs will be able to make enough money to run an agency network second only to Safaricom or they will, like their watchman Charity Sweepstake contraptions turn into anecdotes.