Monday, July 15, 2024

Sports Betting in Ghana: Can it get Better?

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By Williams AGYAPONG

According to the latest report on sports betting in Ghana by TGM Research, a technology company that delivers consumer insights globally using innovative survey technology, approximately 41.7 percent of Ghanaians have engaged in sports betting within the last 12 months.

Ghana is now considered one of the leading sports betting markets in sub-Saharan Africa despite a relatively minor population of just over 30 million.

Of this, 74.17 percent cited making money as their primary motivation – with some 95 percent preferring online betting to physical betting shops.

Most Ghanaians from all walks of life have somehow been impacted by sports betting. Either a family member, ward or friend has benefitted immensely or incurred a big loss in the pursuit of winning.

In 2020, a 16-year-old boy said to be a betting addict allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree at Asonomaso in the Kwabre East district of Ashanti Region. The deceased, Kwaku Appiah – a form two student of Osei Kyeretwie Senior High School, caused a stir following hot exchanges with his mother over the betting/gambling practice.

The mother was said to have threatened to call the police for his arrest if he would not stop the practice. Kwaku Appiah was surprisingly found hanging on a tree, dead, behind their house a day after the exchanges.

In April 2021, the Hohoe Circuit Court sentenced a 31-year-old fuel station supervisor to 15 years in jail for stealing GH¢139,118 belonging to his employer. When the facts were examined in court, it was revealed that he used the money for sports betting but did not win any of the bets to repay money he took from the company’s coffers.

In a disheartening turn of events in 2022, some students from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) had to defer their courses for non-payment of school fees. KNUST authorities later discovered that some defaulting students had used their monies for other ventures, such as sports betting.

Every sports bettor wants to win big to compensate for the numerous losses. Most of them have a mantra – “I want to win millions of cedis, invest in a lucrative business and leave the betting game”.

So, on Saturdays and Sundays they mostly move from one betting centre to another or one prediction site to another looking for favourable odds.

Sports betting takes much time as one has to monitor or watch all the games he’ll bet on. The bettors are mostly angry on weekends if games are not going in their favour.

They will insult players, coaches and goalkeepers: ‘I nearly won a thousand cedis today had it not been that stupid coach. All he had to do was to play that player and I would have won the bet. But that silly coach won’t listen. He has to be fired,’ are common statements.

These are just a few of the million cases bettors endure daily in this risky venture. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t advise a woman in love’ – but trust this, no one advises a man addicted to betting.

Betting Bonanza

However, there have been cases of bettors winning big on their stakes. One notable big winner in recent years was in 2023 when a Ghanaian sports bettor named De’Barnes made headlines by winning a massive sum of money on Sportybet.

Despite initially having his bet slip deleted by the company for breaking the bank, De’ Barnes turned his fortunes around with just GH₵1, winning an impressive                   GH₵196,093.60 in sports betting. He took to social media to share his winning slip and odds, inspiring other punters who have been losing money.

Similarly, Fuseini Siaka, a 36-year-old painter at Barekese, a suburb in Kumasi, won     GH¢6million. He flew in a private jet from the Ashanti Regional capital to Accra to receive the prize.

In February 2023, a Ghanaian recorded the highest winner amount registered at Betway with an amount of GH₵1.5million on a football bet. So, generally, bettors once in a while do experience huge wins in the millions after their many losses.

Under-18 betting

A study conducted by the Baraka Policy Institute (BPI) in selected communities in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, and Tamale on ‘Effects of Sports Betting on Education and Child Development in Ghana’ revealed that sports betting is fast becoming a serious social force against schooling in some parts of the country.

If nothing is done about this, it will derail the efforts by government and non-state actors to ensure every child is in school.

One of the BPI research’s revelations was that children between the ages of 10 and 17 actively engage in sports betting at various betting centres. This is illegal, as the law states that children below 18 years are not allowed to bet.

Between 2019 and 2022, government collected GH¢450m in taxes from the gaming industry; making it difficult to tighten regulations because of taxes paid to the state.

Digitalisation of betting

The gaming industry accounted for the country’s single largest mobile money sign-ups in 2019, supporting government’s financial inclusion and digitalisation agenda.

Indeed, the telecommunication companies in Ghana are also making millions of cedis in processor charges from the industry.

Sports pundits, enthusiasts, and journalists believe that the love and culture of football have influenced sports betting in the country. Beyond core football lovers, sports betting in Ghana is now a big business.

The sports betting market in Ghana has grown exponentially in the past decade alone. Back in 2014, sports betting companies in the country only operated from physical betting shops.

However, the increase in smartphone ownership, improved Internet accessibility and significant advancements in financial inclusion have advanced the operations of betting companies. Mobile apps and mobile-friendly websites have made it easier for Ghanaians to place bets on their favourite sports events regardless of time and place.

Betting Regulation

The Gaming Commission of Ghana (GCG) has been busy regulating the influx of new gambling operators seeking to establish themselves in the country.

Today, there are 31 licenced sports betting operators in Ghana. In less than a decade, the number has increased from only 12 licenced companies to 31.

One would agree that adverts promoting the business of one operator or another have become commonplace – billboards and paraphernalia are everywhere.

Ghana’s online sports betting market is projected to grow by 5.36 percent from 2024 to 2029. This means the market should reach a volume of US$39.50million by 2029.

Betting Tax

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) mentioned government hopes to raise                     GH₵1 billion annually in direct taxes from the gaming industry.

The Ghana Sports Betting Association (GHASBO) has claimed that the industry’s advertising spending is conservatively estimated at GH₵200million annually.

Meanwhile, a new sports betting tax sparked nationwide controversy in August 2023. Government introduced a 10 percent withholding tax on betting and lottery winnings.

It is applied at the payout point for all betting, games and lottery wins. The regulation aims to mobilise domestic tax revenue and address the country’s economic challenges.

Betting Industry CSR

Sports betting companies have also contributed immensely to corporate social responsibility. They have provided a platform for many people in the sports industry to receive training and rediscover themselves.

Sports betting companies have provided headline sponsorship for at least eight Ghana Premier League teams within the last five years. Indeed, the contribution of sports betting to the Ghanaian economy has been far-reaching.

Conclusion

The role of sports betting in economic development cannot be overemphasised, and the impact on society, especially the youth, is far-reaching.

While it is a fact that sports betting has come to stay, it is important to tighten regulation around the industry to deal with its excesses. The practice of children under 18 getting addicted to betting must be checked – urgently!

The regulator must ensure punitive measures against underage betting – for instance by revoking the licences of betting companies found wanting, while educational institutions and teachers must be sensitised and empowered to check students’ gambling.

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