What do people get out of gambling?

August 4th, 2016

Sports gambling is an equal opportunity pleasure

Beyond the immediate rewards of 1) the euphoria of winning small amounts, and 2) the dream of one day hitting the jackpot, other motivations and benefits of participation in gambling include earning side money from sports research, increased social interaction, and, eventually, greater exposure to other features on the internet.

In our last blog, we met Elfas who at one point had temporarily quit his job as a matatu driver to focus on gambling. But gambling has had a different effect on another bettor, ‘Davie.’ After Davie started betting, he stopped mugging and stealing money from people. Others in the neighborhood claim that crime has gone down as young men occupy their time betting and even doing research on soccer teams; they then sell that information to others. As Davie explains, “I used to be criticized for following football. Now, with betting, my erstwhile obsession is becoming a money-making venture.” Davie spends all day researching to predict which team will win a match, whether a team will win at home or away, among other outcomes. He even delves into harder-to-predict scenarios, like who will score more than two goals by half time, or how many corner kicks will a team win in the first thirty minutes of a game. Bettors who don’t have time to conduct such in-depth analyses pay Davie with tokens to “thank him” when they win. Other more sophisticated tipsters use websites and WhatsApp groups to offer betting tips for KES 50 to as much as KES 1000.

Sports gambling can also be a very social preoccupation. Bettors emphasize that “you can’t win on your own – you need help from others to increase your chances of winning.” Bettors, even those who were previously considered anti-social, assemble to discuss games at various locations, like barbershops, bus stations, and video dens. Gathering together to gamble has other benefits. When many people lose, bettors don’t feel as gloomy since others share in their misery.

Findings of the research also reveal that, for better or for worse, sports gambling has provided an on-ramp to the internet for many people. Some bettors who bought smartphones discovered other phone-based services, like news and search functions, while others picked up morally unacceptable features like pornography. Respondents who disliked gambling cite this access to new vices as one of the problems with the habit.

Finally, low-income respondents also claim that sports gambling is an equal-opportunity pleasure; they are able to participate whether urban or rural, rich or poor. The low minimum bets and easy mobile phone interface allow them to enjoy gambling whereas many other types of entertainment in Kenya require more money or have social barriers to participation.

While the concept of mobile sports gambling may be questioned or debated, the evidence anecdotally shows that bettors change their behavior to engage in the habit.  The final blog in this series will discuss what the financial services industry might learn from mobile sports gambling.

Names have been changed to protect identities.



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