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The impact of coronavirus on sports betting in Ghana

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The sports betting boom that has hit Ghana over the past few years cannot be overlooked. With many of the big-name Europe-based sportsbook companies setting up in Ghana and across Africa, the sports crazy population (especially the youth) have had reasons to not only watch their favorite games, but also enjoy in the spoils of the wins; as well as the pain of losing.

With the unprecedented spread and causality of novel COVID-19 around the world, various sectors of the economy around the world have been affected and sports betting has not been spared.  Majority of Ghana sports betting sites and betting apps have registered low patronage, as indeed there are no major games to bet on. 

By all indications, the coronavirus pandemic has caused the most significant disruption to the world-sporting calendar since, the Second World War.  Sports events all over the world, including the Olympics, have been cancelled or postponed. 

Spectators do not have any games to watch; and players any games to play.  A lot of sporting bodies and agencies have urged players to “play for lives” rather than for points.  For example, Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young are among NBA players competing in NBA 2K20 tournament, which kicked off on April 3 on ESPN. The winning player will select a charity beneficiary to receive $100,000 donation in support of coronavirus relief efforts.

In Ghana, football is the nation’s passion; and from the local Ghana Premier League to the English Premiership, La Liga and the UEFA Champion League, the game of football offers plenty thrills and opportunities for betting.  On 17 March 2020, CAF announced that the 2020 African Nations Championship had been postponed to a later date due to the pandemic. UEFA postponed all fixtures in the Champions League, Europa League and Youth League. Serie A was postponed on 9 March 2020. On 12 March, La Liga was suspended and Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga followed suit shortly afterwards.

So with these major tournaments called off , what does it mean for sports betting? In the United Kingdom for example, football and horse racing make up 75% of the sports betting market. Sports betting in the UK earned bookmakers £1.4bn in the year ending March 2019.  Already by the end of March 2020 the earnings of some top bookmakers had fallen by 35%, as the supply of live sport dried up.

“Levels of gambling have plummeted not just because of betting shop closures but because of the absence of sport, which is fundamental to online betting,” Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council told the BBC

The legal sports betting market in America is far smaller, with a federal ban on sports betting in most states. In total, Nevada sees $500 million per month wagered on sports betting, according to Sports Illustrated.

Sports betting is not so well structured in Ghana so it would be difficult to measure the annual turnover in the sector or the impact of the coronavirus on their revenues. But it goes without saying since people are not betting because there are very few games to bet on.

Although most of the betting is done online, some betting companies in Ghana have outlets and vendors who help people to stake their bets. With the outbreak of coronavirus, these outlets and vendors are also not working so there is also the issue of job losses for some youths. 

We asked a few Ghanaians on social media what the impact of the outbreak has been on their sports betting habits. The responses ranged from disappointments to anguish and even anger. 

Some Ghanaians have found alternatives games to bet on. “Betting firms sell hope (the hope to make some money within a short period). Now that hope is diminished. People who are addicted will still bet on virtual games. People who like betting on football and other sports have no option than to wait for the pandemic to pass,” comments Aleem Kumi. 

For Nana Oware Osei the dip appears to be a blessing in disguise.  “Some of us are winning, now that the games are few. Like Belarus games and a few simulated reality leagues,” he said. 

However for Jessey Kumasy Sackey, he feels some of the millions made by betting companies should go into efforts to fight the coronavirus. “I am so surprise no bet company in Ghana has contributed to the covid-19 pandemic in Ghana but bet Niger contributed 200million naira to the Nigeria government. Considering all they made from us in Ghana,” he lamented.

In conclusion the lovers of sports in general cannot wait for the coronavirus outbreak to end, so the games can resume. And for those who want to make money off these games, either as betting companies or those who stake on the odds of the games, they get wait to see life back to normal! 

#YUNPLUGGED

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