Wawekezaji: Exit the era of sport die-hards, enter fake fans minting millions gambling

  • Betting has turned some sports fans into multi-millionaires overnight
  • As the betting craze grows, some are turning to sports to try their luck to become millionaires
  • This new craze has an impact on sports, both positive and negative

If there is one thing that has changed the Kenyan sports fan, it is betting. It has become a huge and lucrative craze.

Betting has turned some sports fans who were once living from hand to mouth into multi-millionaires, with the companies running the lottery using part of their profit to develop and support various projects.

These are good times for fans and teams, which certainly could not rely on a stingy government and the peanuts they collect from gate charges.

But as the game develops and the betting craze grows, a new kind of fan is emerging in the country, thanks to numerous lotteries.

This is the kind of fan who is using sports to try his luck and become a millionaire but he loves no game as he enriches betting companies.

In short, the betting craze has ushered us into an era of ‘fans’ who do not love any sport, but they are betting in the name of sports and making a killing out of it.

Swahili Radio sports commentators teasingly refer to them as ‘Wawekezaji’ (investors).

Someone could be an Arsenal ‘fan’ but because he knows they are in bad shape performance wise, he bets on a rival team. So throughout the game, as much as he supports Arsenal deep down he wishes they lose for him to win cash!

But what has worsened the situation and emboldened this ‘special fan’ is something called “auto bet” or automated betting, the latest bait in the betting world.

Before the advent of auto bet, bookmakers struggled to know the players of various teams, their history of wins and losses and more importantly, the odds the team had to win before placing their bets.

But auto bet has made things different as betting explodes in households in every hamlet. Even 60-year-olds are now engaging in sports betting using auto bets and winning big, yet they do not know how randy Wayne Rooney is or that those who place their bets on Arsenal end up losing.

All they now do is to send an SMS to a given number, answer some question, add a hashtag on some code given to choose auto bet and sit back and wait to win (or lose their money).

Going by the smiles being flashed on the TV screens from winners, this auto bet thing is big business and is luring many, but sadly not creating any sports fan.

If inquiries I have made are anything to go by, auto bets would soon take over the betting industry in the country as people seek to make money without straining their minds.

So alluring is the allure of making easy money on the auto bets that betting companies are using all manner of tricks to invade peoples’ wallets and smile all the way to the bank.

Does this new craze have any impact on sports? One may ask. Of course it does, but let me start with the positive effects on sports fans, which is mainly winning big money. The negative effects include suicide risk, anxiety and depression and loss of money.

For sports, however, use of auto bets comes with the big risk of creating what ‘For the Love of the Game’ calls ‘zombie sports fans”.

These are the fans who fall to betting because of sports, love the gambling hoping to get money but have no idea and do not care about what happens in sports.

They will furiously bet in the name of sports, thanks to auto bets but at no time would they support any team, sit down to watch matches on TV or attend a game at the stadium.

 In fact, they do not care whether Harambee Stars is beaten silly or draws with Mozambique.

The biggest worry is that this growing lot may influence ardent sports fans who bet because of their knowledge and love for the game.