Text betting is quite popular in Kenya. In spite of relatively good smartphone penetration, close to 70% of Kenyan mobile phone users are without smartphones. It is this market segment that wagers its bets via SMS.
Placing bets via SMS betting is a breeze, even in markets with lower literacy levels. With the touch of a button, you can easily place your bets, including multi bets, as long you are registered with a reputable sportsbook.
Like in betting online and via mobile apps, you can send SMS bets at any time of the day. All you need to do is choose your stakes, bet type and selections, and send them to a number and your bets will be placed automatically.
The betting company subsequently sends you a confirmation of the bet and will send you a message if you win the bet.
There is so much that a punter can do with text betting. In Kenya, thanks to the popularity of the mobile money platforms like MPESA, punters can even make deposits, request odds and check their balances via simple USSD codes.
Text betting is undoubtedly at the core of the sports betting scene in Kenya but how does this stack up with the rest of the world, particularly outside Africa, where most punters often have access to a laptop or a smartphone?
In Australia, gambling remains a popular pastime with up to 80% of adults taking part in the activity.
Race betting usually happens at the sports ground or at the race track. There are also a number of land-based venues where punters can wager their bets on any number and type of sport. Most of this activity is confined online among Australian-licensed operators.
In the recent years, some operators began offering text-based betting to punters. Compared to Kenya, Australian text betting happens on a very small scale and is often subject to controversy from advocacy groups.
Text betting is also popular among a growing niche of punters in the UK and Ireland. The leading Irish and UK bookmakers including Paddy Power, Tatepool, Ladbrokes and William Hill have already integrated text betting into their platforms to provide punters with new betting channels as well as personalized in-play betting messages that allow them to maximize their bets.
Like in Kenya, punters registered with these bookmakers can simply type and send their bets in a matter of seconds and the bet company will automatically confirm the bet and notify them via SMS when they win.
Text betting has been very popular in the UK market in spite of the preponderance of other more established betting channels such as mobile apps, online, betting shops and telephone betting.
Text betting has also been creeping into the mainland European market. The leading French gaming operator PMU offers its customers an SMS betting option.
Many punters still prefer to use the traditional betting channels but text betting represents an innovative evolution in online gaming as it adapts to new market needs. In the African markets, its popularity has been underpinned by the high mobile penetration coupled with a lower smartphone penetration and high internet costs.
Users spend a lot of time on their mobile phones and sportsbooks are able to offer opted-in punters lots of text-based services.
Apart from wagering their bets for a very low cost and sometimes, for free with sportsbooks such as Betsafe, the SMS medium also allows sportsbooks to target punters with real-time betting promotions, updates, odds and much more.
SMSs usually have a 98% read rate and are more impactful compared to emails making them a powerful betting platform for users who might not have access to other traditional gambling platforms.
In markets such as Kenya, SMS betting is quite convenient as it allows punters to place real-time bets even without the internet.
It is also a cheaper form of betting as SMS costs are quite low and punters in a low-income market such as this don’t have to worry about spending too much money on data costs to power their betting.
Some sportsbooks even allow free text betting! For punters, text betting is often low-cost and convenient, allowing them to place timely bets almost instantly.
SMS betting works perfectly when the payment component also ties in nicely.
In Kenya and much of Africa, punters have access to mobile payment options such as MPESA that allow them to easily deposit cash and withdraw their winnings.
While text betting remains popular in pockets of established world betting markets such as the UK, Ireland, the US and some parts of Asia, it is a quintessentially African phenomenon .
Africa remains the key growth market for text betting in the industry.
Due to financial inclusion challenges, lower internet penetration and the ready availability of mobile phones, punters in the continent are increasingly embracing this channel to wager their bets and they are doing it with relative success, proving that SMS can be as effective as other traditional betting channels.
For Kenya and other emerging territories, text betting has created an opportunity for a much broader and hitherto inaccessible market base that runs into tens of millions.
They were previously out of reach for online betting platforms but have now been successfully co-opted into the betting world. Text betting has heralded something of a breakthrough in the emerging markets.