The Growth of Sports Betting in Malawi – What’s next for the economy?

After the legalization of sports betting, the online sportsbooks in Malawi have experienced massive revenue growth.

Fueled by a network-based franchise system on mobile and the increasing number of ads distributed in the media, the sports betting market is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. That is mainly because the sports betting representatives are positioning bookmakers as a reliable income source.

Even though almost half of the population lives on less than $1 a day, the Malawians are still finding the time and money to invest in online gambling.

Keep reading to discover more about betting in Malawi and what sociologists have to say regarding the public health concerns generated by the ongoing false advertisement.

A brief history of sports betting in Malawi

Legal sports betting has recently entered the Malawi market.

Before the government regulated online sportsbooks, illegal casinos were the only way Malawians could place wagers of any type. Still, the locals love sports, especially football which is considered the national sport, followed by athletics and netball.

Regulated online betting was first introduced in Malawi in 2018.

The first time gambling was permitted is when the government allowed people to wager on sports using the well-known local bookmaker called Premier Bet. The local brand has a high-quality mobile app, and you can place wagers both online and in the physical betting terminals.

However, until 2018, Malawi was in the grey legal area with gambling. International sportsbooks run by offshore corporations and licensed by reputable gambling authorities did offer betting services to the locals, but you could run into trouble when withdrawing.

Once the government allowed the Malawi Gaming Board and Lottery Authority to issue sports betting licenses to bookmakers operating within the country, the industry has seen a rapid increase in revenue. The growth can also be correlated with the massive advertising campaigns encouraging locals to prove their sports knowledge while making some money in the process.

But is that really the right approach with sports betting?

Sociologists’ take on regulating sports betting

Specialists have positioned gambling in Malawi as a significant public health issue, according to research from Science Direct.

Based on their findings, it seems that the rapid growth of land-based and online sports betting services can drastically impact the well-being of a developing country like Malawi. They labelled the rise of online gambling as harmful for individuals, the community and society.

After analyzing data from 6 local media outlets, the sociologists collected 39 articles and 15 photos. Then, they managed to identify seven corporate strategies related to sports betting:

  • Adoption of a mobile network franchise;
  • Sponsor local sports teams;
  • Use media coverage;
  • Massively purchase ads at high audience hours;
  • Associate the bookmakers with European football;
  • Build narratives that claim betting is good for you and the country;
  • Try to appeal to the aspects of “hegemonic masculinity.”

With that in mind, the specialists have concluded that the corporate strategies used by local betting firms are indeed helping the expansion of the sports betting industry. However, these strategies will become harmful for society in the long run, resulting in even more discrepancies between the rich and the poor.

What events can you wager on?

Since the betting market is relatively new for Malawians, we will offer you a list of sports and other special events you can wager on:

  • Regular sports: this category includes Soccer, Netball, Badminton, Basketball, Baseball, Tennis and all other traditional sports;
  • eSports: you can wager on competitive video games like CS: GO or League of Legends tournaments. Even though these new-age sports are played on the computer, but the betting mechanics are similar to regular wagers;
  • Exotic bets: the betting market is not limited to sports. You can wager on many unusual events, including the winner of the next presidential election, tomorrow’s weather, the end of the world or the Oscar winner. These bets are generally held on unregulated betting platforms, making sure you read their terms before placing your wager.

As you can see, there are millions of possible bets you can place. The only thing that matters is to choose a sport or event that you have some expertise in.

For example, if you’re a soccer fan, it wouldn’t make sense to bet on tennis unless you want to randomly guess the outcome. In sports betting, the more you know about a sport, the higher your chances of winning a wager, so make sure you choose something you enjoy watching in your free time.

Betting with your mobile device

When sports betting was legalized in Malawi, most players demanded access from mobile.

That’s when gambling operators decided to optimize their sites for mobile and introduced native apps that can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.

The first betting app in Malawi was released by local bookmaker Premier Bet in 2016.  The mobile version of Premier Bet received a lot of appreciation from Malawian punters who have been waiting forever to get access to their betting slips directly on their smartphones.

Because a large part of the population in Malawi is living on a low-income level, most of them don’t own a desktop computer.

Smartphones, on the other hand, are more affordable.

Thus, the primary gambling medium for Malawians is mobile. That’s no surprise since global mobile usage has surpassed desktop usage in the last few years.

The problem with mobile devices is that Malawi has a slow internet connection, making it challenging to place live bets. While this issue affects international bookmakers, the local brands have downgraded their site and gave up on some features to make the websites load faster.

This way, African sportsbooks can take over international brands and help the economy develop even further. Malawians want to support their local brands, so the website design is not an essential factor in their decision-making process.

Wrapping up – How betting will influence Malawi’s economy

Since the legal sports betting market in Malawi is still in its infancy, it’s hard to determine how it will impact the population’s well-being.

The experts’ opinions differ.

That’s mainly because the government is actively encouraging its population to use their money on sports betting, even though the majority live on the first income level.

On the other side, sociologists say that there are real public health concerns, considering that gambling in all forms is highly addictive. They concluded that in a country where many people live in extreme poverty, they could easily be manipulated using deceiving ads.

Only time will tell how Malawi will change thanks to the introduction of legal sports betting.

Still, one thing remains certain:  gambling should never be considered a primary source of income. Avoid betting more money than you can afford, and make sure you have fun while betting.

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