The BBC News African focused business program ‘Africa Business Report’, featured a special insight broadcast by BBC Sierra Leone correspondent Umaru Fofana on the rising popularity of sports betting in Sierra Leone (West Africa).
The program reports that the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown has witnessed a surge in the number of small telecom/text operated betting devices, were Sierra Leonese sports bettors place wagers on worldwide football matches.
Mercury International a privately owned sports betting operator, is one of two companies currently offering sports betting services and provision in the region. The operator has been granted licence by the government, which allows for betting provisions to be implemented in numerous Sierra Leone stores, internet cafes and kiosks.
In the report a spokesperson for Mercury International claims that the operator now has over 1000 retailers in the region.
Nevertheless the trade has had its critics, with various commentators claiming that the growing sports betting industry is praying on the unemployed within the region (CIA research claims 60% of the population of Sierra Leone are unemployed). Furthermore anti-betting activists in the region claim that operators are not implementing age restrictions on customers.
Fofana ends his BBC report by stating that the Brazil 2014 World Cup, will likely see record revenues for sports betting in the region. Sierra Leone governments are keen to extend sports betting operations in order to generate constant revenues, in a society where the majority of the population function on cash basis, sports betting has created a constant tax revenue for Sierra Leones government.