Competition in the local sports betting industry is set to intensify, with another international firm showing interest in the Kenyan market.
The Standard has reliably learned Philippines-based betting firm Emphasis Service Limited (ESL), operating under the brand name Dafabet is eyeing the lucrative Kenyan market, which is currently experiencing a major boom.
Should it launch locally, Dafabet will be plunging into an industry that has such players as Sportspesa, Betway, Betin and mCheza.
There are more than 23 companies licensed as operators of the new lucrative gambling business in Kenya today. A modest estimate puts prospective gamblers in the country at 2 million.
Kenya would be the first African country for ESL, which also operates through licenses in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Curacao, Isle of Man and the Philippines.
It was not immediately clear if ESL had been registered as a betting company in Kenya.
However, the firm is said to be active in the Kenyan sports scene.
According to a source close to Dafabet, plans are at an advanced stage for the firm, which sponsors English Premier League clubs Sunderland, Burnley and English Championship side, Blackburn Rovers as well as Glasgow-based Scottish Premier League side Celtic FC, to take the Kenyan market by storm with its advanced technology.
“It is a matter of months or probably days before they land in Kenya. They are really interested in the Kenyan market,” the source said.
There are also reports Dafabet has established contacts with local football clubs as it tries to connect with sports enthusiasts who make up for the biggest chunk of gamblers in the country.
Recently, Celtic Foundation donated sets of playing kits to lower division football team Kibera Celtic, a club associated with Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama, who first made his name in Europe at Scottish giants Celtic.
It is understood the person who presented the donation from Celtic Foundation in Scotland is connected with the betting giants, Dafabet – Celtic’s shirt sponsors.
Asked about the donation of the famous green and white hoop jerseys, Kibera Celtic Foundation chairman John Oyoo said they have a link with Celtic Foundation.
“A friend of Kibera Celtic, who happens to be a big fan of Scotland giants Celtic, requested for the donation from the Celtic Foundation. However, I wouldn’t know if the fan is connected with Dafabet,” said Oyoo.
“But I know they are very big company because apart from Celtic, they also sponsor Burnley, Sunderland and Blackburn.”
ESL also has a technology division based in Gibraltar and recently opened its European headquarters in Malta.
The company was introduced in Asian countries first before later ramping up its brand presence in the United Kingdom through principal sporting sponsorships with top footballers, football clubs, and other sporting events such as eSports, snooker, darts, and boxing.
There have been mixed reactions to the gambling craze that has swept over the country, with some public figures blaming the phenomenon on some social ills such as rise in crime as gamblers look for easy cash to sustain their habit.
But according to the source, should ESL join the fray, their licensing process and approach to operations in Kenya will mirror the key objectives of the UK Gambling Act of 2005.
The act prevents gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime such as terrorism or being used for purposes of money laundering.
In 2011, the firm signed former footballer and TV pundit Alan Shearer as its Asian sports ambassador for Dafabet
Former Portuguese and Real Madrid legend Luis Figo has also been sports ambassador for Dafabet.
The betting firm also recently appointed ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid player Steve Mcmanaman as their new brand ambassador.
In the 2012–13 season of the English Premier League, Dafabet partnered with Everton and West Bromwich Albion.
Dafabet were the main club sponsor of Aston Villa FC for the 2013–14 and the 2014–15 season and with their logo on their shirts as well as having the brand on the surrounding advertising panels at Villa Park.