The coronavirus is having a real social and economic impact on Zimbabweans with the cancellation of global sporting fixtures playing havoc with sports betting enthusiasts. Sports betting has become a major economic activity with betting shops now spread across most cities and betting applications available on smartphones.
In Harare, some of the busiest places on normal days are the sports betting shops, where people gather to bet, mainly on football matches from across the globe. Other punters can also bet on cricket, tennis, basketball and virtually any sport under the sun.
With the cancellation of most sports, particularly European national league matches and the continental competitions such as the Champions League, punters have been left high and dry.
Punters bet on results, on certain outcomes and on the possibility of individual actions such as an own goal, a red card or the number of throw-ins.
Sports betting is big business and the amount of money involved has led to match fixing allegations. Even players are involved in betting with Zimbabwe’s Knowledge Musona at one time charged by his former club KV Oostende after placing bets on matches involving the club. Former Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge has been fined twice for breaching gambling rules.
Globally, sports betting is a multi-billion dollar industry and at the moment, big bookmakers such as William Hill are feeling the pinch. “Virtually every U.S. sports league has suspended operations due to the outbreak, with the exception of UFC, leaving the industry in unchartered territory, according to Joe Asher the CEO of William Hill one of the largest gambling organisations in the world told Fox News.
“We’ve seen in the past where maybe one sport, the players go on strike or there’s a lockout, but we haven’t had a situation where there’s very little to bet on right now so it’s a tough time.”
On Saturday the Castle Challenge Cup at Barbourfields won by FC Platinum by beating Highlanders 2-0 attracted viewers from Europe, indicating that the global sports betting machine is not far behind. African domestic sports events have continued, with the South African PSL ongoing despite confirmed corona virus cases in that country rising above 20.