Ukanwoke: BetKing Changing the Face of Sports Betting
In this interview with Duro Ikhazuagbe, Gossy Ukanwoke, Managing Director, BetKing Nigeria discusses the company’s 4th anniversary celebration as well as it’s commitment to social responsible initiatives
Tell us more about BetKing and its presence in Nigeria
BetKing is a sports betting business of KingMakers, an Africa-focused sports and digital entertainment company offering online services, and agency services in Nigeria. We are currently present in four countries – Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Ghana.
BetKing started in Nigeria in February 2018 and has grown to become one of the biggest players in the industry in the country, and just on February 22nd, we celebrated a four-year anniversary. We have become a recognisable brand that customers trust as their bookmaker both online, and in retail.
BetKing has been four years in the sport betting industry in Nigeria, what are some of the challenges since opening shop?
BetKing unlike any other business wants to be known for more than a business that allows individuals to be entertained. We want to change the face of sports betting in Africa and in doing so, we are committed to initiatives that improve the conditions of the society where we operate. Entering a market where other industry players have already established themselves and building brand recognition and trust do not happen overnight. To get where we are, we needed to stay true to what we stand for and be consistent – an ethical gaming business that is investing in building robust retail and online betting platform that meets our customers’ needs, empowers individuals and local communities. Four years in and seeing the success of individuals who have been able to start their own businesses and grow their shops from one to six is what brings the reward. It is not easy, for many reasons, but it is worth it.
With operations in three other African countries, how would you describe the Nigerian environment in terms of returns on investments?
Across multiple sectors, Nigeria has an advantage over many other African countries due to the size of our population and the collective purchasing power of the people. We have the advantage to have started out in Nigeria and it is an important market for us in our business. By staying active in the Nigerian market, we have been able to grow our business to other African countries. There is no better description of the return on our investment in Nigeria than this. We have also worked with so many Agents who help deliver our services to our retail customers and there has been a steady increase of agents across the country. We are seeing the return on that investment in the agent network with the wider recognition of our brand and the brand trust that is built from being present in many communities in Nigeria.
Your operations are IT driven, how has the network providers impacted on your business?
Our business services are delivered to our customers through our desktop and mobile platforms and through our agents who also use our agent platform in their service delivery. To access the internet, we need network providers. All our platforms are only accessible through the internet and as such, we are one of the industries heavily reliant on the coverage, stability, and availability of network services to customers and businesses. Over the last few years, we have seen improved internet penetration across the country with more people having direct access to the internet through their phones. If you look at the data from Statista, you will see that in 2021, 48.12 percent of the Nigerian population accessed the internet via mobile device. This share is projected to grow to 659.7 percent by 2026. We can expect that there will be growth in our industry and business as more people use the internet conveniently.
Some of your CSR have included giving out cars in your AFKON promo. Which other areas have you been impacting in your operational communities?
Giving away cars was a part of the AFKON campaign, and we always make sure we have that element incorporated in our strategy – people love winning, and we love giving. As part of our 4th-yearth year anniversary celebration, we launched a campaign under the theme of “4 Years on the Throne”, which entailed several activities designed to reward its community of Kings and Kingmakers (customers & agents). In our four years of operations in Nigeria, we have been at the forefront of gaming in the market, creating over 50,000 jobs through our agency network.
During this time, we have made some significant contributions to the socio-economic transformation of Nigeria and have impacted positively on people and communities. Some of the key initiatives we recorded include: Sponsorship of the KidsPort Initiative – an after-school football program that recognizes young people in orphanages and in communities with football talent who are given the platform and training to develop the talent and transform their lives. As part of the build-up to the Anniversary ceremony, a novelty match was recently hosted between BetKing staff & senior team of the KidsPort initiative. Also, we empowered 200 market women in rebuilding their shops: in collaboration with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF). In addition, we supported the Asisat Oshoala Foundation to develop young women in sports & education and supported job creation and entrepreneurship promotion in the creative sector through support of the Aba Fashion Week. As part of the initiatives to mark our Anniversary, we planted 4 trees at our new headquarters site in Lagos. For me, these 4 trees signify 4 years of stellar operations in Nigeria, and we hope that as we nurture the trees and they grow, so our brand grows with the environment feeling the effect.
What is the level of your spread in the country now beyond presence in major cities? Is BetKing available to punters in far interior of the south and the far-flung northern towns and villages?
We are constantly looking for partners, business owners, and entrepreneurs to work with to build our retail spread across the country. We work with community businesspeople who understand the nuances of their locality in setting up our shops. As much as we would like to be in every single corner of the country, which will not be possible because we must also consider the viability and profitability of our agents as we are growing. However, anyone in any part of Nigeria can have access to our mobile and desktop platforms from their phones or computers any time they want.
How would you describe the impact of your AFKON promo to your customers? Is this a one-off thing or would want to continue to give such experiences to them for global sports fiestas?
It was a successful promo. We are thrilled to see the winners’ smiles when receiving the awards, especially handing in the keys to the cars. It is great that people can see us a business that makes promises and keeps them. It is one of the bigger success factors in our industry. It is something we want, and we will continue doing.
What informed your choice of Austin Jay Jay Okocha as your brand Ambassador? How would you describe his impact on your brand?
Jay Jay is a well-known football icon in Nigeria, Africa, and the world. It was significant milestone for our business to sign him on as a brand ambassador. It helps that his and BetKing’s philosophy align closely – believing that everyone, whatever their position, has a chance to become the King of their own destiny. Jay-Jay is a trusted and reliable brand on his own, and his association with our brand from the very beginning has given Nigerians trust in our brand that is very needed in an industry like ours.
BetKing is a market leader in the industry in just four years, where do you hope to see the company in the next decade?
At BetKing we are committed to changing the face of the sports betting industry in Nigeria, and Africa overall and in doing so, we are dedicated to initiatives that improve communities where we operate and do business. We are looking to enrich the lives of everyday Nigerians including those who do not interact with our brand. In operating our business, we will continuously customize and add new products with innovative features whilst putting our agents and online customers first. In the next decade, we want our brand to be synonymous with sports and digital entertainment across multiple product categories. Our customers and the public can point to how we have touched their lives significantly.