Popular sports-betting analyst, Money Man, speaks to Mark Keohane about the growth of the industry in South Africa, global online trends, the birth of MoneyBoy and also the devil in the detail for online sports-betting platforms.
Highbury Media CE Kevin Ferguson is MoneyMan. Ferguson, a Welsh-born Canadian, has been living in South Africa for the past 25 years and considers himself as much South African now as he once was Welsh. He has a Welsh dragon tattooed on his left chest and a Springbok emblem on his right.
Ferguson, referred to as MoneyMan in this article, has been betting on sport all his adult life. North American sports were his bread and butter before he relocated to South Africa. Rugby is a particular passion, given his playing days and business interests in owning SA Rugby magazine.
In 2019, MoneyMan wrote a weekly Super Rugby and international rugby column for Independent Media, with the aim to educate the South African sports-betting punters, guide them and hopefully make them a rand richer and not many rands poorer.
The South African sports-betting industry has been a late addition to the global market. Local sports followers have shown themselves to be wary of parting with cash and to be particularly guarded against online transactions. The global sports-betting audience has long been familiar with the pluses and also the minuses of online sports betting.
Ferguson, as an extension of the MoneyMan persona, created a secondary element to educate a younger audience. He entrusted my 20-year-old son, Oliver Keohane, with the task of being MoneyBoy. In essence, MoneyBoy is the student and, over the next 12 months, he will be taught how to bet on sport in a calculated, calm and informed way.
MoneyMan’s biggest issue with sports betting in South Africa is about the lack of education and how easily the punters are manipulated or burned.
‘I had the idea of MoneyBoy because there is such a youthful market always looking for a quick fix and instant gratification. This younger generation would not necessarily follow my generation or even think like my generation.
‘I identified a young person who played sport, watches sport and loved sport, but who also speaks to that generation always wanting immediacy. The purpose of his experience is to learn, stumble, get up, keep learning and to succeed. Mostly, it is to make the younger generation of South African sports-betting enthusiasts the most educated globally.’
MoneyBoy was given R50,000 to open seven different betting accounts and instructed to detail his experiences and then settle into weekly practical sessions. He was playing with real money, which required real education.
‘Make sure you have all your documents in place, as well as the time and patience for phone calls. These documents, required to FICA your account, are simple: an ID, proof of address and bank statements, which are no older than three months,’ says MoneyBoy.
‘Processing them is quite the opposite. Very few online betting sites make it clear where to upload your documents to be FICA’d. The email responses from most sites range from slow to none and I found the easiest solution being to just call the helpline. Betting sites are quick to take your money, but not as quick to credit any bonuses promised.
‘Most promised deposit bonuses of 100%, depending on the site, yet this doesn’t always reflect in your account. I had to call many of the websites and ask them to credit me with my deposit bonus.
They also don’t like releasing your winnings. Be cautioned against ‘internal policies’. I was told by representatives from two online betting sites that I could not withdraw my initial deposit until the total amount had been played through, even though it did not stipulate this in terms and conditions.
‘Essentially, my own money was being withheld from me. A few websites also require a proof of deposit, if you wish to withdraw it, so hang on to that proof when you first set up your account.
‘My biggest trouble with online betting sites has been contacting them for withdrawals. It is a tedious process and I have found the quickest response, if not quick at all, comes when dealing directly telephonically with operators. It’s been a battle but they do eventually pay, but it isn’t as simple as you win and you see your cash.’
The American-based Rocky Mountain Collegian recently published a comprehensive study into global online sports betting and trends, which also touched on the African and South African landscape.
Currently, the online global sports betting and gambling market is valued at US$46.9 billion and estimated to hit US$123.5b by 2026. The growth is attributed to advancements in technology in high-speed internet connections and also secured payment options. Smartphones and their continued advancement accounted for 45% of the traffic source, up 25% in a year.
It is estimated that the majority of on-line sports betting in the next three to five years will be via smartphone access. The Asica-Pacific region, with a population over four billion, is the biggest sports-betting market and the USA sports-betting market went from a valuation of $20b in 2009 to $40b in 2016 and is projected to double in value by 2021.
Sports betting holds more than 40% of the world’s gambling income, with South America and Africa two of the biggest emerging continents.
Football, in Africa and South Africa, remain the primary leaders when it comes to the online betting choice of punters, with analyst crediting the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup in South Africa as a catalyst to the surge in online soccer betting.
‘Soccer remains the biggest beast, but, in the South African context, the Springboks winning the World Cup has added to the interest in rugby, while tournaments like Super Rugby give the punter a lot of options,’ says MoneyMan.
‘My mantra, more so when speaking to a very immature and naive South African online sports-betting market, is about mature betting. I liken a betting account to an Allan Grey fund, when the stocks are good and you’ve invested wisely in them.
‘One doesn’t continue to try to find value in the valueless stocks for the sake of a streak or the adrenaline of a return. Be wise and don’t go chasing bets. Don’t also bet on everything. Be selective and be informed.
‘Chasing bets turns one from an investor into a gambler. Always err on the side of caution, especially if the bet doesn’t speak immediately to you, in terms of odds and value.
‘Educate yourself about the terms and conditions and accept that the platforms you play don’t hesitate to take your money, but aren’t as quick to pay your money back. These online platforms, like casinos, don’t like giving back money and there are some that won’t take your bets if you have a sustained record of success.
‘Be wise, be educated and be patient. If it doesn’t seem enticing, in terms of a bet or a platform, then don’t touch it.’