Radio Kikuyu

A whole lot about Lotto

Betting has become that thing in Kenya and it’s led me to a question based on my experience listening actively to Kikuyu programming: is sports betting of a kind with Lotto?

As I mentioned in a previous post, the format of morning shows is based on a character or two going back and forth on various topics during the course of the show. Early in the exercise, I used to live-tweet every single word. Then I cottoned on to the fact that most of the talk was selling something. Significantly, it was selling various Lotto platforms.

The draw of Lotto is how easy it is to loop it into any conversation. The only thing that has rivaled Lotto is voter registration period but that was a small window of time; Lotto is a daily event. A classic way in which Lotto is included is that it’s paired with land sale (I’ll dig into the place of land in a future entry) and suggested as a way to make the money one needs to purchase land.

Lotto seems to be one of the way in which radio stations make money. Stations ask their listeners to send the station name to Lotto numbers as they pay for their entries. I imagine it’s also a way to track listenership in the same way your favourite podcast gives you a discount code. It would be intriguing to see the numbers and know: a) how influential radio presenters are and b) what sort of numbers are being generated by Lotto companies off of these promotions.

Lotto is presented as a viable investment option for people from all classes. The fact that entries are only KES 50 is always highlighted: it’s affordable and you stand a chance to make huge returns on your investment. It makes sense, then, that there I am yet to hear critical commentary on betting yet: one does not bite the hand that feeds them.

There is an interesting exception to the Lotto gravy train: Radio Africa’s Gukena FM. Over the last 2 or so months, it has been pushing an insert in The Star that provides odds for sports bettors. To highlight Lotto at the expense of the group’s business would not be wise. They are still operating in the same context: a game of chances makes sense for them.

As you can imagine, I’m curious to know how listeners feel about the Lotto messages. These messages are not limited to the conversational parts of programming (what I have taken to calling ‘ad banter’) as there are also adverts and it can sometimes feel like a deluge of Lotto messages. Are listeners responding? Does Lotto & sports betting figure largely in people’s daily lives? Does interest spike when there are special draws (most recently the Madaraka Day draw)?

Wandia Njoya has written about betting and what it says about a society. It would be interesting to apply that lens to the relentless messaging that accompanies Lotto on Kikuyu stations especially in relation to the Kikuyu identity. It would also be of interest who owns Lotto companies, how they relate to stations, and exactly what is in it for radio stations. Lots of questions, as always.

If you know of people who are doing something similar to Radio Kikuyu, please let me know – it would be great to know how betting is dealt with on other stations.