Samanta Shegobin – Online gambling will be legalized in Rwanda

Africabet CEO Samanta Shegobin spoke exclusively with Adeleye Awakan on the brand success so far in Mauritius. And when the brand came into existence in Rwanda 2013 and how she joined the gambling industry as well as the current situation of the Covid-19 pandemic and been on the positive side that online gambling will become a reality one in few years in Rwanda.

Adeleye Awakan: Brief description about yourself, your journey rising to the position of CEO?

Samanta Shegobin: I am from Mauritius and I have been exposed to the betting industry at a very young age as part of my family has been into land-based horse racing for two decades. I have a legal background, having acquired a Post Graduate Diploma in International Business Law and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Middlesex University and I am currently undertaking an ICA Specialist Certificate in Money Laundering Risk in Betting and Gaming. Prior to joining Africabet as Business Development Executive, where I now hold the CEO position, I worked for Air Mauritius and Creditfix Holdings.

Adeleye Awakan: Tell us about Africabet as a brand and success so far in Rwanda?

Samanta Shegobin: The shareholders of Africabet have been well established operators in Mauritius in the field of betting as both on-course and off-course bookmakers for two decades. Africabet came into existence 2013 and was among the first betting companies in Rwanda. At the moment we are scattered around Kigali and also in Muhanga, Musanze, Nyagatare and Rubavu.

Adeleye Awakan: Before the Covid-19 pandemic, how was the gambling market in Rwanda?

Samanta Shegobin: Honestly it was already a tight market with fierce competition. Betting shops are found in all the nooks and crannies of Kigali. Last year the Government even halted the licensing of newcomers as they believed that the sector could be having some loopholes, which I believe was the right decision at the time to keep the industry alive.

Adeleye Awakan: Since the covid-19 pandemic, that has seen major sports activities suspended, which as affected the sports betting industry, how has Africabet respond to the outbreak?

Samanta Shegobin: On the bright side of things, we are taking this time to focus on different ways to bounce back once all of this is over. We recently started working with Golden Race in our shops and they are known to be among the best, if not the best, in virtual games. We also signed an agreement with STM Gaming/Btobet for their Neuron 3 single solution platform which was unveiled in ICE London 2020 earlier this year. We are coming with new products and much larger choices.

Adeleye Awakan: The lockdown of movement in Rwanda has affected the retail gambling in Rwanda, what is AfricaBet doing to remain afloat in the business?

Samanta Shegobin: Like I said above, we are focusing on the best way forward. Also, we are thankful to our current software provider, Meridian as they have been really supportive.

Adeleye Awakan: Since online gambling is not legal in Rwanda, does Africabet have any plans or special intervention from somewhere?

Samanta Shegobin: I have personally established contact with the Ministry in concern and I am positive that we can work something out together once borders are opened again.

Adeleye Awakan: Since the brand is not in business for now and the lockdown has been extended, will the brand consider a lay off?

Samanta Shegobin: The parameters of this lockdown are well beyond our control but let’s hope it doesn’t get there

Adeleye Awakan: So far so good the brand has been around for quite some time in the country and from your assessment, do you see any chance for online gambling legal in Rwanda?

Samanta Shegobin: President Kagame said that, ‘the lockdown was a chance to pick up lessons as well as evaluate some aspects and where necessary change the approach.’ Also, the Government is dedicated towards becoming a cashless society. Online gambling would be on the same wavelength. So, yes, I am positive.

Adeleye Awakan: What do you think is the cause for the delay while the legislation of online gambling is pending for over two years now?

Samanta Shegobin: Listen, betting in Rwanda has only been regulated 8 years back. Mauritius, on the other hand, regulated betting on horse racing more than two decades ago through the Horse Racing Board and even have one of the oldest racecourses in the world, the Champ de Mars, opened in 1812. Yet, there is no regulation to provide for interactive gambling and for the issue of licenses for such operation in Mauritius. I can’t complain about Rwanda, can I?

Adeleye Awakan: There are not so many women in the gambling sector in Africa with much of the sectors clamoring for gender equality around the world. What do you think is the problem with gender inequality particularly in African gaming industry? What advice do you have for other women out there?

Samanta Shegobin: Gender inequality remains one of the greatest threats to Africa’s future. When it comes to the gaming industry, betting is still seen as a taboo and it is important for women to have a mindset shift on that. Aiming to change that, 95% of Africabet’s workforce are ladies and we will move closer towards 100% in the years to come. I believe Jack Ma is right in referring to women as the ‘secret sauce’ of Alibaba’s success.

Clarion Gaming are promoting women in the industry with the #womendiverse campaign and we also saw the exclusive Women in Gaming Breakfast last year in ICE Africa. Such initiatives provide resources as well as a community of support to encourage women to embrace this amazing industry.

My advice to all the women out there would be to dive in. We, women, are born with pain built in; from period pains to childbirths. That’s our inescapable physical destiny. But let us not forget that destiny is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice. Don’t wait for it, go achieve it!

Adeleye Awakan: Lastly where do you see the African Gaming Industry in the next decade?

Samanta Shegobin: Lately we have seen virtual sports and e-sports, especially in the younger population, stepping into the spotlight. Alongside this, the ability of the youth when it comes to smartphones and tech devices should not be underestimated. The traditional land-based model will undoubtedly concede a huge chunk of its market share to interactive and mobile betting in the years to come. The success of the African Gaming Industry will basically depend on whether or not regulators achieve the right equilibrium in regulating and protecting online wagers.

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