Gaming in Africa: Looking past sportsbook

With the lack of live sporting events during lockdown, punters were forced to look to other alternatives

There’s no denying, Africa is one of the leading regions for growth in gaming globally. Between 2013 and 2019 the region has experienced a growth rate of over 8% per year which is almost 4 times the rate of the global gaming market. The common misconception is that Sportsbook products are the sole reason for this growth and offer the most value, when in actual fact, virtual sport and lottery style games are still the most popular when comparing total revenue generated.

To give some perspective; in Nigeria 65% of all sports related betting is on virtual products. In major markets like the UK or Italy, virtual products make up just 10% and 15% respectively. Clearly showing the huge scale of African region’s appetite for virtual sports and other alternative games.

AFRICA-3Driving factors

One of the biggest advantages that products such as virtual sports has over normal sports betting is their lack of seasonality and high volume. When the football is off season there are no games to bet on but of course virtual games can run throughout the year, 24hrs a day, much more suited to the high volume bet culture of Africa. Speaking recently, CEO of leading virtual sports provider, Golden Race, Martin Wachter commented that they usually sell up to 50 million tickets every day and in 2019 they generated over half a Billion Euros in sales.

The impact of the pandemic is also a major factor in gaming trends. With the lack of live sports during lockdown, punters were forced to look to alternatives. This led to a rise in not just virtuals but also other product verticals such as eSports and Live Casino.

Even in South Africa, where their GGR represents over 50% of the total African market and iGaming is banned, in 2020 they re-interpreted the law to allow for fixed-odd betting on gaming content. This spurred real innovation in their market and again helped to shine a light on the great potential of products other than sports book.

Hurdles to new content

One of the biggest hurdles to introducing new game content is regulation. Many regions are not prepared to regulate and allow the play of these products, especially at such short notice during the pandemic lockdown when they were most needed. Although they were not regulated for, the seed has been firmly sown that sports betting products alone should not be relied upon for the ‘bread and butter’ of operational revenue and much more focus needs to be put on alternative iGaming verticals in the future.

Another big issue is data. Although getting cheaper by the day, having enough data to support data heavy gaming products is still not feasible in certain markets. Especially products like Live Casino, which require a comparably large bandwidth to support the play features. Even if there is a demand for these types of games, the current infrastructure in many African regions is simply not able to facilitate.

In the past, land-based casinos have also played a part in stfling the range of products available in the African market. Arguing that products such as online casino would take away from their revenue base. However, since the lockdown, their attitudes are changing and we are seeing many land-based casinos embracing online expansion, especially in areas such as Nigeria where the licensing framework is a lot more accommodating for the current market landscape.

Moving Forward

Education will be a key factor in the future of African gaming.

ballFrom a regulatory perspective, the virtues of online gaming have been highlighted as a result of the pandemic, creating greater opportunity for tax revenue. But on top of this, understanding how to regulate and control these new game types will be a critical part of creating an environment that encourages more online gaming.

From a customer point of view, they need to be educated on how to play these new games. Many players will be used to the retail experience only and the lack of familiarity with online may be off putting for many. Industry commentators have often highlighted operators such as Hollywood Bets for the great work they’ve done with ‘How to..’ videos and online demonstrations, a trend we expect to see continue.

Considering the issues of infrastructure, suppliers will need to focus on supplying ‘light weight’ games that don’t use so much data, this is the only way innovative game content providers will be able to penetrate many African markets.

Speaking in a recent interview, Tayo Atoloye, Country Manager for Marathon Bet Nigeria stated that ‘Retail is still huge in Africa’ and despite the pandemic ‘Will still be popular for a long while to come’. This gives operators a great opportunity to engage with their players in-store and use that as the main opportunity to educate them and convert them to a wider variety of games online. The most successful operators will be the ones able to find the right balance between the two entities.

Article written by Curtis Roach who has worked in the gaming industry since 2014 creating high level content. The majority of his time has been spent conducting in-depth research of the iGaming market and creating an invaluable network of industry contacts, enabling him to create highly topical and engaging content for both live and digital channels. Curtis has spearheaded content campaigns for some of the industry's leading events, content platforms and industry suppliers including iGB Live!, ICE Africa, Evolution Gaming and iGB Affiliate. Now a Content Writer for SiGMA, he is part of the driving force behind our exciting expansion into the African market. 

About SiGMA College:

The iGaming industry is growing and expanding at a staggering rate. People who entered the market 10 years ago might find themselves lacking in certain areas of knowledge today, that’s why SiGMA College is offering a diploma in gaming! This is an introductory online course, which will be offered completely free of charge to a global audience, and will be aimed at people looking to diversify their knowledge or at people looking to enter the industry for the first time. Should you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact Emily Micallef.

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