I-gaming in Africa

The African internet gambling business has boomed in recent years, and Covid-19 may soon witness a turn towards broad regulation of the industry. Richard Hogg, Maria Luisa Malfasi, Oksana Tsyhankova, and Mark Schmidt examine the prospects of the African online casino sector.

Is the continent’s casino business doomed to be controlled by sports betting?

Maria Luisa Malfasi, ESA Gaming Business Development Manager: To flourish in the online casino sector, the experience must be personalized to local players. It is vital for providers to understand their target market. For Africa, this does not entail the same graphics-heavy games seen in Europe. Suppliers must abandon the hefty, over-produced slots prevalent in Europe.

Instead, they should focus on creating mobile-optimized games that are easy to use. Instead, concentrate on tried-and-true casino games from the land-based industry. Lightweight games like our EasySwipe HTML5 mobile games portfolio may help cross-sell to a sports-focused user audience.

Mark Schmidt, Pronet Gaming’s Africa Sales Director: Casino has a future, but it will never be able to compete with sports betting. The causes are many. Sports are a cultural cornerstone of many African cultures and attract a vast, passionate following.

While gaming is gaining traction in some more developed nations, it has yet to reach critical mass. Mobile devices have limited content options due to patchy network connectivity and expensive data charges. After Covid-19, additional operators are likely to pay attention to the online casino concept.

Oksana Tsyhankova, Soft2Bet: Despite the lack of a sports betting vertical, Africa’s casino business has a bright future. The COVID-19 suspension on live athletic events clearly affected client acquisition for sportsbooks. Nobody knows how many sports bettors switched to casino at that time, especially in Africa.

Despite persistent regional concerns including high data costs and patchy network availability, technological advancements lead to long-term improvements. Due to Africa’s immense development potential and fast expanding smartphone use, carriers wishing to make a difference should enhance their mobile offering.

Richard Hogg, CEO of BetGames.TV: Sure. And a bright future. For a wider audience, online casinos throughout the globe are becoming more adaptive and forward-thinking. They have created a loyal client base by successfully delivering a wide range of fixed-odds products, including live dealer games.

They are now attempting to secure supplementary sportsbook licences, which are generally well-liked. We’ll see more online businesses operating across both verticals, and maybe others in the future, as player needs influence their strategy.

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Richard: Now more than ever, providers like ourselves can invest in the appropriate markets with the right goods. However, residual concerns, mostly regulatory in nature, continue to impede development.

Some marketplaces have significant entry requirements and high levies. These difficulties have deterred some operators from entering the market, but engaging with regional partners and gaining local experience may help.

Maria: Suppliers must provide properly localised content that takes into account Africa’s unique network architecture. Mobile devices produce the majority of internet traffic, with desktop access being uncommon. As a consequence, betting and gaming vendors must think mobile first.

Mobile gaming is growing steadily in nations like Nigeria and Kenya. Another crucial part is allowing gamers to fund their accounts, and mobile payment becomes a significant facilitator in this regard. Companies that prioritize user experience will win the consumer war in Africa.

With so many individuals in Africa without bank accounts, offering the correct payment options might be difficult. That explains the low usage of debit and credit cards among African gamblers, however mobile payment methods are growing in popularity.

The lack of a local contact network is perhaps the most significant barrier to entry into Africa. Partnering with local businesses requires suppliers to understand their unique needs. Furthermore, cultural knowledge is essential: game makers would struggle to reach African customers if they do not understand their needs.

Mark: Global betting and gaming enterprises eyeing Africa face a major logistical problem. Relationships with local operators need understanding of their specific needs, which a European headquarters cannot provide. It also helps culturally, making it simpler to create alliances. Africa’s terrain varies greatly from nation to country. To really understand what customers and players want, you must personally experience the marketplaces.

How does Africa’s retail betting monopoly affect the internet market?

Mark: Although retail sports betting dominates in Africa, its dominance is not always driven by the business. Data availability and cell penetration have both slowed the projected internet growth.

That doesn’t mean local industry titans’ hesitation to explore the vertical hasn’t played a role, or that certain African players are wary of fresh ideas. Of course, Covid-19 closing retail stores throughout the continent now puts all that into perspective. The mood music is shifting, and I anticipate the development pace to accelerate.

Richard: African gaming is mostly retail and it works. With so many resources focused on land, it’s evident that the continent and its markets aren’t fulfilling their full potential. Because the market and its infrastructure are plainly not mature, retail will not be going away soon.

Many can’t go online, or prefer not to, due to convenience. iGaming’s day is coming, but it will be a slow shift as demand grows. In the meanwhile, operators must understand their players’ needs and provide a compelling enough offer to interest them.

Oksana: The retail sector dominates the African gaming business. However, external issues like poor internet connection prohibit people from coming online explain much of that dominance.

Because desktop use is low, online retailers must focus on mobile to compete. Mobile gaming’s consistent growth in nations like Kenya and Nigeria underscores the value of a multichannel offering.

Maria: It’s good that there’s a strong betting culture and Africans are enthusiastic about it. A seamless transition to online betting and gaming should be possible. Instead of diverting people from sportsbooks, provide them options inside them.

If sports betting was their first passion, slot games shouldn’t have sophisticated features or pay tables. While watching live athletics, simple fast win and table games will provide instant involvement during lulls in the action.

Which African markets are most promising?

Oksana: South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda are all attractive regions. The commercial possibilities of a region are influenced by the participants’ choices. Content that works well in one jurisdiction may not work well in another. Sports betting is still popular throughout Africa, with virtual and live casino games doing well in South Africa.

The most promising nations for our sector have rapidly growing populations, huge economies, and high mobile penetration. Tanzania, for example, today has over 60 million residents, many of whom use mobile phones. That explains why it’s one to watch in the future.

Maria: Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa have led the way in regulating internet gambling. In such nations, there has been considerable ambiguity around enforcement, taxation, and legislative delays. Despite a tax conflict and a national-state regulator fight, Nigeria is still incredibly fascinating.

In countries like Mozambique and Tanzania, where technological developments have been outstanding, we are witnessing legislative changes. With a population of 60 million and strong mobile penetration, Tanzania is an interesting and promising market. In the next two years, I anticipate more African nations to see the possibilities of regulating internet gambling.

Richard: Nigeria and Ghana thrill us at BetGames.TV. The former has huge potential in retail, internet, and new verticals. Gamers prefer sports betting and virtuals, but given the popularity of live casino in South Africa, we’re convinced that Nigerian players will too.

Ghana’s mobile market is still growing. There’s no reason why new verticals can’t benefit the constantly expanding number of mobile users who don’t like sportsbooks but want to play fixed-odds.

A burgeoning middle class and mobile penetration in these countries has helped them lead the way. These are all aspects that affect market maturity and development potential.

But a country-by-country analysis is still required. Some can use new technologies, like Opera Mini, and USSD betting, but the regulatory environment is still a mess. Pronet Gaming prioritizes creating personalized solutions for our partners that match their specific demands.

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