INTERGAMINGi: How would you describe the state of play with the retail betting and igaming market in Africa?
SS: Africa is a diverse continent of more than 1.2bn people, and with many countries exhibiting a real love for the excitement that the betting industry delivers, there are a wealth of opportunities that dedicated providers can take advantage of.
However, we’re not quite there yet as to call retail betting an established market as a whole. Countries such as Nigeria can already be considered developed markets – where we’re already live with three operators, but to call Africa an established region for iGaming just yet is somewhat premature.
INTERGAMINGi: What trends are you seeing emerging?
SS: We’re seeing virtual games really take off there. We built the industry’s first Africa-specific satellite TV channel in 2015, allowing operators to share a daily schedule of virtual games through a scalable, localised and cost-effective solution for our African operators. Launched specifically for betting shops in Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana, a second bespoke channel dedicated to virtual races was launched in 2017 to the same retail networks, and it’s growing in popularity fast. Greyhound racing is also proving to be a real hit, and we’re already broadcasting our bespoke greyhound channel with more than 40,000 races per year from the UK, the USA and Australia across to several operators in Nigeria.
INTERGAMINGi: How is the regulatory picture changing across Africa? Which jurisdictions provide what you believe is a regulatory model to follow for others?
SS: Collectively, Africa is moving towards online regulation and licensing with a newfound determination and commitment, with new frameworks across multiple countries set to come into force imminently.
Of course – many have regulatory frameworks already in place, but the majority of these focus on retail gambling. The legal landscape for gaming is more stable than one might expect, with the key countries in place being those with traditional licensed casinos such as South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania. From those, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are the African countries with the largest and fastest growing markets in Africa with a regulatory model that would serve well to be adopted by newly emerging markets on the continent.
INTERGAMINGi: Has the government crackdown in Kenya had an impact on your business?
SS: The Kenya crackdown will likely prove to be a watershed moment for African markets, for better or worse. For us as a company – there hasn’t been an impact, this is mainly because we supply operators that are based in other territories in Africa.
Generally speaking, this heavy-handed approach by the Kenyan authorities is over the top. The pressure on gambling operators stems largely from concerns about the amount of underage and young gamblers in the country. However, it goes far beyond that – revoking the licenses of many betting firms and deferring the renewal of several casino and lotteries is a disregard to domestic and international law. Gambling is a multimillion-dollar business in Kenya, and the interest from international operators is likely to diminish significantly.
INTERGAMINGi: What difficulties do poor internet connections and a lack of data buying power have for players and how can companies entering this space provide solutions that meet players’ needs?
SS: Low internet connectivity and significant challenges with data platform scalability are significant hurdles that any operator needs to overcome in order to succeed here. While technology is growing fast, infrastructure is far less sophisticated than what many operators are accustomed to in other markets, and betting operations need to be adapted with that in mind. However, while the lack of technological infrastructure may present numerous obstacles, the use of tech can also be a great enabler when customised to local market conditions.
Odds, virtual, live racing and sports video streaming can go a long way towards enhancing the user experience in a retail betting environment that can be considered underserved, as long as the right solutions are in place. For a start, bespoke satellite broadcasting is essential, particularly in rural areas where internet connectivity may be unavailable or poor. We provide our African partners with high-efficiency coding that delivers great picture quality while broadcasting at the minimum bandwidth requirements. It allows new locations to be served immediately, as well as centralised content management that offers varied content with minimum intervention at the retail network’s end-point.
INTERGAMINGi: Localisation: What is the importance of country-by-country solutions?
SS: The African market is as dynamic as it is vast and understanding the needs of each region is a vital part of delivering a successful offering – none more so than in adapting technology to fit the continent’s fragmented infrastructure – with a fully localised approach to regional challenges being essential.
Any retail operator looking to enter the market must first find a way around the significant connectivity and payment processing infrastructure gaps that isolate its regions. Of course, while major cities in South Africa certainly benefit from a more developed infrastructure, this is far less the case for markets further north, such as in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda – and needs to be mitigated.
When it comes to content, a bespoke approach as part of a full turnkey solution, customised to meet local market’s needs should be applied to meet the African operators’ demand for an exciting, fast-paced and revenue generating offering. However, with low internet connectivity, high distribution costs and significant challenges with platform scalability, these all need to be overcome., and while mobile phone ownership is certainly growing fast, handsets are far less sophisticated than what many operators will be accustomed to in their multi-channel delivery models, and again need to be addressed to provide for a fully integrated, modern betting environment.
INTERGAMINGi: Payments solutions: How do players fund their accounts?
SS: Mobile payments are king in Africa. The majority of betting takes place in-shop – and mobile payments are the key enabler for this to happen, and it’s likely to stay that way. Payment by mobile can be divided into two different types - payment by text, which requires having an account with a mobile provider, and can account for the majority of payments in the Sub-Saharan region, while in South Africa, where more 50% own a smartphone, e-wallet based payments can also be provided as a payment method. We’ve provided for this with our mobile payments options via our new-breed of cost-effective FLAVOR SBBTs, especially designed for Africa, allowing bettors to pay for their bets directly with their mobiles.
INTERGAMINGi: What are your future plans within the continent?
SS: Africa’s wealth of opportunities for operators are only at the beginning. With a growing population who need no introduction to the thrill of gambling, retail-based betting is set to remain a permanent fixture, with satellite broadcasting and mobile payments being the key enablers to the continent’s success. When it comes to content, the thrill of live racing along with fast-paced top performing number games are a sure bet for us, and we see a bright future ahead.