Digital Summit Africa: ‘No easy wins’ for new entrants

Addressing delegates on the opening day of SBC Digital Summit Africa, a distinguished panel of market experts said while the continent represented a great opportunity, the gaming sector should not expect ‘easy wins’.

Moderated by Dan Phillips, CEO at NEL Advisory, the panel, which was sponsored by Evolution Services SA, considered whether online casino was now making inroads into a market that has traditionally favoured sports betting and number games.

Sean Coleman, CEO of the South Africa Bookmakers Association, said: “A lot of online operators in markets such as Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia, have been offering casino games for a long time.

“In South Africa, in the last six to eight months, we’ve seen a seismic shift away from racing, sports and lucky numbers partly due to COVID, yes, but due to live-dealer and certain RNG games now being permitted under a recent new interpretation of the regulations.”

Jason Roberts, COO at Betty Bingo, added: “The market here and the regulated environment is very complex and different to what you see in the UK and Europe.

“In South Africa, infrastructure is key – the tech is generally more accessible than in many African markets so live has grown,” said Roberts.

“But trust is also an issue locally, so there is some distrust of RNG and there’s a huge amount of education required. The distrust just comes from a lack of awareness of those games. Indeed, RNG games should not be written off, they can be a really cost-effective means of entering a market.”

Dean Finder, CEO of Evolution Services SA, pointed out that many new entrants don’t realise what a complex and highly regulated market exists in the jurisdiction. “Lots of overseas operators come to South Africa and don’t realise that we have nine provincial gambling boards while the national board is really just an oversight body,” said Finder.

“I think live dealer and online casino is now taking off at a rapid rate, with COVID a huge catalyst,” he continued. “In the last six-to-seven months growth has been incredibly rapid,” said Finder.

“What’s interesting is how the traditionally strong horse race betting sector has been diminished by wider sports betting. Then numbers games came in and took up to 50 per cent of turnover.

“Now, live dealer games are cannibalising what went before. Live dealer appeals to millennials and will continue to take off, partly because it is not gender biased. Female bettors have largely been an unseen and unserved market.”

Offering a perspective from a European gaming company that has made great progress in African markets, Richard Hogg, CCO at Betgames.tv, stressed that “trust and regulation are both very important to growth.

“There’s a few South African sites with a lot of casino games that have no license or a license from Curacao – I don’t know how or why their games are there but I suspect the regulators in South Africa will cotton on and we will see lots of change. And this will help build that trust.”

Asked about a large European game developer seeking to launch a great new slot in Africa, Hogg was optimistic. “When I go into a retail outlet in Africa, it’s male dominated. In casinos, you see a lot of female players – and in terms of online games, we see very different results. I think there’s a player base available for most brands.”

Betty Bingo’s Roberts offered a cautionary note to new entrants. “On the regulatory side, as a European, I thought we’d be live in 10 countries in two years and it’s just not that simple. The markets are completely different and throwing money at it isn’t going to fix it.

“Getting the regulatory process started as early as possible is key. You need people on the ground locally, you need local advice and relationships with local regulators. Doing that in multiple markets simultaneously is almost impossible,” said Roberts.

“Pick your markets, do your homework, pick a local partner and don’t just flood the market. Take your time, learn and invest as you go.”

Finder agreed that new entrants need to understand that the African markets do not offer ‘quick money’. “You will need to pay your fees and you will need to learn what it is all about. But the key to that success is don’t be afraid to outsource so you can focus on your core function.”

SBC Digital Summit Africa (6 – 7 October 2020) is the leading virtual conference and exhibition for the African betting and gaming industry. It features more than 60 expert speakers sharing insights and ideas about the future of markets across Africa, with all 17 conference sessions available both live and on-demand.

Delegates can also enjoy a programme of networking roundtables and an interactive product display area showcasing the latest industry innovations. Click here to register for your free pass.

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