Daniel Kustelski: 2021 a big year for African sports betting

Daniel Kustelski, CEO at Chalkline underscores African sports betting’s continued boom,  during the past 12 months and takes a closer look at three distinct trends that have driven growth across the continent’s unique market make-up.   

The industry’s attention has been firmly fixed on the North American market for the past 12 months, but many other jurisdictions have made incredible progress, too.

This includes significant growth across Africa, where the sports betting market continues to expand with pace. In South Africa alone, sports betting GGR eclipsed $600m during the last year.

The thriving market has led to some serious M&A activity, with MultiChoice increasing its stake in BetKing for an additional $280m and WSB acquiring iDiski TV for an undisclosed sum. Below, I discuss the three most important trends that emerged in African sports betting during 2021 and what we can expect from the market in the coming 12 months. 

The continued shift to digital:

The biggest single factor impacting gaming on the continent is telecommunications. Mobile providers are now doing a much better job of providing service, and internet connectivity continues to improve and grow.

This is aligning with a rise in smartphone penetration which means that more consumers than ever before have the devices and connectivity they need to access online and mobile sportsbooks.

As players have more mobile options, online GGR continues to grow as a percentage of overall GGR. In 2021, online GGR is estimated to be 25% of overall GGR, an increase from the 22% it accounted for in the previous year.

The continued shift to digital is being aided in part by a growing number of operators launching free play games to consumers.

This is helping to engage, educate and acclimate players to wagering online or via their mobile, and is also building trust between players and the operator brands offering F2P.

Accelerated operator expansion:

As operators find their feet in individual African markets, we are starting to see successful ones increase their presence into other countries.

Previously, it was only the big European operators like Betway and Editecs that had operations spanning multiple regions but now we are seeing lower-tier companies expand their reach.

For example, successful Kenyan operator Odibets launched into Ghana while Powerbets had been active in a handful of markets before making a play in South Africa. Tanzania’s Bingwabet recently secured a licence in Mozambique while Cola debuted in several markets at once. Others include Betika, GAL Sports Betting, SportyBet, Bangbet and BetKing.

Of course, the challenge for operators is to personalise and localise their offering in each market if they are to enjoy the same success they have had in their “home” market. Freeplay offers a great way of doing this because you can offer personalised games to bettors based on the teams and players in the market they are in.

New products for players:

The silver lining of the past 12 months is that mobile-focused operators delivered new products to players, and this has helped take engagement to the next level. For example, Kiron Interactive debuted its virtual sports game in South Africa, while popular operator Marshalls launched Ezugi’s live casino content to its players.

Hollywoodbets did similar, offering its players access to Evolution Gaming’s live casino games for the very first time with minimum bets as low as R1. We have also seen greater adoption of free play among operators, again allowing players to try new gambling products and bet formats via their smartphones.

What’s next for African sports betting:

After a strong 12 months for sports betting in Africa, I have no doubt the market will enjoy continued growth in 2022.

Of course, operators will have an eye towards reducing customer acquisition costs as they roll-out an ever-expanding line of new products to keep players engaged. Ultimately, Africa has the potential to become a significant market for sports betting and I think the wider industry will realise this throughout the next year.

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