The African market presents the iGaming business with unique challenges and vast potential. There are some complications related to regulations and technological constraints, but sports betting is a massively popular pastime in many African countries. The African sports betting industry was estimated to be worth roughly $37 billion in 2018.
The three biggest gambling markets in Africa are South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. We’ll look closely at these three markets, as well as Tanzania and Uganda.
South Africa is the largest gaming market on the continent. Some estimations put South African GGR at $2.5 billion by 2021.
A report issued by South Africa’s National Gambling Board recorded GGR for 2018 to be $1.9 billion. Betting accounted for 21.3% of gambling revenue in 2018, at $405 million. In recent years, sports betting has seen the highest percentage growth of all forms of gambling.
All forms of gambling are very popular in South Africa, but the development of the industry has been hindered by a disjointed bureaucracy. While most countries have a centralized authority or regulatory body that oversees gaming, each of South Africa’s nine provinces has its own gambling board or commission that rules on the legality of various forms of gambling in that province. Industry insiders hold that the best way forward is communication and education with the various gambling boards.
Throughout the country, online gambling is illegal, except for the online branches of licensed land-based bookmakers. Roughly 50% of South African adults place sports bets on a regular basis. Most South African punters place bets at least once a month. South Africans love betting on football, cricket, rugby, and golf.
Some of the most popular online sportsbooks in South Africa are Betway, Golden Race, Scorebet SA, Sportingbet, Betvictor, World Sports Betting, and Sunbet.
Nigeria is experiencing an explosion in sports betting, largely driven by a widespread passion for football and improvements in technology. According to a 2014 estimate, roughly 30% of Nigeria’s nearly 200 million people place sports bets every day.
Nigerian law prohibits games of chance. Sports betting, however, is viewed as a game of skill, due to the knowledge and experience required to be an effective and successful sports bettor.
Nigeria is the second-biggest gambling market in Africa by revenue. Its GGR was placed at around $40 million in 2014, with PwC estimating a GGR of $58 million for the year 2018. According to the same report, GGR is projected to increase by 16% over the next five years.
Football is incredibly popular in Nigeria, particularly European football leagues like La Liga and the Premier League, and the vast majority of sports betting takes place on football matches. Roughly 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 actively participate in sports betting. Estimations are that Nigerians bet roughly $5.5 million every day, totaling about $2 billion a year. Nigerians also like to bet on basketball, tennis, rugby, and cricket, as well as some more niche activities, like bandy, darts, and floorball.
According to international accounting firm KPMG, Bet9ja has an average monthly turnover of $10 million and NairaBet has a monthly turnover of $3-$5 million. NairaBet alone has an estimated 2 million regular customers. Some other providers are Surebet 247, Merrybet, Betfair, Betway, 888sport, and Golden Race, which is available in 90% of Nigerian betting shops.
A huge part of the sports betting boom is the industry’s online expansion. Nigerians who already love sports betting are drawn in by the convenience offered by online sportsbooks, particularly via mobile.
The online sports betting explosion is in part being fueled by locally developed payment systems. One example is Paystack, a Nigerian fintech start-up. Paystack now processes over $11 million a month and became the most-used fintech system for those betting on NairaBet, Nigeria’s second-biggest online sports betting firm, after being added as a payment method.
According to PwC, Kenya had a GGR of around $20 million in 2014, with that number projected to hit almost $29 million by 2019. Predictions estimate that gambling turnover will reach $50 million by 2020.
The most popular sport to bet on in Kenya is football, with top European leagues accounting for a huge portion of Kenyan betting. According to a 2017 Geopoll survey, 79% of young Kenyan gamblers regularly placed bets on football.
One deciding factor in the sports betting boom is mobile and internet penetration. According to industry executives, 7 million Kenyans are registered for gambling services.
The past several years have seen sports betting operators grapple with increasing government intrusion into the industry. The central government has dramatically raised taxes and accused operators of owing back taxes. In July 2019 the government suspended sports betting licenses, but a group of Kenyan legislators has called on the president’s office to restore the licenses.
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Much like other African countries, the rapid spread of sports betting in Tanzania has been aided by developments in mobile technology that have allowed punters to place bets with ease.
The boom in sports betting has also been aided by the increase in the number of sports betting shops, which are present throughout the country but ubiquitous in Dar Es Salaam, the capital.
The gaming board of Tanzania projects that government revenues from gambling could hit almost $42 million in 2019, up from last year’s roughly $34 million. Sports betting revenues, which are taxed at a rate of 25%, provided the government with over $5 million in 2016. In the same year, 2016, sports betting revenue overtook casino revenue, generating over $15 million. Gaming and betting brought the government of Tanzania $36 million in 2017/2018.
Some of the most popular online sportsbooks are Sportpesa, Meridianbet, M-bet, Mkeka bet, Princess Bet, Premier Betting, and Throne Bet.
On Aug 2 2019, the Gaming Board of Tanzania issued an announcement that they would temporarily cease issuing licenses for sports betting and gaming machines in order to make an assessment of the market’s ability to handle new operators.
Ugandans spend $42 million on gambling annually. Gambling operators pay a tax of 20% on gaming revenue and withhold 15% of players’ winnings.
The most popular form of gambling is sports betting, usually on football. However, basketball, tennis, cricket, volleyball, and rugby are all also popular. Some popular sports betting companies are Elite Bet, Worldstar Betting, Betin, SBA Uganda, ABA Uganda, and Simba bet.
Developments in technology have led to massive growth in the sports betting industry. An increasing number of Ugandans are placing their bets online, as the option to use mobile carriers as payment methods has taken off in popularity.
According to a report from the Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board, the Ugandan government received about $12 million in sports betting revenue in 2017-2018, compared to $3 million in 2013/2014 and $66,000 in 2003/2004. The same report predicted that the government would take in roughly $12 million in tax revenue from gambling in 2019.
While the explosion in revenue was undoubtedly healthy for the federal budget, the Ugandan government has developed mixed feelings about sports betting. In early 2019, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced a freeze on new gaming licenses, as well as announcing that operators currently in possession of a license would not have their license renewed. Some reports indicate this is an attempt to nationalize the gambling industry and halt the flow of gambling revenue outside the country.
Following the analysis and estimations above, it is possible to note that African countries are on the forefront of the sports betting boom. Many of them, however, have already managed to significantly increase gambling revenue over the recent years. Young and dynamic African populations demand games that will correspond with their lifestyle, while sports betting, especially on mobile, seems to be the perfect match for African markets.