As Africa continues to gradually regulate online gambling across its jurisdictions, CCO, Bobby Longhurst, discusses the continent’s potential and the importance of first mover advantage
Africa is undoubtedly one of the most attractive markets for stakeholders in the gambling industry. Of all of the emerging markets, what is it about the African market that makes it so attractive? Where is the potential?
Africa remains an untapped market with huge potential, given the size of population and its love for sport and football in particular. A number of big operators with large budgets have come and gone without managing to make a dent in mature markets in Europe and the UK in recent years, but with Africa, it’s different. Of course, there are operators in certain markets doing well, but there’s no operator saturation yet and there is a lot of market share for those prepared to go above and beyond to service their customers.
This not only means offering the very best service across both sport and casino, retail and online, but also by localising offerings to different markets. It’s no use just offering a turnkey solution simply titled ‘Africa’. There’s a whole host of player trends and patterns that need to be taken into consideration, with different countries in the continent also needing different briefs when it comes to legislation and tax. It’s also a market that has almost leap-frogged desktop and gone straight to mobile thanks in large to the improvement in quality and affordability of network connectivity and hardware. In fact, Africa has the fastest growing mobile adoption rates in the world and with a continent obsessed with watching their favourite football players ply their trade in Europe’s biggest divisions, it’s no surprise to see operators looking for their slice of the market.
How and where do you begin the market research process?
Our attention to detail is what gives us the competitive edge. We monitor developments in multiple markets very closely, as well as employing the most talented heads in the business. Having highlighted the potential of Africa, we invested in an office space in Johannesburg, South Africa, from where we have been able to bring in local expertise to develop on-the-ground research in order to keep our finger on the pulse.
Once you have conducted this research, how do you localise content based on your findings?
It’s important to offer operators a truly customisable operation in order for them to have full control over their business. That’s why we developed a brand new UI/UX for the African market with more options than any other platform. From our studies of the markets, we quickly learned that though players were able to get better connection than ever, it’s still quite expensive. We therefore developed light versions of our product, allowing players to spend a longer amount of time without burning up too much of their available data. This lighter version also loads quicker than traditional platforms and will be a fundamental option for operators.
How can you offer operators within Africa a fully tailored solution? How local are you in your approach?
We understand that a one-size-fits all solution simply isn’t good enough and that each market within Africa needs a tailored offering in order to give players in the market the service they deserve. There’s a temptation by some to take the easy option when it comes to creating player offerings within the continent as it’s an emerging market. However, we will always strive to offer the very best in order to help operators both attract and retain players. Aside from betting markets and opportunities, we have the personnel to help us ensure we are always meeting the guidelines when it comes to licensing, tax, KYC and protocols. It’s this bespoke approach, rather than a blanket one, which keeps us one step ahead and we will always work alongside operators to shape their product as well as cater to their market situations and technological needs.
How does your experience in European markets inform your approach to the African market?
Every market is unique and deserves to be treated in a different way. No market is the same. Each has different betting habits, sport or market preferences and bet types. One trend that is consistent though is that sportsbook players tend to know what they are coming to bet on when they go on site. It’s not a case of window shopping, players arrive knowing the football match or horse race they want to bet on and it’s for that reason we developed our product to get players there as quickly and seamlessly as possible, especially utilising our book-a-bet feature.
While hardware has become cheaper and mobile gaming has become more accessible to African players, many still conduct transactions in cash. How will you scale your solutions to accommodate player needs?
Mobile betting in Africa is constantly growing, but it’s true that in many parts of the continent cash remains king. It’s with this in mind that we tailored our solution to allow bet reservations which can be done online and paid for in cash in a betting shop. Likewise, any funds, which may have been won online, can also be cashed out in a betting shop simply by showing a unique code. Our omni-channel solution is built to allow seamless navigation by vertical and allows the end user choice, both in how they play and how they receive their returns.
While only seven countries out of Africa’s 55 countries forbid all forms of gambling, online gambling is currently explicitly allowed or regulated in less than 20 per cent of African jurisdictions. Once these markets open up, how important is first mover advantage?
A lot of lessons and practices can be implemented from recent moves into regulated American markets. The opportunity is huge as markets continue to embrace regulation, but it’s important to have the speed and knowledge to move as soon as the green light is shown. It’s part of the reason we have bricks and mortar on the ground as well as insightful and knowledgeable staff working behind the scenes developing our strategic approach through our connections throughout the industry. This local expertise will leave us well positioned to expand our network of operators faster than any other platform provider.
Once established in Africa, what long-term goals will be developed to sustain and grow your market share?
We know we have a market-leading offering in Africa. However, we take a strategic approach to the market and will never spread ourselves too thin and in turn dilute our ability to create a truly bespoke offering. We are constantly looking to add new releases as we continue to develop our African roadmap. This has been highlighted in recent weeks with integration deals with Kiron and Golden Race, two of the industry’s very best virtual sports providers. As well as continuing to add to our breadth of offerings, we will be investing in more feet on the ground throughout Africa.