With all the doom and gloom surrounding Brexit and how it will impact our beloved iGaming industry, I wanted to shift the focus to a more inspiring subject for this week’s edition of Becky’s Affiliated. My choice was Africa and why it’s the next new iGaming market, especially when it comes to mobile gaming, mobile payments and a real mobile multi-channel experience.
In addition to stacking up on vast industry knowledge over the past 25 years, Christina Thakor-Rankin, Principal Consultant at 1710 Gaming, attended Sports Betting East Africa in May and will act as the moderator for Sports Betting West Africa later this month. With all this in mind and after reading her article on the African market in Infinity Magazine, I asked Thakor-Rankin to share her expertise on Africa with CalvinAyre.com as well.
I was impressed with Thakor-Rankin’s attitude towards visiting a part of the world that many people are afraid to visit. When asked if she felt safe traveling to Sports Betting East Africa her response was yes and she added, “if you want to find out what an emerging market is really like, asking me or anyone else will give you some of the answers, but it will always be a poor substitute compared to getting out there and seeing and experiencing it for yourself”.
While she was at the conference, Thakor-Rankin saw and met with attendees and exhibitors from Africa, Asia, UK, Europe and Latin America. She said the similarities between Latin America and Africa are many and it is no surprise that those who are interested in places like Columbia, Argentina and Brazil are also interested in Africa. Hopefully our interview below will help explain why.
Becky Liggero: Christina, its lovely to be chatting with you again, thank you for joining me. You’ve rubbed shoulders with some of the regulators in Africa from your time at Sports Betting East Africa, what was your impression?
Christina Thakor-Rankin: Honestly? I was quite frankly blown away by the desire, the appetite, and the maturity and level of understanding exhibited by so called ‘new’ or developing regulators, and was reminded that lack of experience does not necessarily mean lack of knowledge.
In terms of hot buttons, the very lively and informed discussions were a testament to the breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding around issues such as problem gambling, sports and betting integrity. In areas such as money laundering, terrorist financing and the links between gambling and crime, I would go as far as to say that the regulators in Africa, perhaps in part due to local circumstances, may have an even stronger awareness and urge to tackle these issues than their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
What is really impressive is that rather than just copy and paste another jurisdictions laws and regulations, or take recommendations and apply them as they are, all of the regulators I met are very keen to take international best practice and then mould, interpret and adapt it so that it works most effectively in and for their respective jurisdictions.
Equally impressive, and again perhaps more so than their peers elsewhere in the world, there is an open acknowledgement that the advancement of technology means that prohibition simply doesn’t work anymore. There is no point prohibiting online gambling – customers will always find a way. Far better instead to acknowledge the inevitable and then work to find a regulatory solution which aims to protect both customers and revenues.
BL: This is encouraging and even heart-warming to hear, in a way. So what countries in Africa should we be most focused on and why?
CT-R: For so long operators outside of Africa have viewed South Africa, and more recently Nigeria, as the barometer for betting and gambling in the continent, but there is so much more going on. For those operators looking to invest in bricks and mortar operations most of Africa offers some form of opportunity including the luxury casino hotel resort market in places like the Seychelles, the Cote D’Ivoire, and very shortly the ‘lone star state’ of Liberia.
For those seeking to get stuck in at a local level, most places from North to South, East to West offer some level of opportunity in the sports betting market, land or mobile, and especially since the advent of DSTV and televised live football.
For those keen to leverage existing online or interactive platforms (and frustrated with the lack of movement in South Africa) watch this space in respect of Nigeria, Uganda and Seychelles who are all about to push out online/interactive regulations with others due to follow in due course.
BL: There really seems to be so much opportunity. Can you tell about some of the “big players” already doing business in Africa?
CT-R: Right now the space is dominated by local brands, backed by overseas investors, and using a mixture of local and international platforms and systems.
Just as the presentation and positioning of a product or service needs to be adapted to resonate with the cultural and social nuances of local audiences, MacDonalds restaurants is a great example of this, so it is with betting and gambling in Africa.
Whilst consumers may be familiar with some of the big European betting brands as a result of football sponsorship and perimeter advertising, the bias is towards a home grown brand that ‘speaks their language’ on a country by country basis. In this respect Africa is no different to Europe – marketing, tone, voice, language will vary dependent on the audience of each country.
What is encouraging is that there is no barrier to overseas investment or operators entering the market provided they respect and adhere to the regulations as with any other jurisdiction. And just like some of the emerging European jurisdictions which may be very different to say the UK do business in a different way, so with Africa – it helps to have contacts, friends and door-openers on the ground – not for any nefarious reason necessarily but simply because that is how business is done there.
Basically, the opportunities are there for those who are prepared to go and seek them out.
BL: This is all encouraging news for sure. Is there anything else you wish to add about the iGaming market in Africa?
CT-R: I think if things carry on as they are then Africa is the next new market.
Europe remains fragmented and expensive, the US is moving on DFS but with the exception of Pennsylvania seemingly not much else, Australia and India may do something at some time, driven by responsibility and integrity respectively, Latin America has and is challenging, and Asia even more so. This leaves Africa – a set of countries with growing economic power, populations who like a bet, and who are going to bet whether its allowed or not, and regulators brave enough, and wise enough to say – let’s just deal with it.
BL: I love it. Thank you for sharing with us some promising news Cristina, we’re all anxiously watching this space.