Covid provided a major boost for virtual sports worldwide as live events shut down, but in Africa at least, this vertical continues to be a favourite, appealing to a high-volume, low-value betting culture.
It’s no secret, sports betting is big business in Africa. It’s a market that continues to expand and in South Africa alone generated over $600 million in gross gambling revenue in 2020.
Outside of the traditional, live-event sportsbook markets, a strong driver for growth comes from the rise of virtual sports products.
When the world went into lockdown, the sports betting industry was as vulnerable as any other sector. Matches, races and tournaments were cancelled or postponed, leaving sportsbooks scrambling to replace lost revenue.
Operators in Africa turned to virtuals to keep the lights on and in doing so, stayed afloat until life started returning to normal. However, now that the many benefits of virtual sports have been discovered by bettors, it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be leaving the market anytime soon.
Virtual market appeal
Virtual sports are games that contain computer-generated simulations of sporting events with lifelike graphics and realistic odds. The most popular ones are football, horse racing and greyhound racing, but providers can also offer other forms such as basketball and even MMA bouts.
Key African countries such as Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are overflowing with young, tech-savvy bettors who love sports. When looking at African players’ age and affinity for technology, you can see why this product has the ability to be so popular.
Youth is a central aspect of African demographics. According to data from UN-Habitat, 35 percent of the continent’s 420 million population are between the ages of 15 and 35. Sports bettors across the globe tend to be on the younger side, and even more so in Africa.
A recent study by GeoPoll found that 54 percent of sub-Saharan Africans between the ages of 17 and 35 had at least attempted to bet.
This product vertical is especially appealing to African sports bettors for a few integral reasons. One of the most important is the frequency of betting opportunities. It offers thousands of virtual events on a daily basis, providing a constant stream of betting opportunities to match African betting habits, where they are renowned for placing high volumes of low-value bets. In Kenya, most players place a bet at least once a week, but the average Kenyan aged between 18-29 will spend only about $14 a month.
Although sports betting is already very popular in Africa, it’s still a relatively new concept to many. New sports bettors can use virtual sports products as a training programme. The RNG generates a wide range of possible outcomes as well as the relevant betting odds; combined with the sheer volume of events to bet on, players can make as many low-value bets as they want until they understand the system of odds well enough to take bigger risks for a chance of an even bigger award.
Furthermore, these games are not rule laden, like some other sports betting categories. Players are able to glance over an included set of rules and simple instructions and are immediately ready to begin making their selections.
Another strong indicator for the future success of this vertical can be seen with the recent product development updates being made by key operators, who are adjusting to suit market trends.
Quite recently, leading bookmaker, Sportingbet added a virtual sports product to its betting suite that includes a champions league derived soccer league, and an ongoing simulated tennis tournament that resembles the ATP Masters.
Another instance of big-name betting operators investing in their product line to meet this growing demand is Betway, which also recently released its offering of Jika Games, a virtual sports package consisting of horse racing, soccer, Nascar racing and even table tennis.
Game provider Inspired Entertainment has also highlighted its expanding virtual sports vertical. In 1H22, it saw a large revenue increase on both a quarterly and year-on-year basis.
The business said that revenues from the division increased 71 percent year-on-year to $14.0 million.
What’s obvious, is that betting operators have worked hard to effectively meet the growing demands of punters, who are looking to wager more frequently.
A Future King?
The instant gratification, combined with the fun and captivating graphics of these games make for an undeniably fun experience.
Now, a trend that was boosted by the pandemic seems to be here to stay and is well on its way to being the new king of the African sportsbook sector.
Join us: 14 – 18 November 2022 MALTA
One of the first European countries to regulate the gaming sector, Malta is a hub of global business. The island is an obvious choice for SiGMA’s presence in Europe and a strong foundation for the field’s future. With a plethora of prospects for both investors and entrepreneurs looking to shape the future of this multi-billion-dollar business, Malta Week will bring together industry giants among the affiliates, operators, and suppliers of the gaming sector.