In both population and landmass, Africa is the world’s second-largest continent. Thus, assessing the state of its gambling industry is no easy task. Fifty-four sovereign nations exist on the continent.
Each one has developed distinctive qualities that also apply to how they view this activity and to what degree they allow it.
A July ReportLinker study claims that the current global market is worth $443 billion. Revised projections now claim that this number will reach $647 billion by 2027, growing at an annual rate of 5.6%. The report makes little mention of Africa. In reality, it cannot compete with the established North American and European markets or the fledgling Asian-Pacific and Latin American ones.
However, that doesn’t mean that its industry is insignificant and not set to boom in the coming years.
African Gambling Market Size
Before going into numbers and discerning fact from opinion, for the uninformed, we should make mention that Islamic law strictly prohibits all forms of gambling, including betting on sporting events. Therefore, many countries offer land-based gaming at tourist destinations to boost local revenue-generation. However, some also make it available in larger metropolitan areas due to gambling’s positive effects in the economy.
In most African nations, views on gambling are deeply affected by centuries of colonial rule, and stances represent an amalgamation of European and local customs. Gambling laws range from strict to loose depending on a country’s location. Those in the central part of the continent are most restrictive, with the Northern region coming in second. West and South Africa are more progressive areas.
Few regulatory bodies and market fragmentation make it hard to find reliable data regarding the continent’s land-based industry. Considering that the European one is around $27 billion, Africa’s industry size should be less than 20% of Europe’s numbers. However, the African gambling gross win grew at an annual compound rate of 8% from 2013 to 2019, four times more than the global market, even though the land-based casino sector only rose by 2% during this period.
On the digital side, things are far less cluttered. iGaming platform provider, BtoBet, suggests that the gaming industry in Africa is on the rise. Its top-ten markets have contributed $1 billion to the global revenue figure. In the past, weak internet penetration hampered iGaming growth. However, once smartphones spread throughout the continent and mobile data coverage increased, so did the number of potential players. Specialists, such as H2 Gambling Capital, now expect that the African iGaming market will grow exponentially. H2 states that the industry has been steadily increasing since 2012 and that it will likely more than double by 2024, reaching an estimated online size of more than $2 billion. Sports betting seems to be leading the way, but online casino games do not trail far behind, and lotto draws are also super-popular.
There are three major markets in Africa and a few minor ones scattered throughout its 30 million square kilometers surface. South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria are the three leaders, and they overshadow all other competitors, with the Rainbow Nation reigning as the undisputed king.
South Africa is by far the continent’s largest local gaming industry, with 39 land-based casinos. Casino gaming is by far the most prominent component of the South African market. Before the 1993 democratic government came into power, many believed that more than 2,000 illegal gaming venues existed throughout the country. Once the Gambling Act of 1996 got passed, it created licensing procedures and taxation rates, officially regulating the sector and offering legal protection to customers. According to the country’s National Gaming Board, almost 97% of residents participate in the national lottery, and over 27% of people play slots. Online gambling remains illegal in South Africa, although betting operators can apply for local licenses. The GrandWest Casino & Entertainment World complex is the largest gaming resort in the land, boasting over 2,500 slot machines.
Kenya is the runner up, trailing far behind South Africa, with three cities that feature gaming facilities, of which there are 30 in the country. The gambling activities that those who visit these venues can enjoy are horse racing, sports betting, and classic casino games. Nairobi has 21 gaming establishments, and it is home to the largest one in the land, Casino Flamingo, which houses 160 slots and 15 card tables. Kenya has very lax laws when it comes to all kinds of betting.
Thus, mobile wagering is also available to its vast number of mobile-subscribed residents.
Nigeria has one of the strongest economies in Africa. Due to its population’s purchasing power, even with only nine legal gaming venues, it has managed to outpace Kenya in terms of revenues, demonstrating the industry’s viability in Naija. The National Lottery Regulatory Commission regulates lotto draws in Nigeria. In 2013 it made attempts to branch out into online gaming by launching a roulette-only platform, which proved to be a short-lived adventure. In December of 2019, the state of Lagos passed legislation allowing internet wagering, and few local sportsbooks such as Bet9ja offer Nigerians the opportunity to wager on sporting events. However, foreign operators take the largest chunk of the marketplace, with Betway, 1xBet, and 888 Sports dominating, as Nigerians are free to play at offshore sites that accept players from their region. The largest land-based casino in Naija is the Federal Palace Hotel & Casino in Lagos, home to 106 slots and 10 table games.
As mentioned, South Africa is the undisputed king of the region. In April of 2019, their National Gambling Board released its annual report, stating that the gross gaming revenue starting from April 1, 2018, was $2 billion. The number represents a 7% increase over the figure from the previous 365-day timeframe. Surprisingly bingo was the sector that saw the most dramatic increase in Africa’s most active gambling market, as interest in bingo games rose by 26%, followed by sports betting, which grew in popularity by 17.8%. Limpopo was the province that noted the highest growth.
Revenue-wise, Nigeria holds the second spot as its market shows enormous potential for sports betting vendors.
According to 2014 estimates, more than 30% of the country’s population wagers on sports, and 56% of these people do so daily. The $5.5 million daily wagers on sports back this survey, and they bring the annual Nigerian total to about $2 billion. No one can have an exact figure, as many of these activities transpire on foreign sites. Local operators such as Bet9ja and NairaBet, have monthly turnovers of around $10 million and $5 million, respectively. Most Nigerian bettors prefer to bet at offshore platforms, and their sport of choice is naturally football, as most wagers happen on English Premier League games.
In 2018, audit and consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that the average gambling revenue growth rate in Kenya was 6.8% and that the market size hovered around $25 million.
The figure may not seem like much, but it was up $5 million compared to the 2014 number, and current projections put the market at about $50 million. The industry has been rising year to year, and experts believe that a pickup in economic growth and tourism expansion will continue this trend. Though many fear that terrorist activity may hamper the market, slow its progress. Kenyan’s also prefer to bet on football, and a 2017 Geopoll showed that 7 million Kenyans have accounts on gambling sites.
Other countries that pull in money from gambling-related activities include Morocco, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania. The latter’s gaming board reported that they expected to see $42 million in betting revenues for 2019, an $8 million improvement over their 2018 number. The mention nations are amongst those that regulate sports betting in some form.
Land-based gambling is rising throughout the globe as regions require new tax influxes, which leads lawmakers to pass legislation that allows gambling as the easiest way to achieve these goals. However, the online sector is making massive strides, and its industry size is currently at $66.7 billion. Though African land-based gaming revenues did dip in the mid-2010s, they should improve slightly over the next few years before they plateau and the digital segment takes over.
As a larger middle-class emerges, it will cause an increase in disposable income. That occurrence, coupled with enhanced connectivity and low-cost devices, will shift bettors online. A massive contributing factor will also be increased sociological gravitation towards western ideals, where internet betting is already becoming a pastime leisure activity.
Projections say that the African online betting market will double in size over the next four years, leading to improved taxation and more modern legislation.
Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, and Botswana should soon contribute significantly to the continent’s gaming revenues. Sports betting will remain the most favored wagering option, followed closely by classic table games and virtual slots.