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Sport Opinion South Africa

5 reasons sports betting is booming in SA

Any sports fan – and in South Africa, there are many millions of them – can’t have failed to notice how rapid the rise of online sports betting has been in the country. Over the past few years, something that many would previously have seen as a niche activity has firmly entered the mainstream.
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Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Sports betting companies now advertise heavily during big sporting events, sponsor major teams and tournaments and even hold the naming rights for certain stadiums. It’s also clear that there’s a growing appetite for sports betting among South African fans.

The South African betting industry, encompassing sports betting and online casinos, has witnessed exponential growth over the past few years, especially post Covid-19, with revenues skyrocketing from R8.8bn in FY2019/20 to R23.7bn in FY2022/23.

That kind of growth doesn’t happen on its own and even the most generous advertising budgets can only get you so far.

So, what’s really behind the rapid growth of sports betting in South Africa?

1. Popular sports poised for growth

Football is by far the most popular sport to bet on for South Africans, although there has been little growth in popularity in recent years. The typical football bettor bets smaller amounts, around R70 per bet.

Basketball is also popular with South African punters and is appealing to bettors who have the appetite to risk more per bet. The typical basketball bettor will bet R350 per play.

The popularity of tennis is also significant and is growing at steady rates of about 20% per year.

There was huge growth in the popularity of rugby in 2023, growing by almost 100% compared to the two preceding years. We can call it the Springbok effect! There was sizeable growth in the average bet size during 2023, a sign that South Africans had no doubts about the prospects of the Springboks.

Interestingly, there has been rapid growth in the popularity of darts, especially in 2023. This sport has grown by 75% since 2022 and is popular amongst people who are willing and able to risk larger amounts per bet, around R700 per bet.

Sportingbet accepts more than one million unique bets per day, and on some days even more than two million. Ultimately, in a nation as obsessed with sports as South Africa, sports betting will likely keep growing.

In doing so, it will create jobs, help grow the economy and, provided it’s practiced safely, bring people closer to their favourite sports.

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2. Increased awareness and visibility

One of the biggest factors in the growth of sports betting is simply increased awareness and visibility. While it’s true that advertising and sponsorships can only take you so far, they do make a significant difference.

Repeatedly seeing a sports betting provider’s name on a team kit or stadium signage will help ignite curiosity and get people to take a look at the provider’s website or download its app.

It’s also worth remembering that we live in an increasingly globalised world and that there are millions of South Africans living abroad. Those South Africans will have shared their sports betting experiences with family and friends back home, further nudging them towards it as a worthwhile activity.

We are also seeing a shift in player demographics. There has been rapid growth of women punters regularly betting in recent years, growing from 20% of new acquisitions in 2021 to 40% in 2023.

This has further been aided by the greater prominence of casino products in recent times, especially slot games.

3. Tech making sports betting fun and accessible

Many of the same technologies that have helped spread awareness around sports betting have also made it more accessible and convenient to participate in. Online sports betting has advanced considerably in the last three decades since it first began to gain traction.

Of particular importance for South Africa has been the rise of mobile sports betting apps. Some 92% of South Africans own a cellphone with around a third (26.3 million) owning a smartphone.

By contrast, just 27% of South Africans have access to a desktop in the house. Small wonder then that 60.5% of households access the internet primarily through cellphones.

So, while mobile apps have made sports betting more convenient and accessible for users around the world, their impact has been even greater in South Africa. Over the years, the user experience on those apps has also improved dramatically, further enhancing their appeal among sports betting customers.

4. Casino popularity and behaviour

Traditional casinos are increasingly building online gambling platforms to take advantage of the demand in online betting and gambling. Aviator is the most popular casino game by a unique player count by quite some distance. The typical player bets around R40 per bet on this game.

Slots and Aviator are growing rapidly, both at over 100% per annum, and stand to become the games of preference to the average person in South

Roulette, which has been traditionally popular in land-based casinos, is now growing online. It is now the most popular casino game by revenue and players typically bet much larger amounts than other types of casino games, around R250 per bet.

5. Enhanced regulation

None of those advances would have made a difference, however, if people didn’t feel safe participating in sports betting. Government regulation goes a long way to ensuring that people do feel that sense of safety.

The regulations that South African sports betting providers must adhere with include having a valid operating license, verifying that customers are over the age of 18, and implement responsible gambling programmes to promote safe practices. This encourages more South Africans to bet safely, securely and ultimately responsibly.

About Retief Uys,

Retief Uys, Head of Yield, Sportingbet
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