5 Trends that will shape South Africa’s online betting landscape in 2024

Online betting in South Africa is booming and is rapidly dominating the country’s gambling market, writes Brenton Chelin, Head of Brand at Sportingbet.

Worldwide, the industry is expected to grow at 10.3% annually, to be worth US$182.12 billion by 2030. According to the National Gambling Board 2022/2023 Report, gross gambling revenue in South Africa more than doubled to R47.2bn in 2022/23 from R23.25bn in 2020/21.

Something that was once the preserve of physical bookies moved first into the web and onto apps. With that shift has come a whole slew of innovations that have completely changed the online betting sector; and that growth is rapidly accelerating.

“What we are really seeing is the shift of established physical casinos opening their own online gaming operations and online sports books,”says Brenton Chelin, Head of Brand of Sportingbet, one of South Africa’s most popular and well-established online sports betting companies.  

“Along with the increase in accessibility and interest in sports betting, we are also seeing a changing demographic and an appetite for new games such as the rapid growth of Aviator.”

But what are the innovations driving change in online betting right now? And what impact might they have in the future?      

  • The rise of AI and advanced responsible gambling controls

Sports betting is far from immune to the changes being wrought by artificial intelligence (AI), according to Chelin. “One major application of AI on the betting companies’ side is odds calculation. Using AI algorithms, it’s possible to analyse historical data and real-time information to ensure that betting odds are as accurate as possible.”

Brenton Chelin, Head of Brand at Sportingbet

From an AI perspective, according to Chelin, a global trend that has the potential to grow in SA is responsible gaming controls, used to identify early signs of problematic behaviour and provide warnings and pop-ups to players that may be at risk.

“The rise of AI in sports betting is particularly focused on gambling controls; limiting customer exposure to risk at an individual level. It switches our player protection approach from reactive to proactive, and allows players to receive the intervention they need in real time, not after the fact. AI features in sports betting have real-time interaction triggers, generated when the system’s AI identifies increased risk factors in a player’s behaviour.

Criteria for these triggers include; unusual deposits; increased time spent on sites; use of multiple payment types and; declined deposits. This allows a sports betting company to monitor user behaviour, act quickly and help ensure responsible gambling.”

  • Growth in women’s sports

“While South Africa has always been a sporty nation, its international sporting profile has probably never been higher and this is especially true for women’s sports,” says Chelin. 

“Women’s tennis has always been popular, but we are starting to see more people betting on other women’s sport such as football, cricket and netball. With this growth in sports audiences comes increased betting activity; which increases the thrill and fun element of watching sports.”

Banyana Banyana have been the most successful team on the continent recently, winning the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations crown and qualifying for back-to-back World Cups, and now have their eyes set on the Olympics.

“Last year was a landmark one for women’s sport in South Africa with two locally hosted World Cups and Banyana Banyana performing on the global stage at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Throw in the performances of the Mamelodi Sundowns women’s team in the CAF Champions League and it’s clear that we are trending in the right direction. This has the virtuous circle of bringing increased media attention, sponsorships and broadcast revenue, all of which indicate a bright future for women’s sport in South Africa.”

  • Previously niche competitive sports are increasing in popularity

While traditional sports such as soccer, rugby and cricket will likely be mainstays of the sports betting sector for some time to come in South Africa, a growing number of niche sports are attracting bettors too. Whether it’s table tennis, darts, mixed martial arts, or the rise of celebrity boxing bouts, all have attracted growing interest from punters. US sports such as the National Basketball Association (NBA)  and National Football League (NFL) have also attracted a new betting audience in South Africa. 

“American sports have seen a steady rise in interest in South Africa with events like the Basketball African League and the NFL Experience bringing fans closer to these sports. This, along with the addition of ESPN, have contributed to a spike in betting on US sports,” says Chelin.

  • Gamification in sports betting

One of the biggest challenges for any app is customer retention. It’s something that sports betting apps feel especially keenly. Gamification, or the incorporation of game-like elements, such as competition, points, rewards, and interactive features, into non-game contexts, can help reverse that. 

By incorporating elements such as rewards, badges, and leaderboards, sports betting apps can keep users engaged and interested. 

  • Embracing technology evolution in sports betting

“The online betting space has changed dramatically over the years, but its evolution is far from over,” says Chelin.

Software developers are developing sports betting features that focus on personalisation where your previous betting performance will be taken into account using recommendation engines. This helps punters make better informed decisions based on their betting and improves the whole sports betting experience.

“Technology will keep driving advancements and will keep changing the way people think about and engage with the sector. It’s critical, therefore, that operators in the sector keep up with these trends and advancements. Those that don’t risk being left behind.” 

“SA is five years behind the more mature markets such as the UK. But we need to make sure that we aren’t just taking what has worked in Europe and simply transplant it into the South African marketplace. There needs to be a consideration for the local audience, what they want to bet on and how they will make use of our platform” concludes Chelin.

Related articles

Giving fans the WOW of the action

Absolutely astounding camera work shown in this clip from the NFL that was published on the House of Highlights Instagram […]

More social media for sport stars.

Let’s start with something that’s fun – because that’s why people go to social media – to have fun. https://www.instagram.com/p/B0E_Eungx9U/ […]