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Tech Progression and the Rise of iGaming in South Africa

South Africa has seen a rapid proliferation of online gambling activity, with the industry expected to generate over $800 million in 2024 alone. In this article, we unpack some of the key technological innovations that have shaped the burgeoning mobile igaming industry thus far.

Over the past decade, the Rainbow Nation has seen a rapid proliferation of online gambling activity, generating considerable revenue at home and interest abroad. South Africa’s flourishing iGaming industry and remarkable growth rate is part of a success story that could serve as a key example for other nations. But what are the main reasons for the South African iGaming boom, and how crucial have technological advancements been in terms of developing this exponential market growth?

ZA iGaming Market Leads the Way in Africa

The South African online gambling industry is expected to generate a whopping revenue of $828.50m in 2024, with a projected market volume of R1,053.00m expected by the year 2028. While these figures may pale in comparison to market leaders like the USA (which is set to generate around US$23,030.00m in revenue this year), ZA accounts for around half of the total online gambling revenue in Africa as a whole. Indeed, the Rainbow Nation’s embracing of online gambling has both encouraged and propelled the growth of similarly fruitful iGaming industries in other nations on the continent, such as Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.But what have been the key technological innovations that have shaped the burgeoning national industry thus far?

The Rise of Mobile iGaming

If one technological advancement has had the most impact on gaming habits in South Africa, it is surely the rapid acceleration of smartphones and the rocketing rate of smart device ownership amongst the growing middle class. With smartphones becoming increasingly affordable and accessible, more South Africans are turning to mobile-optimized gambling sites and online casinos to play the games they love. Because many iGamers in the Rainbow Nation have displayed a propensity for live dealer games, sports betting apps, and mobile casino games, the emergence of accessible smartphones has undeniably positively impacted the nation’s online gambling industry, entertainment industry, and the quality of e-services overall. A small selection of the most popular casino apps in the country includes Jackpot Party Casino Slots, Winning Jackpot Slots Casino, and Quick Hit Casino Slot Games. It has been projected that there will be up to 16.9 million consumers in the national mobile gaming market by the year 2027.

The Impact of High-Speed Internet

It was not until 2008 that 10 Gbit/s internet was achieved in ZA, but the speed has been increasing ever since. The South Africa Connect broadband policy was established in 2013, while in 2020, 346 million rands were allocated to the extension of high-speed connectivity for low-income areas of the country. Along with the rolling out of high-speed internet, South Africa has seen the widespread digitalization of products and services, including online entertainment. While the country may have taken longer than its European counterparts to utilize digitalization, this relatively delayed reaction seems beneficial. Although the online gambling landscape in the Rainbow Nation may be relatively new, it has proven highly attractive to offshore operators, who may face more stringent regulatory barriers when setting up shop in other territories.

The Regulation of Online Casinos

South African online gambling is subject to the National Gambling Act of 2004, which does not permit games of chance or interactive games. Even though online casino gaming is technically illegal according to the national regulatory framework, operators have still found ways to bypass legislation and provide popular online casino options like slot roulette and draw games to South African players. This has largely been achieved by sticking to the framework allocated to sports betting, such as enabling RNG roulette games that do not necessitate players to spin the wheel to play physically or provide internationally (rather than locally) regulated games. To those looking for a brief and comprehensive overview, explore the list of the top casino sites in 2024 identified by Top10Casinos.com’s research, which provides important insights into a wide array of operators currently doing business in the country. Currently, the most popular online casinos include Tropez Casino, Springbok, Yeti, and Europa Casino. Due to the somewhat confusing and murky state of iGaming regulation in ZA, further regulations designed to influence the access of offshore operators and strengthen the country’s regulatory framework will be introduced in the coming years. While this could initially negatively affect overall market revenue, stronger regulations are likely to keep players safer and provide a long-term boost for domestic operators.

The Increase of Sports Betting

As well as a surge in the number of South Africans choosing to play real money games with online casinos, we’ve also seen more people in the Rainbow Nation make use of sports betting apps to place wagers on the hottest matches and sporting events. In 2024 alone, the online sports betting market is expected to generate a market volume of ZAR 394.80m, with most bettors choosing to place wagers with operators including Sportingbet, 10bet, and Betway. Like most regulated sports betting markets, iGamers can place wagers on a variety of sports events, with the most popular including cricket, horse racing, football, rugby, and boxing. Undoubtedly, tech progressions have had a major impact on the increasingly productive sports betting industry, with the most notable including blockchain & crypto, smartphone accessibility, and high-speed internet.

AR, VR & Crypto Capability

The dawning of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin provided challenges and new opportunities for developing iGaming markets like ZA. Crypto is currently legal in South Africa, meaning iGaming operators may enable users to make payments and withdrawals using popular coins such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, and Dash. These flexible payment options have proven particularly popular in developing countries and amongst lower-income users with less access to traditional fiat currencies or mainstream payment methods. As well as crypto, iGaming operators doing business in the country have also wholeheartedly embraced the use of VR and AR in their games, which will only become more popular as optimized headsets become more affordable over the next decade.

What’s Next for the South African iGaming Industry?

There are now more South Africans playing real money games on smartphones and mobile devices than ever before. This is due to the increasing availability of relatively cheap mobile devices and the proliferation of digitalization and e-services in the Rainbow Nation. As well as providing competitive access to mobile casino games and sports betting apps, many of the best South African online casinos have also utilized popular tech trends such as blockchain, crypto, VR, and AR to improve their e-services and provide a more immersive, flexible and rewarding iGaming landscape for their players. Only time will tell how the industry shifts and changes in the coming years, especially regarding how long relatively new tech trends may last and resonate with consumers and how much any incoming regulatory frameworks may affect operators’ ability to do business. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that South Africa’s pro-active technological stance has worked wonders for the iGaming industry so far and should continue to do so in the coming years.

Editor's Desk
Editor's Desk
Curated by editor-in-chief, Tankiso Komane, this special collection of articles from the Editor's Desk unpacks topics of the day, including commentary, in-depth analysis and partner content.
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