Africa Gambling Operators Fall Prey To COVID-19

Across Africa, gambling operators prove no more resilient to the coronavirus COVID-19’s negative effects than those in any other industry.

Until recently, it seemed that Africa has escaped the kind of chaos that the rest of the planet has undergone because of the pandemic . Yet the continent is gradually catching up with the rest of the world, as the number of reported cases in South Africa is close to 1,000 and Kenya has just registered its first death.

This week the Betting Control and Licensing Board of Kenya released a circular requiring all betting shops and casinos to close their doors immediately, effective until further notice. Radio and television operators were ordered to stop all advertising about gambling and betting.

Ivan Kalanzi, the Ugandan-and Rwandan-licensed brand ambassador for GAL Sports Betting, told the BBC that the profits of his business had plummeted “about 99 percent” after the major sports leagues started to suspend play and the governments started to force non-essential retail companies to close their doors.

Kalanzi noted that East African countries–Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda–depend heavily on land-based betting shops, with “maybe just 30 percent” of online wagering customers. Worse, those online betters are the ones who tend to bet on the major international leagues of football, “that’s a total mess.”

Adellah Agaba, the country manager of Betway in Uganda, told the Daily Monitor that her company made about 75 percent of their local business through sports betting, and that “clients are reluctant to place bets” on the new, also-run leagues that still operate. Yet, as with other Western operators, Agaba believes or hopes that this would lead to increased participation in other vertical games, including slots and virtual sports.

As of today (March 27) South Africa will cease all racing fixtures until 17 April at the least. The eight courses of the nation had attempted to carry on as usual’ behind closed doors’ but then South African President Cyril Ramaphosa chose to shut down the country to avoid further transmission of COVID-19.

Casino operator Sun International, which closed its gaming facilities in Latin America last week, on Tuesday closed its casinos in South Africa too and local competitor Tsogo Sun Holdings followed suit on Wednesday.

The National Gambling Board of South Africa released a statement, urging the public to “avoid the temptation to access unlicensed gambling operators, which may still be operational despite the preventive measures in place, whether physically or on online platforms.”

Some Kenyan punters advised the BBC that their present shortage of betting options meant they were saving money but at least one bettor saw that as a bad trade-off for being deprived of the illusion that a life-changing jackpot is just around the corner. “That hope is shattered for now … it’s boring that there’s no betting.”