The billions of rand South Africans spend on betting on sports, horse racing, lotteries, and other forms of gambling annually are proof that the nation enjoys its winning chances. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing gamblers to find new ways of placing bets, and one of those is betting on simulated sports.
Speaking to reporters, Phumelela Gaming’s sports betting manager Rob Scott said that sports betting, particularly football, and lotteries were the main gambling activities in the country.
With the cancellation of almost all major sporting events and horse races, as well as the temporary closure of casinos and betting shops, gamblers in South Africa increasingly are looking for options online. Prior to the outbreak caused by the coronavirus, most bettors supported land-based betting shops.
Pandemic Forces Change
COVID-19 has brought change to the betting and gambling industries in different ways. The most obvious change has been a noticeable decline in revenue, but that is not all. Operators also have had to introduce new products to try to make up for the lack in live sports betting opportunities.
Speaking to the media, Betting World digital manager Keith Bolton said that a drop in revenue was the reason the company introduced products that offer betting on simulated sports. The hope is that the new sports-themed products will provider bettors with engaging options until the pandemic ends, lockdowns are lifted, and the sporting world returns to normal.
One of the new products is Jika, a realistic simulated horserace that bettors can even watch on TV stations dedicated to betting. Another product, which uses similar technology, offers simulated soccer matches. New games are played every 6 minutes.
eSports Betting Growing In SA
According to Bolton, there is a growing awareness and support of the growth of eSports betting in South Africa. eSports can be described as competitive video gaming. It already is a multi-million-dollar sport internationally, and it is being considered as an Olympic event.
However, that still has a long way to go before it reaches anywhere near the level of eSports betting in North America, Europe, and Asia. Bolton said that more local punters are beginning to place bets on the FIFA multi-player football-themed game. More punters also are betting on multi-player games such as League of Legends, Defence of the Ancients (DOTA), and StarCraft.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to even greater support of eSports betting overseas. According to reports, US bookmaker Draft Kings said that it saw 50 times more betting on eSports in March and Betway South Africa is one of the top operators who offer a wide range of eSport to bet on.
Difficult Introductions For New Products
Introducing new betting products is not smooth sailing for brands such as Betting World. Bolton explained that many bettors are reluctant to embrace new products as they are set on betting on their favourite sports.
He added that, even though South Africans were spending millions on betting on simulated sports during lockdown, the numbers do not come close to the amount of money spent on betting on live football matches and other sports.