Online casinos and online gambling are on the rise across the globe. The internet and modern technology have opened up the industry and brought players’ favourite games straight into their homes or offices.

Adding to the increasing popularity of online casinos is the massive growth of the mobile gambling market – players that use tablets or mobile phones to access their preferred online casinos and online games.

South Africa has one of the world’s biggest mobile gambling markets, and the Guru went into investigative mode to find out why:

South Africa is a microcosm of Africa as a whole

As the country that sits right on the southernmost tip of Africa, it’s no surprise that South Africa reflects the trends that happen across this huge continent. What may be surprising are the reasons behind these trends – especially when it comes to technology and mobile technology in specific.

There are glaring differences in lifestyles, cultures, wealth, languages, customs and traditions across the continent that is home to the most countries in the world. But the 54 countries that make up this vibrant and exciting continent do all tend to mirror each other in terms of how technological progress is introduced and how digital habits spread.

And it’s all driven by the youth.

The youngest continent in the world

Africa – driven by sub-Saharan Africa – is the youngest population globally. It’s estimated that 60% of the African population is under the age of 25. And we all know that the youth are drivers of innovation.

Add the rampant unemployment (420 million youths are unemployed) and you have a population that are looking for opportunities, that have the time and the opportunity to embrace technology, and who are willing to experiment, refine and drive new avenues of wealth and entertainment.

Avenues like mobile or smartphone gambling.

The growth of access

But why mobile gambling? Why not more online gambling and online casino players?

The unique circumstances of Africa – it’s young population, unemployment, lack of solid infrastructure in many areas – has led to unique solutions for the population. Africa has adopted cellular technology to a far greater degree than other continents. Where Europe, Asia and North America have invested in infrastructure that powers digital access through computers and networks focused on home and office use, Africa has, through necessity, invested in mobile tech to overcome the obstacles of vast distances, overwhelmingly rural areas and a lack of access to dependable networks in the home.

Smartphones are an everyday part of life in Africa, and South Africa is no different. With hundreds of options from basic mobiles to top-end smartphones and a growing network of coverage from suppliers, the mobile phone is the go-to device for our people. Mobile penetration was, for example, sitting at 72% in Cameroon in 2016 and we can only assume has grown exponentially since then.

With the immense popularity of mobile phones and the ease of access brought by wi-fi, it’s no surprise that this audience has been able to access far more than just the ability to have a chat. It has given them the opportunity to see the world and to become a part of events and happenings on a global scale.

Especially in the world of sports.

Bringing international content to Africa

The wide spread of mobile technology has brought with it the ability for African fans to access sporting events from around the world – and to bet on the results.

Sports betting was the beginning of mobile gambling for the people of the continent. South Africans know just how popular sports betting is, from cricket to soccer to anything where you can put a wager on your favourite team or player.

And South Africans know just how passionate our people are about their favourite teams.

While we are used to seeing Saffers walking around with Bafana Bafana shirts or Bokke jerseys or Proteas kit, it is just as common to see them wearing the colours of Chiefs or Pirates or even Man U or Liverpool. Sport is something that brings out our competitive spirit and our eagerness for having a flutter.

Bringing international sporting events to African fans has also opened up international opportunities for gambling via mobile.

And the step from sports betting to online gaming is a quick and easy one.

Digital smarts

As for any young person in the modern digital-driven world, learning new skills is easy, and gambling is no different. All the rules and strategies of games like poker and blackjack, all the tips on online slots, are the touch of a browser away.

And while the ease of access to real money gambling can bring with it issues like problem gambling, it also opens up a world of entertainment – one which has been enthusiastically embrace by smartphone users in South Africa.

Because, if the tech is there, the people will make use of it.

Tech innovations

While the growth and popularity of mobile tech is predominantly driven by the aforementioned youth of the African market, it is by no means exclusive to them.

Games developers have seen the growth in mobile use and are investing in bringing the best that the online gambling world can offer to the mobile player. This fortunate side effect has allowed a huge player group in South Africa the ability to carry the best games from the best developers offered by the best online casinos right in their pocket.

Far from having to wait until they are in front of a desktop to play, now they can spend time on their preferred recreational pursuits whenever they want and wherever they are.

This growth in mobile gambling is also spurring the number of online casinos who are opening their platforms to South African players and welcoming the South African Rand, which in turn spurs the players to add more mobile casinos and mobile games to their online casino experience.

The growth will continue

The technology can only get better and bring more innovation to the mobile gambling world. Which will lead to more mobile players.

For South Africans, this can be a double-edged sword. While we are seeing a bigger take up of mobile gambling, we are also seeing a lot more irresponsible behaviour.

Having the casino always on you means a lot more time spent there – especially in these awful times of lockdown and quarantine and pandemic and job loss. Players need to be responsible and they need to take care. Mobile gambling, any gambling, should be a fun exercise. When it becomes a habit, it becomes a problem.

The Guru is a huge fan of all forms of gambling but we always urge players, new and seasoned, to make sure they are gambling responsibly and with safe and trusted partners.

Mobile gambling on smartphones is no different. Do it for the enjoyment. Do it responsibly.