If the recent pandemic is teaching us anything, it is that businesses need to adapt to a new reality. Throughout the ongoing lockdowns, brick-and-mortar casinos in SA were left standing empty for months at a time. In this new reality, how are casinos able to keep generating a profit? How can they meet the demand of South African gamblers seeking a safe & convenient way to keep gambling?
These issues were discussed at the opening day of the SBC Digital – Africa conference at the panel called ‘Lie of the Land: The future of brick-and-mortar casinos’. Most pertinent to the South African situation was the question asked: ‘Is the SA casino gaming industry being left in the dirt simply because it refuses to adopt online gambling?
Some of the biggest experts in the South African gambling industry gave their input during the discussions, including Garron Whitesman, Roy Bannister, the co-founder and executive director at Gaming for Africa, Alessandro Fried, founder of BtoBet and Nitesh Matai, the GM of SunBet.
Martin Sack, the director of Brainstorm Online, continued in the discussion in favour of online casinos in South Africa, as an expansion of brick-and-mortar casinos. “I think if you take a look at the major players in the land-based industry in South Africa, it’s absolutely clear that there is a desire to have an online presence in some way shape or form,” he said.
“I don’t believe there is anybody in the land-based industry left in South Africa that is fighting against online or any of the contingencies for online. There were issues last year where some of the contingencies were hotly debated but those seem to have just disappeared.” Garron Whitesman agreed with Martin Sack, saying that he was convinced that the South African land-based casino industry is keen to go online.
Also commenting was Nitesh Matai, who said that online gambling in South Africa could only become a reality if it was done with the proper regulation and through the proper legal channels.
“We work within a very defined and regulated corporate environment as well as a very defined and corporate and regulated gaming environment,” he said. “It’s very easy for an international operator that isn’t subject to those regulations and corporate governance that we are in South Africa, as a listed entity, to come into this market and have a dip.” Matai concluded that the industry has the desire, the need and the appetite to go online “but it has to come within a framework that’s properly regulated and managed,” he said.
In recent months, and in light of the huge losses that they took during COVID-19 lockdowns, South African casino operators such as Sun International and Tsogo Sun have quietly indicated their support for the adoption of online gambling legislation. They have spoken of their support of a legal online casino industry to operate alongside the already regulated online sports betting industry in South Africa.
The operators call for the need to update their business models, so that they can avoid retrenching staff and closing properties in the future.