Given you played hockey for South Africa, what attracted you to working in the gaming industry as opposed to working in a purely sport-related role?
The marriage of technology and sport in the gaming industry was the biggest attraction. With that mix, the people who work in the industry are generally fast-paced as well as being ambitious and fun – three qualities I enjoy being exposed to.
What have you learned about the industry in your journey to becoming CEO of BetTech Gaming?
It’s easy to get pulled in many directions. The key is to focus. Then you’ll see traction. My role at the European companies helped me understand that emerging markets are different to the more established gaming markets. It’s imperative to have a localised technology and service offering. Understanding the way of life in the markets is key to making sure your product offering is spot on. It’s hard work running operators in emerging markets like Africa. As an operator you need to be able to rely on your technology partners to react quickly and offer supporting services to help your operation.
Why did you decide to come back to the industry as Ladbrokes eGaming marketing manager in 2011 after a year away?
I missed the pace and opportunities the gaming industry presents. The gaming industry will be attractive for anyone who likes to be kept on their toes and solving issues. It was an easy decision for me to return to the industry as I missed it while I was out of it. The pace and opportunities in terms of forward movement and creativity to solutions are addictive.
Looking at BetTech’s operations, how likely is it that you could advance your offerings to more verticals beyond sports betting?
Within sports betting there are big opportunities for betting on numbers games and virtual games. Perhaps the opportunity in Africa for other verticals rather lies with the Asian/European communities living in Africa. From my experience, the local African communities love sports betting and there’s not an easy crossover into other verticals.
What does Africa need to do in order to keep up with other continental markets?
Bets are flowing in the retail environment in Africa – probably in higher volumes and with lower stakes than Europe. When you travel through the African cities you will be amazed at the amount of betting shops there are. All these shops are full, any time of the day. Africa has it’s own gaming way and I think to operate here it’s important to adapt your mindset and not compare it to Europe and UK markets, thinking you’ll do here what you do there. The markets are different and diverse.
From my experience, the local African communities love sports betting and there’s not an easy crossover into other verticalsThe right technology, service and content partner coupled with great operations and marketing teams presents unlimited opportunity in Africa. Where operators fall down is when they underestimate the operational discipline, experience and determination needed to become a successful operator in Africa. We have often seen operators blindly copying what they see their competitors offer and it might not necessarily be the right moves for their particular business.
What are the biggest challenges Africa faces in increasing its presence in the industry?
Corruption, regulatory uncertainty and poor infrastructure. It’s key to build strong relationships with regulators to ensure there’s a healthy channel for communication. Software providers can be an aid to governments in that your software enables the gambling or lottery departments in governments to regulate the industry. Poor infrastructure is mostly highlighted in heavy traffic congestion. It can easily take two hours to travel 15km in peak hours.
What are the chances you will expand into new continental markets?
Very good. We get a lot of enquiries from emerging markets, such as Latin America. It’s definitely a continent we keep an eye on due to similarities to Africa. North America is also an interesting continent we’re watching closely. For the moment we are focused on and excited about Africa – a vast continent where sports betting is a way of life.