The eSports industry has revolutionised the way betting companies and bettors offer and consume markets. Thanks to the likes of FIFA and League of Legends, the sportsbooks don’t need to focus on actual matches. Instead, punters can watch remote contests and predict the winner.
It’s not a secret that the sector has blossomed in the last decade, with the latest valuation putting revenues at R2.3 billion. By 2024, it could be worth R1 trillion. However, South Africa, like many countries, has a complicated relationship with eSports and wagering, begging the question: “what does the future hold for the industry?”
The Current State of eSports Betting in South Africa
You’ll be glad to hear that eSports betting in South Africa isn’t illegal. This is because it falls under the sports betting category, which is allowed under the nation’s legislation. Online casino gambling is outlawed, but since the activity is a sport (the clue is in the title!), eSports have proceeded in this part of the Southern Hemisphere relatively unscathed.
The National Gambling Act of 2004
If you like the fine detail, it’s all in the National Gambling Act of 2004. Under this act, all forms of online gambling within South Africa are illegal, including slot machines, poker, blackjack, and bingo. Yet, there’s no mention of sports, and by extension, eSports. As a result, the sector has continued to grow and appeal to customers who are interested in guessing which player will win the latest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Dota 2 tournament.
So What’s the Problem?
There isn’t an issue in terms of finding legal, high-quality eSports betting markets in South Africa and taking advantage of the value. Several companies are within the boundaries of the law, so as long as you choose correctly, you’ll be fine. Still, a couple of factors can get in the way of the experience.
Firstly, an operator requires a licence to offer eSports sportsbooks in South Africa. If they don’t, you may be liable for using their services. This applies to offshore providers, too, which is pretty unique to SA. Secondly, it’s not only the operator who is prosecuted. Account holders are also on the hook, making it risky to gamble on any sports without being 100% sure that the platform has a permit that’s in date.
Due to these factors, the South African eSports scene isn’t strong. For example, there are very few professional eSports players in the country, and they make around R4 million in a good year. China, on the other hand, has over 41 top male players who earn around R200 million on average each year.
What Can South Africa Do?
If the country is serious about investing in the eSports industry, it can simplify the rules surrounding playing and betting. For instance, ensuring regular people aren’t legally liable would be a start. That way, more users would feel comfortable getting into the industry and taking the necessary steps to turn pro.
Also, a federal permit could encourage punters to invest in eSports betting. Currently, the provinces control which operators are awarded a licence for their region. However, it doesn’t apply to other areas of South Africa. A nationwide licence seems like a smart idea as more providers would enter the market, boosting the South African eSports market.
South Africa and eSports are forming a healthy relationship, but it could be better. If the landscape was less complicated, everything from public participation to the economic performance would flourish.