Smartphones: Sports Leagues & Online Casinos
Throughout Africa, major sports leagues such as Africa’s newly-formed Basketball Africa League (BAL) and the football league, Africa Cup of Nations (CAF AFCON) continue to attract millions of fans. Most leagues are nation-based rather than club-based, which means that fans root for their country as well as their favorite players. However, enthusiasts like to do more than catch a game—they like to place bets, as well.
In 2018, the sports betting market drew in $40 billion in the countries of Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria alone. People love to come together to root for their favorite team, but they also like to challenge their analytical skills and see if they can predict player or team outcomes.
However, it isn’t only sports betting that’s on the rise in Africa. While the game of poker and sports betting have almost invariable differences, they both rely on strong intellects and a splash of instinct—as well as access to the internet.
As of 2018, one third of cellphone users in Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 250 million people, have smartphones capable of accessing the internet. The proliferation of internet connection as well as betting and gaming apps are driving the rise of sports betting and poker throughout Africa.
Within a few moments, a fan of Nigeria’s women’s FIBA basketball team can place a bet on D’Tigers before switching applications to start a poker game. While being glued to a smartphone isn’t recommended for anyone, both sports betting and poker help the development concentration and mental analysis.
And, given that many poker professions, like Team PokerStars Pro Muskan Sethi of India, got their start in online games and tournaments, accessing poker via mobile phone or laptop can even be seen as a form of professional development.
Poker: Rising Since 2006
South Africa and Morocco are two nations with strong ties to professional poker. Unfortunately, anyone familiar with the continent will know that these two countries couldn’t be situated farther apart. This means that for those who live between the northwestern border and southern tip of Africa, a poker table may not be an easy find.
However, the rise of home poker games and online poker have given prospective players an opportunity to develop their skills remotely. In 2006, the first African was made a millionaire by professional play. This tournament, held in February of 2006 in Swaziland, is a good indicator of the rise of poker in Africa, as well as the diverse interest in the game.
90 African players entered the tournament, which lasted 20 hours. Players ranged from novices to professionals, and ages ranged from 21 to 74 years old. The event was televised and proved so popular that a second tournament was hosted just three months later in May 2006.
Today, there are multiple international poker series hosted throughout Africa in the likes of Morocco and South Africa, ranging from the World Series of Poker, to the World Poker Tour, and the All African Poker Series.
Johannesburg, South Africa tends to be the mainstay for top casinos, as it has an incredible variety to offer, such as the Tuscany-inspired Montecasino. However, Marrakesh in Morocco is also renowned for its casinos, which are fewer but considered by many to be finer, such as Casino de Marrakech, opened in 1952.
There are also new casinos popping up in the popular destination of Nairobi, Kenya. Casino Flamingo in particular is a good poker stop-off, though the country also boasts a large online gaming community, which means that both poker players and sports bettors will feel at home reclining with their smartphone.
As mentioned above, the rise of poker in Africa is largely due to the proliferation of smartphones. This means that players aren’t expected to make it to a table in South Africa, Morocco, or Kenya—though they should very well aspire to. Payouts for tournaments hosted in these countries number in the millions and some tournaments offer qualifiers a ticket to Las Vegas where the top global competitions are held annually. And, given that ‘Match Poker’ may soon be admitted to the Olympics, the realm of possibilities for poker players continues to expand.