WrB Africa: Build online without dismantling retail, African operators told

WrB Africa: Build online without dismantling retail, African operators told

Thursday, March 3, 2016
Akin Alabi is the head of Nairabet, Nigeria's biggest betting operator

Betting operators in Africa cannot afford to disregard their retail operations despite the riches on offer online, according to the head of Nigeria’s biggest bookmaker.

Akin Alabi, the chief executive of Nairabet, told TotallyGaming.com that he is expecting a digital boom in the region in the coming years, not least due to the proliferation of mobile phones.

While operators may identify the appeal of online in terms of potential customer base and operational costs, Alabi said the market must change gradually to keep in line with players’ expectations and requirements.

Alabi – whose company was the first to offer legal online betting in Nigeria - was speaking ahead of his appearance at this year’s WrB Africa event in Lagos, where he will lead a session entitled ‘Converting Retail To Online’.

“The retail market is way bigger than the online market in Nigeria,” Alabi said. “A lot of people feel more comfortable walking to the shop near them to place bets rather than going online to create and account, fund it and place pay-out requests.

“I, however, think operators can see the goldmine in online because you can reach more people without leaving your office. Also, managing staff and agents of retail outlets can be a pain. Operators believe eventually, online will be the king but no one is ready to take their focus off the streets because of the share volume of people out there.

“However, we must also realise that unlike two years ago, most people now have smart phones, even the poor, and the numbers can only increase. With this, more and more people will go online.

“Retail will never die but operators will reduce their emphasis on it and reduce the cost they put into it.”

WrB Africa, which is organised by ICE Totally Gaming operator Clarion Events, will offer two days of insight into the sub-Saharan Africa gambling industry when it takes place in Nigeria next month. With an extensive learning programme, led by figures from gaming authorities and senior executives such as Alabi, attendees will discover more about the current regulatory landscape and gain further understanding of key market opportunities.

Alabi’s session will include tips on operations, from software to infrastructure, as well as insight into marketing strategies and advice on converting retail customers to online. At the session, Alabi will tell attendees that they should pursue a dual approach, at least in the short term, as well as discussing wider issues in Nigerian gaming.

“Online is the future of sports betting in Nigeria, but my advice to those making the move is to keep their retail presence at least for a few years,” he said. “Most punters like the idea that they can go to a physical shop to show their grievances in case something goes wrong. People want to deal with people, not machines.

“I also want to discuss the challenges we have faced in the industry so far - such as regulation and security – as well as the importance of self-regulation and how we are trying to achieve that through the Association of Nigerian Bookmakers.”

* WrB Africa will take place in Lagos, Nigeria from April 11-12. For more information visit http://africa.wrbriefing.com

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