Know Your Player… African betting can transition to risk-based-approach 

Meeting an increase in consumer demand and operating scale across multiple markets, African operators are being pressured to significantly upgrade their customer KYC provisions.

The ‘Know Your Player’ panel at the SBC Digital Summit Africa observed that African betting will have to overcome ‘distinct market peculiarities’ in order to find a common approach on KYC as a corporate discipline.

Robert Griffin, CEO at MIRACL, opened the discussion by bluntly ‘asking that flawed European question of ‘what does KYC in Africa look like?’

The panel then looked to Sandisiwe Bhengu, Business Partner IBranch Support for South African operator Hollywoodbets, to provide an on-the-ground perspective of operations.

“On our side of the world we are well versed in KYC, as South African has an advanced banking system that is regularly updated with technological advancements,” she said.

Bhengu maintained that under South African law, all customers must submit an ID number and verify their physical address. She added: “South African compliance challenges remain in terms of servicing certain segments of society such as those that ‘live in in-formal dwellings.”

In her opening statement, Bhengu also shared her amusement at how African markets are described with scare stories of ‘unbanked customers who want no part in KYC’, instead underlining that all compliance challenges are commonly known by operators and regulators.

African market legal expert Garron Whitesman, Partner at Whitesman Lurie, agreed with Bhengu’s statement, labelling South Africa as the market outliner in which bookmakers such as Hollywoodbets have been able to implement a risk-based-approach on the command of  South Africa’s Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC). 

Whitesman highlighted ‘FIC success’ as proof that African markets can move to a safer risk-based-approach for their operations.

“It’s interesting to compare periods, as there was a time when FIC recommendations to bookmakers were quite frankly all over the place,” he said. “This has changed since the risk-based-approach was adopted.

“The emphasis now is on the bookmaker to really behave and do its duties with regards to fraud and compliance, within the context of understanding player habits and where players funds are coming from.”

Whitesman believes that what South Africa has achieved in a short space of time can be replicated by others, with foreign governments replicating South Africa’s agency structures, duties and standards.

Working across multiple African jurisdictions, Whitesman stated that certain government’s continue to carry a certain bias towards land-based operators, taking the stance that “online gambling should still be mistrusted”.  

He added: “The argument that I have been espousing for many years, against many government viewpoints is that online betting is more dangerous, is just completely out of kilter with reality. 

“Online we are far more able to determine someone’s identity, where they live and source of income. Players are monitored closely, whilst in a land-based facility, no one cares if that player has been excluded.” 


SBC Digital Summit Africa (6 – 7 October 2020) is the leading virtual conference and exhibition for the African betting and gaming industry. It features more than 60 expert speakers sharing insights and ideas about the future of markets across Africa, with all 17 conference sessions available both live and on-demand. 

Delegates can also enjoy a programme of networking roundtables and an interactive product display area showcasing the latest industry innovations. Click here to register for your free pass.

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