Africa is emerging as one of the next big markets for the gambling industry, but laws and restrictions on the continent remain complicated. Each of the sovereign states that make up Africa have their own laws with regards to gambling and online gambling, with many of them outlawing both practices.
Accessing an online casino in the US, for example, is a relatively smooth process when they are in a legal state. There are dozens of different casino games and countless variations, however in Africa things are not so simple.
Gambling in general is only legal in a few African countries such as South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria, and each has varying laws for different aspects of the industry. In South Africa, for example, most forms of betting are legal and land-based casinos rake in the lion’s share of revenue.
In 2014, casinos in South Africa took in a reported $1.4bn, and that figure is still growing with each year that passes. However, online casinos are illegal in the region in any form. That law doesn’t just apply to institutions setting up online casinos, but also citizens using online casinos, even from international suppliers.
The situation is fairly similar in most other African countries. There are exceptions, such as Comoros, which have explicitly legalized online casinos, but for the most part they are either banned or completely unregulated.
In other countries, like Ghana, online sites are legal however there is little regulation of them and these sites in particular are notorious for bad practice and mistreatment of customers. Examples like this would benefit from regulation and monitoring from the African Union.
Comoros and Morocco are interesting outliers in that their populations are almost entirely Muslim, and Sharia law forbids gambling as haram. In most other African countries with significant Muslim populations, such as Algeria, gambling is largely illegal.
Some campaigners are pushing for a legal framework to be implemented across the continent to make the regulation and legalization of online casinos and online gambling in general easier and legitimate.
In those countries where online casinos aren’t regulated, there still aren’t any being developed because the risk is too high and without guidance from the state, the potential for legal issues is high.
In African countries where gambling is legal, punters generate huge amounts of revenue whether it’s through sports betting or casino games. Internet usage in Africa is also on the rise as more people have access to affordable smartphones and computers.
So, it’s clear to see why many suppliers and industry insiders view the continent as a potential hotbed of online gambling and casino activity, provided the right legal structures are in place.
The National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 would legalize online gambling in Africa and go a long way to providing such a framework for online casinos to use, however it still needs to be passed into law before it fully comes into effect. Though this hasn’t happened yet, many remain optimistic that it will be passed in the very near future.
Of course, there’s no getting past the fact that Africa remains the world’s poorest and least-developed continent, outside of Antarctica. Several African nations are dealing with widespread poverty and the legalization of online casinos will be very low on their list of priorities.
For those countries with slightly stronger economies, however, there is an opportunity to bolster their revenue with the introduction of online casinos and gambling. Take the UK, for example, whose gambling industry is worth approximately £14.2bn to its economy.
In the US, the online gambling market is valued at just under $2bn and is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years.
Changes in laws have had a large impact on the US online gambling industry; in 2011, the Department of Justice allowed states to pass their own legislation on gambling, meaning each state could legalize it if they wanted to. Then, in 2018, the US Supreme Court revoked the federal ban on sports betting.
In both the UK and the US online gambling and casinos are extremely well regulated and governed, which has led to huge levels of success for the industry. This, in turn, also benefits the countries themselves as they bring in a lot of revenue from the taxation of online gambling.
So, there is undoubtedly a precedent for Africa to follow but, as mentioned, it is an entire continent rather than just one country and does not have the economic resources of the UK and the US.
That being said, Africa would likely benefit from more cohesive regulation of online gambling and casinos, and better-developed countries like South Africa and Nigeria could then reap the benefits of tapping into a larger market.
The situation remains a complex one and it’s unlikely that there will be a widespread embrace of online casinos across the whole of Africa, but there are certainly areas in which they can thrive.