Since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, online gambling has gone from relative obscurity to a mammoth sector, with a global market value exceeding $63 billion. Online gambling is immensely popular all over the world, with markets on all continents, although it is governed by varied regulations (or none at all) in regional areas. The online gambling landscape in Africa has seen notable growth and development in recent years, propelled by improved internet access and communication infrastructure, a boom in smartphone usage, and evolving regulatory frameworks.
Africa is a continent of diverse cultures and economies, and this diversity is reflected in the online gambling market, with different sports, betting options, casino games, and lotteries available from country to country. Let’s take a closer look.
Africa’s online gambling boom
As with many areas of the developing world, Africa’s gambling market has been experiencing rapid growth. This can be attributed in part to the continent’s youthful population, which is more tech-savvy and open to online entertainment, and with the near-ubiquity of mobile devices, especially smartphones, mobile gambling has become increasingly popular. Many Africans access the internet via their phones, as computers aren’t nearly as widespread, and naturally, this includes sports books, casinos, and other forms of online gambling. Governments are also picking up on the large tax revenue that can be gathered from local operators, which makes up a valuable part of the economy in regulated countries.
The legality of gambling in Africa
The regulatory environment for online gambling varies widely across African countries, and although only a handful have an outright ban on gambling (Somalia, Morocco, and Egypt – generally Muslim nations with strong religious values), most nations fall into an unregulated but tolerant grey area. However, some have slightly more robust legislation surrounding online gambling. Here are a few of those:
SA has the most developed online gambling scene on the continent, thanks largely to its flourishing economy and high standard of living, which gives residents more spending power than people from some other African countries. When the ANC came to power they realised the value of the gambling market to the economy, and thus the National Gambling Act of 1996 legalised online sports betting, online casinos, and lottery. Tourists and residents can find comparison sites of online casinos where they can enjoy slot machines and other popular games. South Africa is a sports-loving nation, so it’s not a surprise to find numerous bookmakers offering a wide array of betting options.
The second largest market in Africa, a recent study of the Nigerian general population found that 36% of adult respondents had gambled and 53% of these people were daily gamblers (and this is a population of over 213 million). The population of the country is young and tech-savvy, and mobile use is widespread — Nigeria’s flourishing economy, high literacy level, broadband internet connectivity, and sports heritage also account for the growth of the industry. The country is regulated by the 2005 Gambling Act. This legislation doesn’t actually specify online gambling provisions in any form — however, the government issues licenses to operators who meet the criteria.
Kenya boasts the third-largest online gambling market on the continent, fuelled by its young population and vibrant sports culture. It also has some of the most robust and clearly defined laws on gambling, which have been legal in the country since 1966. Not only does that mean that people can enjoy their gaming without worrying about the reliability of the operator, but it also means that the government reaps enormous financial rewards from the industry — it’s now worth more than $50 million in tax revenue. It took until 2011 for clear provisions to be laid out in the legislation, but before that time operators could obtain a license, subject to scrutiny and a refundable deposit based on the original 1966 act.
Most African countries don’t have specific legislation that covers online sportsbooks and casinos. Residents of these countries can often access off-shore sites where they can place bets and enjoy casino games using a virtual private network (VPN). Online casinos are often frowned upon more than online sportsbooks, as sports betting has a longer and richer history in African culture. Nevertheless, if your country doesn’t regulate then you’ll have to search out a site that not only accepts foreigners, but also has all the plus points (and none of the red flags) you’d expect from a betting site.
It’s likely that African nations will increasingly regulate online gambling, as they see how valuable it is to the local economy (and how much they miss out when their residents use off-shore casinos and bookmakers). How quickly the domino effect will occur is up for debate, but with the young population age and increasing mobile presence on the continent, it looks likely that online gambling is a firm fixture on the economic landscape.