Why a change in Africa’s online gambling legislation is inevitable

Photo credit: Sasun Bughdaryan | Unsplash

The data is clear: Africa has made tremendous progress in the last 70 years. The life expectancy of an average African citizen has risen from 36 years in 1950 to 64 years in 2022. The continent’s fertility has been steadily decreasing for over 40 years, and the infant mortality rate has shrunk to half since the year 2000. The standard of living in Africa is also steadily increasing, and once extreme poverty is fully eradicated from the continent, we can expect these and many other indicators to keep improving further.

The rise of online gambling in Africa

With the increased accessibility of mobile devices and the number of internet users on the rise, the fact that Africa has seen a big surge in online gamblingcomes hardly as a surprise. With extreme poverty continuously eradicated and disposable income of Africans on a steady increase, many operators see the continent as a lucrative market to enter. This, combined with local governments’ enthusiasm about bringing a new income stream into their wallets, creates a perfect opportunity for an online gambling boom, which we’re already witnessing.

With many African stars joining big European football clubs, the doors of sports betting have already opened wide, warmly welcoming any new prospective bettors. We know from the worldwide data that most lottery tickets are bought in poor neighbourhoods, since individuals in financial trouble desperate for a way out often resort to these types of resources as their last cry for help – and the millions of Africans that are struggling financially are not an exception to this phenomenon.

One continent, 54 countries

However, the current legislation of online gambling in Africa highly varies from one country to another, and while there are several examples of efficient online gambling regulation schemes, such as the one introduced by Tanzania, most countries do not impose measures that sufficiently protect their population.

Only a small minority of countries within the continent prohibit gambling based on religious grounds, which makes hundreds of millions of people exposed to the dangers of online gambling. Moreover, the fact that gambling is prohibited in some countries does not mean that it does not take place at all, and illegal gambling presents its own set of challenges.

The number of vulnerable individuals with financial difficulties in Africa is still enormous, which is why individual countries should place strong focus on ensuring safer gambling regulations for all their citizens.

According to Simon Vincze, the Sustainable and Safer Gambling Lead of Casino Guru, “All around the word, there is an increasing amount of pressure on nations to amend their online gambling regulations so that they reflect the shift towards a more sustainable gambling we’re currently experiencing. These regulations are often too loose and based on old Acts that don’t protect the players in a sufficient way. The good news is that several African countries like Tanzania are taking steps towards a better functioning and more regulated online gambling environment. However, a lot of awareness needs to be raised throughout the whole continent for the remaining countries to understand that it is in their very best interest to create a stronger regulated online gambling market.”

Why is there a need for safer gambling?

Responsible gambling should be the ultimate vision of all African countries, regardless of their position and strength in the online gambling sector. Prevention is the best cure, and as much as we wish to say that a lot of African countries are on the right path, the reality points to the contrary. Since many countries haven’t yet even reached the level of sufficient online gambling legislation, the exploitation of many individuals by gambling operators is an ongoing issue and a harsh reality of the day.

“Grey areas offer a lot of room for exploitation, and they need to be addressed and covered under a new legislation as soon as possible, because it’s never too late for a change. The fact that just last year, Tanzania proposed a new code of conduct for advertising that is aimed at protecting vulnerable groups and encouraging responsible gambling, gives us hope that the remaining African countries will see the benefits brought about by Tanzania’s approach and will start to implement tighter gambling regulations sooner rather than later. Their citizens need it,” says Vincze.

Exploitation of grey areas lacking sufficient legislation is very lucrative for offshore gambling operators eager to maximise profits on the new and prospective African market. This, however, comes with a price.

Vincze explains: “There is a general trend towards an increase in problem gambling among the youngsters in Africa, who are rarely educated about the risks of gambling addiction. Considering that even Western countries often struggle or are hesitant towards educating the players about problem gambling, this is not a surprising finding for us. There is an old notion that educating players about the potential dangers of gambling is bad for business, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many operators get the vast majority of their revenue from ‘healthy’ players, and the sooner gambling operators in Africa and all over the world understand the benefits of this approach, the sooner we can move on to a safer and healthier global online gambling environment – together.”

Africa’s enormous progress over the past couple of decades did not go unnoticed. With its hunger for foreign investments, many industries have successfully identified business opportunities on the continent, and online gambling was one of them. With the industry growing rapidly each year, more countries need to introduce regulationamendments to keep up with the progress and eliminate the dangerous grey areas.

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