The development of the online casino industry in Africa has been slow and quiet, and that is mainly because of lack of Internet access and, even more important, vague or outdated gambling laws that are nowhere enough to deal with the fluidity that the online casino brings to your experience.
The problem has been not with player response: every player likes the online casino because of what it brings: a chance to win big money sitting at home. The problem has been mainly the lack of clarity in the legislation governing it; in some of the African countries it has also been compounded by a singular lack of banking infrastructure. Online gambling is new and the laws governing the gambling industry in general have not been enough to regulate the online format.
Online casino gambling has been around in the African continent for a while. Most of the major African countries where online casino gambling has a presence already have laws in place to tackle regular gambling, be it at land-based casinos, different forms of racing like horse racing and greyhound racing, sports betting, and more. In some of them the laws are now being upgraded to cover online casino gambling.
Regulation Has Stalled Progress
The problem has been in the regulation space; it has been a grey area. In many countries the laws were framed much earlier when online casinos hadn’t yet arrived on the scene. There are a lot of countries where it is illegal but games are still being played because of the vagueness of the laws. And then there are countries where there is some form of legislation and regulation, but the lack of clarity has caused online casinos to flourish.
Even in countries like South Africa with an established online casino presence, the status is unclear when it comes to the legality or otherwise of online gambling. South Africa has had gambling in some form or other over the years. The Gambling Act of 1965 was passed to regulate the different forms of gambling prevalent back then. However, it didn’t have the wherewithal to deal with online gambling.
This led to the next change in legislation in the form of the National Gambling Act of 2004, which made online gambling illegal. Updated legislation passed in 2011 made online gambling operations illegal within the country, but players were free to play at overseas casinos. This is confusing and contradictory, given that the website of the National Gambling Board, which regulates gambling in South Africa, says that no one would be permitted to play any interactive game that is not regulated and authorised by South African law.
One way out seemed to be the stance of the government that states that online casino gaming is not illegal; it is just not regulated. But that in itself was a paradox, because ‘not regulated’ automatically also doesn’t mean legal. The government has now chosen to go the official route and requires all operators in South Africa to get a license from local licensing bodies. Now you have dedicated online casinos catering to South African players, including the likes of Springbok Casino.
Even with all legislation one thing needs to be clarified, the rules are for operators. Players still have the freedom to sign up with overseas operators. This has in fact been the mode of operation for online casinos in a number of African countries.
Nigeria Making Waves
Nigeria is another leading African nation that has established a strong online gambling and casino presence in recent times. Legislation in this country was also not geared up to deal with online casino gaming. The major gambling avenues in Nigeria are land-based casinos, lotteries, sports betting and now online and mobile gambling at casinos owned and operated by offshore operators.
Online casino gambling has picked up quite a bit in Nigeria, and the explosion in the usage of mobile phones has led to a surge in mobile casino gambling as well. A News Agency of Nigeria report in 2015 stated that more than 60 million Nigerian citizens between the age groups of 18 and 40 spent up to a massive $9 million on sports betting daily.
There are quite a few casinos that are meant specifically for Nigerian players. Bet9ja, for instance, is one online gambling portal that offers not just an online casino but also a mobile version, live casino gaming, virtual games and a sports book.
One of the first authorities to set up regulation of gambling through licenses is the Lagos State Lottery Board. It regulates and licenses lotteries, sports betting, online casinos, scratch cards, interactive games, land-based casinos, gaming machines, pool betting and more in Lagos State.
Ghana and Kenya are two other African countries that have experienced a boom in online casino gambling. Ghana has its own licensing body, the Gaming Commission of Ghana, which licenses all regular and remote gambling activities, from land-based casinos and sports books right down to online casinos.
Kenya too has its own regulatory body; in fact it was first set up back in 1966 as the Kenyan Betting Control and Licensing Board(BCLB). The laws relating to online gambling in Kenya are quite clear; all online gambling activity must be licensed by the BCLB.
There are other African countries too that have seen a sharp rise in online casino gambling over the years. Tanzania generated over $291 million in gambling transactions in 2012, a 20% rise over figures recorded in 2011, which contributed $10 million in revenues to the government. Uganda had over 2000 active gambling operators in 2014.
African countries experiencing a growth in the online gambling industry include, among others:
One area where the African continent is pushing ahead is mobile casino gambling. Technology has been one of the big drivers behind the rise in online and mobile casino gambling in Africa. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report the number of mobile subscriptions in the Middle East and Africa region as of 2017 stood at a whopping 890 million, while in the sub-Saharan region it stood at 700 million. With an estimated 3% to 6% rise in the number of subscribers by 2023, there is only good news for the online casino industry.