With increasing access of smart technology the gambling industry in Zimbabwe has seen exponential growth over the past few years. Some commentators see its benefits, while others note its drawbacks.
Gambling has traditionally not been part of accepted mainstream society among Zimbabwean citizens. Rather, it was considered something of a vice. Most people have disapproved of the activity until quite recently, and it has been limited to a few casinos, the Pink Lotto, Horse Race betting and the state lottery. However, times appear to have changed.
Major urban centres have seen an influx of casinos, lottery games and sports betting shops in recent years. Gambling has grown steadily in several African countries, but where it seems to be slowing in most nations it continues to flourish in Zimbabwe. Activity usually peaks when global Football leagues start, with capital city Harare being the main hub for operators.
An Evolving Industry
At one point Mashonaland Turf Club (which also operates Pink Lotto) was Zimbabwe’s only Horse Race betting facility, but there are many new players in the industry now. This indicates serious growth and development in the sector. As Chamu Mhembere, the Turf Club’s Marketing Manager, commented, markets in the country have become much more diverse.
Lotteries, limited payout machines outside of conventional casinos and Scratch Cards have become especially common over the past three years, Mhembere added. The bulk of customers and biggest target demographic is young people, who enjoy the excitement of gambling and bring new money to the table. In addition, most resort hotels offer casinos to tourists.
Social Commentators Say Gambling Has Pros and Cons
Like most African countries that have seen gambling emerge as a major sector or potential industry in recent years, Zimbabwe’s situation presents challenges and benefits. Harare School of Social Work lecturer Edmos Mtetwa maintains it will increase socio-economic problems, while labour economist Godfrey Kanyenze believes the monetary gains could be substantial.
One of the main reasons for the increase in casinos and bookmakers across Zimbabwe was a depressed economy, in the unstable and difficult years before a multiple currency system was introduced in 2009. While people originally gambled out of desperation, market diversification suggests recreational betting could now be very beneficial to the economy, Kanyenze explains.
As with Morocco, Nigeria, Gambia, Gabon, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and other African nations where the gambling industry has grown, Zimbabwe must balance lucrative economic benefits with controls for the challenges that problem gambling poses. The sector continues to expand, and the question now is whether the country’s lawmakers can make the most of it.