Gambling, be it in the form of casino games like Baccarat, Blackjack, Poker, Roulette, or slots or sports betting, has been a wildly popular pastime worldwide for many centuries now. The relatively recent introduction of online gambling has opened the market up to brand-new demographic, too. It allows people who’ve never set foot inside a casino or sportsbook to bet and play via their desktops, smartphones, and tablets from wherever they happen to be.
Many African countries have followed the example set by America and various European countries and started regulated all forms of online gambling. Taxation on these activities brings an undeniable boost to local economies and this has become even more valuable in the lockdowns instituted to control the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 worldwide.
But certain countries, like Malawi, have yet to make an effort to regulate online betting and gambling. The growing interest in both these activities, however, as well as the large potential tax revenue, means that this will not be the case for much longer.
The Situation as it Currently Stands
Malawian gambling laws are very moderate, especially in comparison to other countries on the continent. All gambling is 100% legal and citizens are free to play casino games, bet on different sports and other events provided by sportsbooks, and buy Lottery tickets.
The land-based casino scene is based largely in Lilongwe, the country’s capital, where Pirates Casino is located. It’s the biggest establishment of its kind in Malawi, boasting 9 card tables along with many variations of Roulette and slots machines in their hundreds.
Sports betting is also a vastly popular pastime in Malawi, with international sports in the no. 1 position. European Football takes centre-stage, with the English Premier League specifically being a favoured betting option. As much as local Football is well-liked in the country, Malawian sportsbooks, by and large, ignore it, however.
The Malawian National Lottery is a huge hit with nationals, too, regularly attracting players upwards of 15 million, making it one of the nation’s favourite types of entertainment.
The Future of Online Gambling Regulation
The Malawian government will almost certainly begin measures to start legalising and regulating all forms of online gambling very soon. When one takes into consideration the recent legislation the USA has put into place, resulting in states like New Jersey now contributing vast sums in the form of tax revenue, it’s a wonder they’ve not already made a more definite start. But they’re not alone in failing to harness this kind of additional income. South African online casinos are still technically unlawful, although the legal framework targets operators rather than players.
2019 saw a request for proposals put out in Malawi, allowing betting and casino brands to apply for permits to run. This is an indication that these options will be available to Malawians sooner rather than later.
The Question of Legality
Malawi is largely free of the social stigma gambling attracts in places like Cambodia, North Korea, Qatar, Singapore, and the UAE. A Gambling Board was created in 1996 and this pastime has been fully regulated by 1998. It was during this period that all casinos, lotteries, and sportsbooks became subject to taxation with a flat 12.5% gross revenue levy instituted. These laws have not been updated since then, however, to take new technology and digital gambling trends into account.
There has been a single update, in 2015, when the Lottery received its permit. Online gambling remains unregulated and it’s technically not unlawful to enjoy it. There is no criterion for prosecution whatsoever. The single online bookmaker based in the country, Premier Bet Malawi, is a firmly established land-based sportsbook. Anyone looking to play casino games or bet online has to use sites based outside of Malawi to do so.
Malawi instituting regulated online gambling at some stage is bound to happen, but their legal framework has been slow to adjust in the past. Until then, nationals will have to settle for playing and betting at land-based venues or using international operators.