Gambling in African countries is a popular pastime, both with the people who live there and with the vacationers who visit. As part of many nations’ culture and a serious tourist attraction, the activity is sure to become even more widespread in the future.

illegal gambling africa
Source: Jorge Fernández on Unsplash

While favored by many citizens, Africa’s widespread poverty slowed gambling growth to a large extent. As online establishments have improved and mobile technology has made the internet more accessible, desktop and mobile casinos have started to flourish.

The situation with regard to both land-based and online sportsbooks and casinos varies greatly between countries. Over time governments have realised the benefits of regulating the industry and collecting taxes, as well as the challenges of curbing underage and problem gambling.

To address these issues, most nations have some type of legislation in place. Since online operators are a relatively new concept in Africa several countries have only just started to allow them, and often the laws are not very clear.

Detailed Local and Land-Based Frameworks

In Ghana, Zambia and Namibia, local sports betting, lottery and casino operators are strictly regulated. Botswana and Morocco – the most liberal Arab League country when it comes to gambling – have legislation in place for brick-and-mortar casinos, but not for land-based sportsbooks or lotteries since they don’t actually have a presence in the countries. The rest of the Arab world are much stricter in terms of online gambling. Even though the hard regulations table games such as Arabic online roulette continue to grow across the region.

Whatever the specifics of the nations’ land-based legislation are, they were written before online wagers and games really arrived in Africa and as a result do not address desktop or mobile activities. Since there are no laws to prohibit using offshore sites, gamblers can do so without fear of prosecution. As long as they choose an operator licensed by a respected international jurisdiction, the standards of safety and fairness should be high.

Progressive Laws in Kenya and Uganda

After Kenya’s Gaming Bill 2019 was introduced to update the gambling laws, its legislation became very progressive. Both here and in Uganda, clear gambling legislation exists for domestic online and land-based operators. 

Unlike many of their neighbours, they actually have laws regarding desktop and mobile sites– and unlike South Africa, they allow them rather than adopting an attitude of prohibit-but-don’t-prosecute. Currently there are not many homegrown sites to choose from, but the numbers are increasing, and players can access trusted offshore operators to get their fill of every type of game.

Land-based gambling is alive and well in South Africa, which is the African country with the largest number of brick-and-mortar casinos – currently 40 – as well as the largest establishment on the continent. This is the GrandWest Casino & Entertainment World, which boasts over 2,500 Video Poker, slots and other games, along with 79 gaming tables.

On the other hand, though internet-based sports betting is permitted, both local and offshore online casinos are illegal. However, players themselves are not prosecuted and individual has ever been singled out for these activities, and the online industry continues to thrive. Like the rest of the continent, South Africans generally feel free to enjoy themselves at these sites.

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