Gambling Guide to Africa

GambleScope Research Team

The continent of Africa has an estimated population of around 1.2 billion, much higher than that of Europe and nearly three times the size of South America. This makes it a tempting prospect for online gambling companies looking to grow their client base. One obstacle to this is the fact that only around 13% of the African population has got internet access. When you look at the percentage of people on the continent who have access to broadband connections, the figure goes down to just 1%. This means that there is an enormous scope for growth in this market and online gambling companies want to establish a foot-hold before internet access spreads further. We are going to take a closer look at the current status of both offline and online gambling in some of the largest countries in Africa.

Nigeria is the largest country in Africa, with a population approaching 200 million. It is also a country which loves sports and loves gambling, which makes it a very attractive option for online gambling companies to target. The current legal status of gambling in Nigerian is quite interesting. A law passed in 1990 outlawed all games of chance, but so-called ‘skill based’ gambling is legal. What that means is that sports betting and skill based casino games are legal, while games like roulette and craps are illegal. There are also state-operated lotteries in Nigeria, and they are the third form of legalised gambling in the country. In common with the majority of countries around the world, Nigeria does not have a specific law to address online gambling, although the same rules as for offline gaming apply. However, international companies are happy to accept Nigerian players and those who have access to good internet connections certainly enjoy betting online.

Gambling is legal in the landlocked country of Ethiopia, but it is heavily regulated. The National Lottery Association is the regulator of gambling in the country. It was originally created to operate just lotteries, but the role of the Association has expanded to include all forms of gambling. Although the Lottery Association can provide permits to those wishing to establish a casino (for example) there are no casinos currently operating in the country, and the opportunities to gamble are quite limited. Online gambling is possible, of course, but the internet penetration rate of just 5% means that even this is not an option for most people. As with all the countries mentioned here, we expect that more people will have access to internet over time. With this will come an expansion in the number of people gambling online, but at the moment this is quite a low figure in Ethiopia.

As Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country you might well expect that gambling is illegal there, but in fact gambling is permitted, albeit with some restrictions. Egypt can trace its history back thousands of years, and there is evidence that gambling was taking place at least as long ago as 5,000 years and probably even before then. Although the Quran forbids gambling, the Egyptian government have circumvented the issue rather than banning gambling outright. They allow casinos to operate in the country - there are about 30 of them at the moment - but visitors must prove that they are not residents of Egypt in order to be able to play there. Online gambling is a different matter, as the government has not taken any steps to regulate this. This means that Egyptian citizens are free to join international betting sites if they wish, and they are not going to be prosecuted for doing so.

South Africa is one of the wealthiest countries in the region, and a place where sports hold a special place in the hearts of the people. Gambling was made completely illegal by a law passed in 1965, although there have been changes to its status since then. In 1994 gambling was legalised in South Africa, and two years later a national lottery was established, betting on horse racing was legalised and casino licences began to be awarded. However, in 2004 a new law replaced the 1996 version and introduced more restrictions. Today land-based casinos, sports betting, and the national lottery are the only legal forms of gambling allowed. Online gambling is illegal except for licences sports bookmakers and horse racing betting sites as well as the national lottery website. In 2010 a law was passed which prohibited online casino games, poker and bingo. There are heavy fines and even prison time to deter not only the site operators, but also banks which process transactions and the players as well. This being said, there are no recorded cases of a player ever being prosecuted for playing at an online casino. Here More about South African Casinos

Kenya is one of the most liberal African countries when it comes to gambling. A law passed in 1966 established a licensing board which regulates all gambling activities in the country. Licences are valid for just one year, after which the operator must apply again. There are currently around 30 licensed casinos in this west African state, along with 10 bingo halls and a horse racing track. All gambling including lotteries, bingo, poker and sports betting are controlled by the state. It is possible for local companies to apply for online licences as well, and there was a site called KenyaBet which offered online gambling in the country. However, this has now closed and no new local online gambling site has yet replaced it. This leaves the door open for international operators, who will accept Kenyan players on their sites.

As you can see, the market for gambling - both offline and online - in Africa is large and is growing every year. One of the principle hurdles to overcome is the lack of access to internet across the continent. This will change over time, and the wide availability of cheap smartphones means more and more people will have access to online gambling. In much of Africa online gambling is not regulated fully or at all, and this is another aspect which will change as time passes. For now, while the number of online players is limited according to internet access, this market remains largely underexploited.