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Online gambling legislation in Africa - current state of play

By GamblingAfrica.com
Johannesburg, 12 Jul 2017

Because Africa is such a vast and diverse continent, it can be difficult to group or summarise its industries and activities as a whole - online gambling legislation in an African context being no exception.

The best you can do is identify the nations on the continent with fully or partially regulated land and online gambling industries, and examining what they're doing in this space. In this vein, the three African nations worth mentioning are South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

A lot more can be learnt about about gambling legislation in Africa by visiting gamblingafrica.com, but here follows a summary of the abovementioned countries.

South Africa

It should come as no surprise that South Africa is one of the leading lights in Africa in terms of gambling legislation, types of gambling on offer, and number of casinos and betting outlets.

While Sun City was the sole casino resort within South Africa's borders during the Apartheid era, today there are 38 licensed and regulated land casinos (including Sun City), and over 450 running bookmaker outlets and 440 totalisator outlets (according to 2016 figures from the National Gambling Board).

But, while land casino gambling, sports and horse race betting, limited pay-out machines and bingo is 100% legal in South Africa, online gambling is not, with the exception of sports, horse race betting and various lotteries (including the National Lottery). This means there are no South African-based online casino, poker or bingo sites.

Despite The National Gambling Amendment Act of 2008 that was authored with the aim of legalising and regulating interactive gambling in South Africa, it was never passed and signed into law, and to date still has not been, with no plans to do so in the foreseeable future.

The result is that South Africans who choose to gamble online can only do so at offshore-operated and owned online gambling sites, which is considered to be unlawful under South Africa's current gambling laws (Chapter 2, Part B of the National Gambling Act 7 of 2004).

Read more about South African gambling regulation at the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board.

Nigeria

Like South Africa, it was only in the 1990s that Nigeria's legalised and regulated gambling landscape began to evolve and take shape with the passing of various new gambling laws and legislation.

However, unlike in South Africa, gambling licences are harder and more expensive to come by in Nigeria, which is why today the country still only has three licensed land casinos - the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, the Le Meridien Eko Hotel & Casino in Lagos, and the Sun International Federal Palace Hotel & Casino in Lagos.

Other popular forms of gambling in Nigeria include lotteries, land sports and pools betting, as well as online sports betting.

Recognising the benefits of reaping taxes from legalised online gambling sites, Nigerian licensing authorities have granted licences to many popular betting and gaming sites including the ever-popular nairabet.com and supabets.com.ng.

Despite Nigeria's gambling regulations and flourishing regulated gaming market, however, the country is still plagued by unlicensed casinos and other illegal gambling operations.

Kenya

Kenya boasts one of the most liberalised gambling industries in Africa, with most forms of gambling permitted including casinos, betting, online betting, online casinos and even mobile casinos. The government of Kenya has taken a pro-land and online gambling stance so it can benefit from the enormous taxes derived therefrom. However, recent increases in the tax burden on operators may have a negative effect on the industry.

A 35% tax increase has dealt a severe blow to the burgeoning industry in Kenya.
A 35% tax increase has dealt a severe blow to the burgeoning industry in Kenya.

While Kenyans have had access to land gambling facilities for decades (there are currently 13 land casinos in Kenya), their first taste of a legal and regulated online gaming site only came in 2011 with the launch of BetKenya.com. At the time, Kenyan gaming fans trying to access 'unregulated' (offshore) sites would automatically be pointed to BetKenya.com.

Since then, online gaming and betting sites have increased greatly in popularity. However, in June 2017, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta signed a new gambling tax into law (Finance Bill 2017) imposing a standard 35% tax rate across all gambling revenue in the country including on betting, casinos and lotteries.

This tax hike was met with an enormous outcry by Kenya's gambling operators, which say it will only serve to make their operations unprofitable. Previously, licensed and regulated Kenyan land and online sports betting firms were subject to taxes of only 7.5%.

Despite the popularity of both land gambling and virtual gambling in Kenya, because of the size of the country, its total annual gambling revenues are lower than those of Nigeria, which in turn are lower than those of South Africa.

Other African countries with growing gaming markets include Ghana, Uganda and Zambia.

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