Africa’s Unregulated Sports Betting Markets Cause Serious Concern

Sports betting is a deeply ingrained part of many African societies. However, a lack of enforced regulations and meaningful reforms often results in a predatory market that disproportionately damages the most disadvantaged parts of society.

Africa’s gambling market is the fastest-growing in the world. Many high-profile operators have already taken notice of the untapped opportunities and have invested significantly in the area, hoping to establish an early presence. However, many African countries are still rife with poverty, meaning a lack of effective regulation often hurts the most vulnerable parts of society.

Ineffective Regulations Endanger the Most Vulnerable

Developing African countries have become an increasingly lucrative target for sportsbooks in the last few years. A growing middle class with increased disposable income and the area’s prevalent sports betting culture make it a veritable gold mine for savvy operators. High-profile companies like Betway, Bet365, Bet9ja, and eBet have flocked en masse to the continent, often relying on celebrity partnerships to secure an advantage.

While thriving sports betting market can be a boon to a country’s economy, it depends substantially on effective and strictly enforced regulations. Unfortunately, many African governments are unable or unwilling to implement and uphold a proper regulatory authority. This fact leaves a lot of vulnerable and financially struggling individuals without any protection from unscrupulous businesses.

Stories of gambling addiction and its consequences are becoming commonplace in many African nations. A recent case in Uganda saw a government official lose $1,800 meant for a polio immunization campaign on sports betting. In a country with an annual income per capita less than $1,000, many view gambling as one of the only ways to get out of poverty, only to eventually become even more destitute.

Several Countries Are Making Slow Progress

Ugandan analyst Reagan Wamajji from the Center for Policy Analysis expressed growing concern over the spread of sports betting and its effect on youth. In a country where more and more people turn towards gambling to cover their daily needs, a lack of regulation puts disadvantaged individuals even more at risk.

“There have to be deliberate campaigns against gambling. However, it is such a lucrative business that meaningful reforms might be hard to push.”

Reagan Wamajji, Center for Policy Analysis researcher

An outright ban on sports betting would likely have disastrous results, as it has become a deeply ingrained part of society. Recent statistics showed that 61% of Africans planned to wager on the World Cup matches, and almost two-thirds (64%) of the respondents have placed a bet in the past twelve months, predominantly those from Kenya and Ghana, with 68% and 60%, respectively.

Some African governments have taken heed of the growing sports betting issues and started implementing reforms. In April, Ugandan lawmakers proposed a bill to restrict sports betting activities between 5 PM and 2 AM. Zimbabwe likewise approved amendments to its gambling legislation to introduce greater control and accountability. While often slow and ponderous, the region as a whole is making at least limited progress toward effective regulation.


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