Regulation of online and mobile gambling in Africa must gather pace

The gambling industry in Africa has been busy recently following the ICE Africa and Big African Summit events. These explored the current state of legal gambling within the continent and included conferences by established industry professionals.

Africa is often behind on gambling regulation, so there was special interest in how gambling could be improved, both to make it safer, and to bring more money into the host countries. The conclusion reached during these events was that considerable work is yet to be done, both in the mobile and online gambling sectors.

Current Regulation

As it stands today, only around 20 percent of the African continent has regulations in place which cover both online and mobile gambling. Since many in the gambling sector are turning to the Internet, this is an ever-increasing concern.

The ever-growing dominance of mobile devices in Africa is contributing to the iGaming growth since they offer more possibilities to get around blocks and restrictions.

While ISP locks are a common way for many countries to prevent people from accessing websites, these systems are easily overcome. Services such as VPNs are a popular solution on this front, for a wide range of reasons not just related to gambling.

In many more common cases, VPNs can allow users to circumvent media restrictions. This is usually for entertainment services like Netflix or Hulu, which can offer vastly expanded libraries of films and TV shows in other countries. From humble beginnings, VPN servers are now enormous businesses and the competition within has led them to become more user-friendly than ever.

This means that those interested in online gambling, even when it is blocked, can quickly find their way around the existing obstacles. This is even easier for mobile users: using a VPN on a smartphone creates a form of access which is difficult to stop, and this has been a significant factor in driving unregulated mobile gambling.

Despite this apparent ease, there is a real interest amongst players in finding legal iGaming alternatives. Indeed, legal platforms are easy for everyone to use and come with a host of offers only possible through proper regulation. Many of the top mobile casinos in South Africa offer dedicated Rand bonuses and free spins, for example.

Issues of Unregulated Gambling

Unregulated gambling comes with a whole host of issues that can cause problems for everyone involved. The most common of these problems is that gambling, when unregulated, is also unchecked. This means systems don’t have to be fair, and those who are cheated are left with no real recourse.

This also ties into problems with online casinos with access allowed in some countries, but not in others. Using a VPN might allow someone to play in these casinos, but it could also prevent them from withdrawing any winnings, should a withdrawal method be associated with an unregulated geographic location.

Africa’s Path

The consensus from Africa ICE and the Big Africa Summit was that the issue of unregulated online and mobile casinos need to be addressed quickly. This has been the case for physical casinos for years, but during both meetings attendees agreed that steps also need to be made to address the very different technological challenges presented by the online sphere.

According to a 2016 study by South Africa’s National Gambling Board, the direct economic benefit which stands to be gained from regulation reaches around R110 million a year. This is on top of the millions of rand which could be saved each year in state resources going towards the tracking and conviction of criminal gambling enterprises.

As mentioned above, a significant portion of the iGaming income would come from smartphone users. While this market is heavily expanded over a few years ago, it still has a long way to go.

A study by Pew Research reveals one of the key reasons why. Even in South Africa, one of the more technologically advanced African nations, a high percentage of the population still only use basic phones. In this case, 51% of users have a smartphone, 40% have a basic phone, and 9% have no phone at all.

Since a smartphone is a necessity for mobile gambling, this means extensive possibilities will emerge in the coming years as the customer base grows. Combine this with lower overall data costs and better connectivity, and the market all over Africa is primed for massive growth

The actual implementation of gambling regulation will come down to time. As many more countries reap the benefits of expanded regulation, expect that Africa will soon be following suit.

Many countries within Africa have seen internet connectivity growth of over 10,000% in the last two decades. Such numbers and the contribution they could have in the form of regulated gambling tax is, simply, too extensive to be ignored for much longer.


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