Zimbabwe – Should online gambling be legalized?
Online gambling is fast becoming a world phenomenon, and the popularity in Zimbabwe is rapidly increasing. Due to economic factors, it is considered by many as a potential means of income and not just an enjoyable pastime.
Gambling is fully legalized in Zimbabwe and bets can be placed at land casinos, horse racing tracks and sports betting shops, as well as on the popular state-run lottery.
However, the subject of online gambling still remains a grey area, and with no specific laws prohibiting online betting, it remains an unregulated industry. Neither legal or illegal, players are left free to bet on international online casino sites with no fear of prosecution. Betting activities across all areas are overseen by the Lottery and Gambling Board of Zimbabwe, and amidst substantial debate, it is anticipated that it will soon update the gambling laws to enable and legalize online betting.
Benefits Of Future Legalization
Both gambling and tourism are significant contributors to the economy of Zimbabwe, which provides one of the biggest concentrations of land-based casinos on the African continent. Any gambling winnings are taxable at 10% for horse racing and pool betting, and 15% for casino gambling. The online casino market is set to be worth $60 billion by 2020, and there is a huge amount of tax revenue to be gained from this increasingly buoyant market.
The remit of the Gambling Board is to ‘regulate and control the development and operation of all lotteries and gaming activities,’ but with specific legislation for online gambling thin on the ground, players are often left exposed. With other potential downfalls like gambling addiction, many question whether it is the right time economically to open up the online market. Proponents focus on the benefits for communities, with its ability to attract jobs and investments and to support or fund public services.
Whatever the outcome of the debate, nobody can ignore the online gambling increase of 50.8% experienced in 2017, driven mainly by social media bundles on Facebook and WhatsApp. Neither can they ignore the fact that the lack of national regulation leaves Zimbabwe players unprotected.
In other countries, the regulating bodies oversee all online casinos in much the same way. To obtain and also retain any gambling licence, casino operators must prove they are protecting players and can:
- Identify and verify all customers, together with their funding source, to comply with anti-money laundering laws and regulations
- Uphold multiple website technical standards, along with the game machines, to ensure quality, reliability, protection and security for players
- Promote responsible gambling, especially relating to gambling problems and addiction and underage gambling
Under the supervision of state regulation, online casinos are ensured as safe and fair places to play, along with yielding much-needed taxes. With legalized gambling, the state also has an increased responsibility to support individuals with gambling issues and not let them slip through the net. To help in making appropriate decisions, a great deal can be learnt from other countries and their experiences.
The Economic Way Forward
While the politics in Zimbabwe is changing, the economy is not drastically altered. It is estimated that almost 72.3% are below the poverty line, with GDP at only $2,283 per capita and vast unemployment. Making online gambling legitimate, especially as it is on the rise, can add a much-needed revenue stream for the government, which needs to decide whether it can or should create a strict regulatory framework.
As shown by the UK, strict regulation will not suppress the market and allows gambling to grow in a controlled and responsible way. It protects gamblers and also creates opportunities for citizens facing economic hardship. The many positive benefits of legalized gambling in Zimbabwe could be said to far outweigh any potential disadvantages.