Huge opportunities in Africa
The African continent has over 1.2 billion people living in it and accounts for 16.3% of the world’s population, making it the continent with the largest population behind only Asia.
Of the countries we will focus on here, Nigeria is the country with the seventh largest population in the world. The Democratic Republic of Congo is 17th and Kenya 29th.
Due to its potential, which is based on the size of its population and the resulting revenue that is available across the continent, Africa could easily become the next big area of focus over the next few years when it comes to the gambling industry.
The fact that this is all relatively new in African countries and many such opportunities remain unexplored, helps explain why the sky is the limit as far as gaming and Africa goes.
Of course, seeing the potential and having the frameworks in place to explore it are two very different things. Knowing the local laws, processes and acquiring the necessary licences to make it all happen require knowledge, connections and experience. Which of course is where we come in to make it all happen.
To what extent is gambling regulated in these countries?
Nigeria presents the best opportunity of all
A few years ago, PriceWaterhouseCoopers released a report called the Gambling Outlook 2013/17 which studied the pace at which gambling might grow in Africa over the next few years. Of all the countries included in the report, Nigeria came out top in terms of being the one with the potential for the fastest growth, which could be anywhere north of 17% in terms of year-on-year growth.
Lotteries held at national level are regulated through the National Lottery Act of 2005 which determine how they should be run, what taxes are paid by both the Operator and the winners and what other measures need to be put in place to ensure everything runs smoothly and fairly. In 2011, the Money Laundering Act was put in place to establish measures and penalties relating to Money Laundering offences, which apply to the Gambling industry.
Whereas both of those are relatively recent Acts, most of the other ones relating to Gambling in Nigeria are from a while back.
For example, the definition of ‘gambling’ can be found in the Criminal Code of 1990 and the Gaming Machines Act of 1977 is the one that relates to gaming machines such a slots and video poker.
At present, there does not seem to be a set plan by the Nigerian government to get this legislation updated.
For example, 2013 saw the first-ever Nigerian online casino open its virtual doors. NairaGames Casino has admittedly shut down since but it shows that being granted a licence to operate as a legal online casino there can be done. Further proof of that is the fact that not only are there five licensed online sportsbooks, but two of them also have online casino games on their site.
What does the law say?
As things stand, Nigeria can be said to be semi-regulated.
The law states that legal betting includes skill-based card games such as Casino Hold’em, Roulette and Backgammon, which can be played at one of three legal bricks-and-mortar Casinos in Nigeria. These three Casinos also offer sports betting facilities which make up a greater share of the country’s revenue generated from gaming than all the table games put together.
There are currently also a handful of Nigerian-based and owned sports betting sites. These are extremely popular and 100% regulated.
It is also legal to bet on state-run betting pools and horse racing totes. These two forms of gambling are actually regulated very strongly with measures put in place to ensure every bet on them is registered, the winnings are divided equally and properly among the pool winners and that any establishment running them is licensed before being open for business. Anyone running these operations without the proper license can face heavy penalties including huge fines and imprisonment, all of which reiterates the point that everything needs to be done by the book and that of course is where our work as consultants will be invaluable in making sure that no stone is left unturned.
Similar licensing requirements and subsequent penalties to those who do not have them also apply when it comes to running lotteries.
Understanding Nigerian Law and how to interpret it is therefore paramount and for those who succeed in making it work in their favour, the business potential is almost unparalleled.
Kenya among the frontrunners when it comes to regulation
Gambling laws in Kenya are mostly set out in the Betting Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1966. The first thing it did was to hand power over to the Betting Control and Licensing Board, responsible for virtually all aspects of gambling in Kenya but above all, set up to regulate gambling establishments.
That includes the 28 casinos, 11 bingo halls, three sportsbooks and one horseracing track available on Kenya.
In this respect, Kenya has a more organised and formal approach to regulating gambling than other African countries, of which Nigeria would be a good example, as mentioned already.
Examples of the state having a formal and organised approach to gambling within their borders are that gambling is a big source of revenue for the state. This is mostly through a 20% tax on lottery winnings charged to players and further taxes imposed on operators through taxes and licensing fees.
To apply for a gaming license in Kenya, applicants need to contact the Betting Control and Licensing Board and complete a special form referred to as 13A. On completion they will have to pay the Board a fee to carry out an investigation to determine the suitability of the applicant (and in the case of a land-based business, the premise). The Board will then decide whether to grant the license.
Congo – Regulation at Government level has been a success story.
Unlike Kenya, there is no Gaming Authority or other special body regulating gambling in Congo. Instead, the Government itself is responsible for doing so and the absence of a dedicated body does not mean gambling there is not regulated. On the contrary: there are structures and procedures in place that mean gambling activities are controlled, tax is paid by licence-holders and that proceeds from running lotteries are put towards good causes.
Gambling in Congo is legal and since 2005, all ‘games of chance’ have been regulated. Since then, a few amendments have been made to update the definition of what are games of chance and what are not but as things stand, they include: lotteries, slots and other games where human interaction or involvement does not affect the actual outcome.
In contrast, there seems to be less clear-cut guidance regarding games of skill such as blackjack and poker meaning it is not obvious whether these games are considered gambling. Although you could argue they are, because they are readily available in both of Congo’s two Casinos.
In addition to these two land-based Casinos, other regulated forms of gambling in Congo are bingo (it is specifically mentioned as an example of a game of chance though Bingo halls are at a premium in the region) and lotteries. The National Lottery, authorized back in 1984 through Presidential Order No. 84-155, is 60% state-owned and 40% in private hands.
Much like the National Lottery in the UK, proceeds from running it, after winnings have been paid out, are used to fund socio-economic activities and causes that serve the public interest.
But if these forms of gambling are regulated, online gaming certainly is not. It is legal to play online but in the absence of any Congo-based online operators or specific rules relating to playing with foreign sites, that is as far as the guidance goes.
There is relatively recent legislation governing Gambling – The 2006 Gaming Act – which has made it legal to bet in Ghana and the body responsible for its regulation is the Ghana Gaming Commission (GCC).
The GCC’s responsibilities include the regulation, monitoring and supervision of games of chance and sports betting operators, as set out in the aforementioned Act.
That includes dealing with the licensing and running of the country’s four land Casinos and the five overseas companies (at the time of writing) who run Sportsbooks. Mostly focusing on European soccer but also offering markets on US Sports which are popular among Ghanaian punters, they have bricks-and-mortar shops scattered around the country and also offer the facility for Ghanaian players to place their bets online or via their mobiles.
Applicants wishing to obtain licenses must contact the Ghana Gaming Commission and follow the subsequent procedure. In the specific case of Casino licences, the applicant must also obtain approval from the National Redemption Council. Casino licences are granted for a period of one year upon the payment of a fee and the licence holder can apply for the license to be renewed at the end of that year upon payment of a renewal fee, which is considerably smaller than the one paid to be granted the licence in the first place.
The GCC however does not deal with the Lottery side of things, which is run by the National Lottery Authority (NLA), set up in 2007. Similar to Congo, the lottery is both an important source of revenue for the country through taxes, as well as a way of funding aid for the socially disadvantaged.
The National Lottery Authority (NLA) also owns a sports betting product going by the name of Soccer Cash.
In one respect, Ghana is therefore a regulated market when it comes to Gambling as we have seen, through a relevant and recent Act and bodies set up to make sure everything is run smoothly when it comes to for example, licensing and taxation.
Is online betting available in these countries?
Online betting is readily available in all the countries we considered as case studies and in particular in Nigeria, which has the highest quality and greatest reach when it comes to internet connections.
In Nigeria, there are local sports betting companies present within the country offering online/mobile betting and in the case of Ghana, there is the NLA-run Soccer Cash product that is available in shops, bars and online as well. Plus foreign companies who are allowed to operate on Ghanaian soil as long as they have the requisite license.
What all four of them have in common is that none of them have openly made it illegal for citizens of their country to bet online with foreign sites.
It is, therefore, up to each and every betting company to decide whether they want to accept players from the four countries we have looked at. Of the four, Nigeria is the country that foreign companies have been more sceptical about accepting customers from, but plenty of other operators have been happy to welcome them to their site.
Our findings on Gambling in selected African countries
Looking at the case studies covered here, we can reach a few general conclusions, even though all four countries are slightly different.
They differ is in terms of governing bodies specifically set up to regulate the gambling operations. Some of them have specifically appointed regulatory bodies to deal with some or all of the gambling-related issues within that country such as licensing, taxation and penalties whilst others, of which Congo is the best example, have managed it all through the Government itself without that necessarily making the regulation process any less effective.
Similarly, some are also more competent than others and how strict they are with granting licenses and imposing penalties, will also vary.
They all have land-based Casinos and lotteries available to play on their own soil and whereas some of them have their own sports betting operators, they all make it legal for their citizens to bet with foreign operators, if they so wish.