Which Africans Gamble the Most? Comparing Africa's Gambling Markets
Being such a vast and diverse continent, it’s no wonder that gambling habits vary considerably throughout Africa. Although it can be considered a popular pastime in many African nations, gambling is strictly prohibited in some countries and severely restricted in many others.
Despite its size, its share of the global market is still relatively small. Africans make up just over 16% of the world’s population, but account for only 1.1% of online gambling worldwide. Most gambling in Africa takes place locally in land-based establishments, the exact revenues of which can be hard to track.
Online casinos and sports betting are gaining popularity, and economies in the continent could benefit from formalizing these activities. In countries where it is more acceptable under social and religious mores, tax on iGaming presents a largely untapped source of municipal wealth. Here we take a look at some of the gambling markets on this great continent, and see how they measure up against each other.
It is estimated that around 80% of the entire continent’s gambling activity takes place in South Africa, generating around $2 billion annually. The laws of the country allow for up to 41 legally-operated land casinos, of which 39 are currently open for business. Fewer than 10% of South Africans express a lack of interest in gambling of any kind, and almost everyone plays some kind of lottery.
Online gambling is regulated, with the state issuing licenses for foreign operators to serve the populace. As internet penetration and broadband services continue to improve, the popularity of gambling online rises in parallel, providing the government with increasing tax revenue.
Gambling is an extremely widespread activity in the continent’s most populous country. Sports betting, in particular on soccer, is what Nigerians seem to have a passion for – so much so that some surveys suggest that a full third of the population bet on sports regularly, many of whom do so every day. Average spend is around $15 per day, which is a big source of economic gain but also of concern regarding possible widespread problem gambling. Considering that the average wage is just under $825 per month, this number suggests that some Nigerians may regularly be spending more than half of their monthly income on sports bets.
Local laws allow for a number of licensed gambling establishments, with certain chance games like roulette not permitted. The online sector remains unregulated, although the Nigerian authorities are currently in the process of passing legislation for iGaming. As one of the biggest economies in the region, the development of Nigeria’s online gambling sector could have a considerable effect on the financial health of the continent as a whole.
Like South Africa, Kenya has a lot of casinos – 30 at last count – and like Nigerians the Kenyan people love to bet on soccer. Online gambling is not illegal, so what is currently holding the sector back is poor mobile internet coverage. Gross gambling revenue (GGR) amounts to around $40 million per annum, a number which is only set to grow as the technology catches up. In fact, the growth rate of Kenyan average gambling revenue has been estimated at just under 7%.
The northern countries of Africa are socially, religiously and politically dissimilar to their Sub-Saharan neighbors. Many have more in common with the Middle East, while still retaining an influence from their colonial past. In Morocco, a Muslim-majority country, gambling is permitted in land casinos but only for foreign visitors.
In contrast, the online side of things is unregulated, and there is nothing to stop Moroccan citizens from accessing foreign gambling websites. Like the rest of the continent, gamblers in Morocco favor sports betting on football and also rugby.
Ghana can be considered a trailblazer in African gambling regulation, passing legislation as far back as the 1960s pertaining to gambling, lotteries, and casinos. The current Gaming Commission was established in 2006, but is concerned only with land-based casinos and bookmakers. The country has six officially sanctioned casinos, the largest of which is Accra’s Victoria Casino, with more than 13,000 slot games.
Online gambling, like in many other African nations, is provided almost entirely by foreign operators. Some of the world’s biggest online sportsbook and casino providers actively serve the Ghanaian people.
Africa vs Germany
Germany has recently created its own nationwide legal framework for online gambling, which is forecast to be pulling in revenues of $3.9 billion per year by 2024. Internet casinos in the country will finally be fully legal and regulated. Germany accounts for around 11% of the EU-28 GGR in online gambling. When contrasted with the entire African continent, this number gives us an idea of just how much more online gambling takes place in Europe.
To put it into perspective, the online sector in Germany has around the same GGR as the whole continent of Africa from both land-based establishments and virtual gambling. Around half of Africa’s gambling income originates from South Africa, but even the biggest market on the continent pales in comparison to Germany.
What to Expect in the Future
Tech ownership and lack of broadband and mobile internet coverage have been until recently significant limiting factors for the growth of online gambling in Africa. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years, meaning that gamblers in Africa are starting to catch up. In fact, the continent has a GGR growth rate almost double that of the world average.
In the years to come, we can expect to see more countries following the example of Nigeria and start creating legal frameworks for online betting and gambling. It is in the interests of the various nations to start to tap into the potential revenue stream to be gained from taxing these legal enterprises.
Mobile users are on the rise beyond the cities, and all over the continent wages are increasing and people are starting to embrace more Western values and customs. All these factors are combining to make Africa one of the biggest growth markets for gambling online.