The African countries set a precedent that threatens to spread across the continent
The burgeoning African gaming market has been spearheaded by a number of countries in recent years, with South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania widely deemed as the leading markets on the continent, writes Daniel Tyler, Conference Producer at ICE Africa.
Thanks to a concoction of budding technological hubs, increasing online access and digital penetrations rates, as well as viable payment solutions being in place for a mostly unbanked population, the conditions have been ripe to support an online market. In Kenya, mobile operators cover almost 90% of the population with over 46 million people having access to the digital space.
These conditions, intertwined with a youthful and growing middle class that has a ferocious passion for sports, has made the 2nd most populous continent on the globe an attractive opportunity for gaming operators looking to expand beyond existing mainstream and, often, saturated markets.
However, after consistent year on year growth in a number of markets in the sub-Saharan region, the problems affecting their European counterparts have emerged in the promising market. With betting activity sweeping across the continent, and East Africa in particular, Uganda was the first nation to act in 2019.
Earlier in the year, State Minister for Finance David Bahati was reported to have received a directive from President Museveni to stop licensing sports betting, gaming and gambling companies, and there “would be no renewal of licenses when they (gaming licenses) expire”.
President Museveni specifically referenced foreign-owned companies repatriating profits rather than re-investing them in Uganda as a reason for the ban, as well as his stated wish to divert the attention of the youth away from sports betting and its harmful social impact. Now, these arguments are resonating with neighbouring jurisdictions, and even further out, as Cambodia has taken a similar route for online gaming.
Gaming powerhouse Kenya was the next significant market to act, albeit not to the extent of banning new and future licenses. Instead, the Kenyan Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) mirrored similar moves being made in Europe, most notably in Italy, by focusing on the widespread levels of advertising.
In a statement released by the BCLB: “Outdoor advertising of gambling, advertising of gambling on all social media platforms, advertising gambling between 6am and 10pm, (plus) endorsement of gambling operations by celebrities” would be banned.
While the Kenyan ban has been temporarily suspended, legislators are currently considering policy amendments that would overhaul current state gambling laws by imposing significantly higher costs on licensed operators.
Along with the Ugandan ruling, banning and restricting gaming expansion in both jurisdictions has set a precedent that threatens to spread and bring to a halt the great signs of promise demonstrated by the continent’s gaming industry.