Applying lessons from the United States to tackle problem of gambling in African markets

The rise of online gambling, particularly sports betting, in African markets is underpinned by widespread poverty and unemployment.

Applying lessons from the United States to tackle problem of gambling in African markets

Many Africans view the activity of online gambling as a way to make a living and get out of poverty. However, the odds are stacked against them. It is far likelier that the situation worsens for a person that gambles with funds they cannot afford to lose.

The problem is widespread because of regulatory gaps in the African markets. At best, the regulations are poor. In most cases, they are non-existent.

The main issue is online gambling operators, which have grown in popularity due to the increased adoption of smartphones and mobile payments. In addition, the recent pandemic boosted the prevalence of online gambling due to the need for digital entertainment during social distancing.

Besides social problems, there is a significant loss in revenue for African nations. Because most operators have roots abroad, profits are funnelled out of the country and remain untaxed. Securing operator tax revenue could bolster African nations' economies and improve local populations' conditions.

These are dilemmas that many countries around the world are grappling with. Unfortunately, the only way to improve this situation is to implement regulations that give local government control.

Regulations for online gambling serve several purposes. One is tax revenue; other, more pressing issues are problem gambling and its detrimental effect on individuals and society. Another positive aspect of regulations is preventing criminal activities related to gambling.

If a local government is in control, it is easier to enforce laws more strictly. This includes underage gambling, using sustainably acquired funds to prevent individuals from falling into financial difficulties, and applying time limits that prevent individuals from spending too much time playing. Many countries have implemented such regulations with favourable outcomes while securing tax revenues.

One cautionary example from a social perspective is the United States. Similarly, sports betting has become more prevalent in Africa in recent years.

In 2018, the Supreme Court in the US legalised sports betting. In many states, placing bets and gambling in online casinos is possible.

The activity has boosted the economy through tax revenues. However, governments have been criticised for oversight regarding consumer protection.

Too few funds have been dedicated to educating about problem gambling and combating addiction. Alongside the growth of regulated websites and the advancement of online gambling in the US, there has been a growth in treatment services.

For example, calls to the New Jersey help hotline for gambling problems have increased by 200% since 2018 after legalising online sports betting.

However, even a lack of oversight within an existing framework to safeguard the population is better than no regulations. In most cases, Africa has outdated regulations that do nothing for modern gambling, specifically the ramifications of online gambling.

Therefore, African regulatory bodies must unite with online gambling operators, civil society organisations, and the public to establish a regulatory framework that protects the population. While the United States may have failed at minimising social repercussions, they have successfully implemented legalised gambling in every other aspect.

The United States can provide a template for African nations to approve by being stricter on gambling operators and forcing them to take greater responsibility.

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