A Look at Gambling in Africa - Which Countries Bet The Most?

Africa is home to the largest unbanked population in the world with 66% of Sub-Saharan Africans without access to an active bank account.

When mobile money services came along through a series of savvy apps, they were anticipated as a way to help Africans access financial services and improve their standard of living.

By combining money app culture with the spread of smartphones and internet access across the continent, there were immediate benefits to e-commerce businesses selling their products and services online, including online sports betting and online casinos.

The internet, online money services and smartphones have all been cornerstone moments for the gambling industry in African nations, proving to be the gateway to gambling in Africa for citizens.

Here we break down the gambling spending habits in some of those territories – and look to what the next decade of gambling in Africa may bring.

“Sports betting is by far the most popular form of online gambling people endulge in. The South African market seems a decent activity on the casino games too, but others are almost exclusively betting.”

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Gambling Habits in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa

Unfortunately for some African gamblers, the activity is not always seen as a form of entertainment but rather, a potential way to escape poverty and hardships.

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In Nigeria, an estimated 60 million people between the ages of 18 and 40 years old are predominantly gambling on sports betting sites.

This number has grown and continues to grow in line with the penetration of mobile gambling in the region.

The market is predicted to be worth around $2 billion in 2020.

Another contributing factor to the growth in gambling habits in Nigeria is their love of sport, specifically local football and international leagues such as La Liga and The Premier League.

Nigeria has legalized its betting market and features plenty of locally licensed brands.

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A similar situation is playing out in Kenya, with a growing youth population fascinated in sports betting and in particular English elite football.

The BBC reported that 40% of Kenyan residents live below the poverty line and a gambling culture is emerging in underaged groups through mobile betting.

Sport betting services are found across Kenyan highways and advertised on local football shirts. This is a problem that has also been identified in England with more than 50% of Premier League clubs using a betting sponsor this season.

Yet, Kenya’s gambling industry is currently experiencing a shake-up following the exit of betting company Sport Pesa from the ‘hostile’ market, and a pending tax increase penciled in for June 2020.

Big European gambling brands are also the ones currently dominating the Kenyan betting and casino market.


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South Africa

South Africa is the third big player in Africa’s gambling scene. Some predict that the gambling industry here is ahead of the two aforementioned countries and boasts a compound growth rate of 5%, making it worth more than $2 billion by 2021.

However, unlike the previous two countries, the South African market is not as heavily reliant on sports betting, although it is reported to make up 21% of the industry and has been supercharged through the 2019 World Cup.

The lottery and online casinos are also exceptionally popular in South Arica and account for the rest of this growing industry, which is also easily accessed with smartphones.

South Africa is the only country on the continent that already has a very strong demand for online casinos. Many European companies are now adding ZA friendly games and payment methods.

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Gambling in Other African Nations

Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa are all hotspots for gambling in Africa, but many other African countries also host an interesting gambling industry. Here is a round-up of other notable locations:

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Gambling in Morocco

Morocco is a Muslim country and gambling here divides opinion.

Although gambling is not an illegal activity, and the country does host many casinos, online gambling is not as big.

Those that do gamble online in Morocco will be using foreign betting sites.

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Gambling in Egypt

The situation is highly similar in Egypt, another country predominantly made up of Muslims. Egypt does host casinos, but any resident of Egypt is not allowed to enter them.

These casinos are only present for tourists and those wishing to enter will need to provide a passport or identification proving they are not an Egyptian resident before being granted entrance.

This is also why these casinos usually accept international currencies such as the American Dollar.

Online gambling sites are not present in Egypt, but many intentional bookmakers do accept accounts and payments made from Egypt.

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Gambling in Ghana

Ghana is a much more liberal country when it comes to betting and 50% of their young population is estimated to partake in gambling activities frequently.

Internet access grew in the region by 22% over the space of a decade (2006-2016), which has also contributed to a thriving online gambling industry that has continued to expand.

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Gambling in Zambia

Gambling regulations in Zambia are minimal which has facilitated a growing gambling culture in the country.

Punters usually bet on the lottery, and alike Nigeria and Kenya, they also have a fixation with foreign elite football leagues and online sports betting.

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The Future of Gambling in Africa?

The attitudes and regulations of gambling across Africa can differ significantly.

Those countries that are more liberal and have legalized both in-person and online gambling are enjoying some economic success from it.

Gambling creates jobs and collects taxes for government spending – but it could also create increased gambling addiction.

Africa has the most youthful population in the world. Over 225 million Africans are younger than 24 years old.

If these people are gambling as a way to improve their quality of life rather than simple entertainment, they are more likely to plunge into debt and develop gambling issues.

This may be a concern for some African countries going forward and could cause major economic issues in the decades to follow.

On a brighter note, Africa may also become the flagbearer for cryptocurrency casinos in the future. The long-term money app culture fits perfectly with the mould of using Bitcoin to gamble.

Yet, this will also depend on the African country itself due to different stances on crypto regulation.

Whereas Kenyan officials have already tried to deter crypto usage in the country, South Africa is more welcoming to the new financial system.

Gambling in Africa is interesting, diverse and a fast-paced industry worth keeping an eye on!

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