Africa Economy Egypt Kenya Law Legislation Somalia Sports

Comparing Africa’s gambling laws

Gambling is one of the oldest pastimes in the world with archaeologists finding evidence of it as far back as the Palaeolithic period. Recent discoveries have shown the presence of gambling in pre-Roman Britain, the Middle East, and indeed Africa.

With such a rich and varied history around the globe, it is no wonder that gambling today looks different from one country to another. In Africa for example, it is possible to legally gamble in a plush casino only 20 miles or so from the border of a country with strict anti-gambling laws.

In this article, we will look at a small selection of African countries with varying attitudes to gambling to discover the impact that their differing stances have on their people and their economy as a result.


In Somalia, it’s illegal to gamble which means the economy doesn’t benefit from the gambling industry at all.

In the Quran, gambling is described as a ‘grave sin’ and ‘abominations of Satan’s handiwork’ so it is no surprise that it is completely illegal in Somalia, a country where more than 99% of the population is Muslim. As a result, there are no legal gambling premises in the country and despite the presence of some illicit gambling venues, the majority of the population choose to abstain from visiting them.

Persons caught gambling in Somalia are not subjected to fines and custodial sentences as in other countries around the world where gambling is also illegal. Instead, Somalians caught gambling are punished under Shari’a law and usually subjected to public flogging. This punishment appears to be a big enough deterrent for would-be gamblers, even those with access to the internet.

According to industry statistics, Somalia has an online gambling penetration of less than 1.5% with the majority of global providers choosing to steer clear of offering their remote services to Somalians.

Legalisation would provide a drastic boost to the Somalian economy. With a GDP of US$4.7B, Somalia’s economy is worth US$1B more than the British online gambling market. The chances of Somalia relaxing its strict anti-gambling laws are slim to none, with any change in attitude being heavily reliant on a dramatic change in religious demographics.

Also read: Malawi poised for gambling boom


The rules in Egypt are a little ambiguous when it comes to gambling which makes it hard for citizens to gamble freely.

Another Muslim country on the African continent that has strict gambling laws is Egypt. Unlike Somalia though, gambling isn’t completely illegal in Egypt. The national lottery is perfectly legal in the country and is played by hundreds of thousands of citizens every week.

In addition to this, there are three cities within Egypt that have legal gambling facilities, with thirteen such venues in the capital Cairo. The catch though is that these casinos are not open to Egyptian citizens. Casino gambling in the country is only available to foreign tourists with punters having to show their passports on arrival to gain entry. In order to further discourage Egyptians from chancing their arm, all of the country’s casinos only accept wagers in US dollars.

The last legislation specifically focused on gambling in Egypt was written almost a century ago so unsurprisingly makes no mention of online gambling. Therefore, Egyptians are free to play slots, poker, or baccarat online with a host of foreign operators. Online gambling has taken on a life of its own around the world in recent years, in countries where there are tough but fair regulations, it can be a huge help to the economy. In the UK for example, gambling enterprises are required to pay the UK government a minimum of 15% tax on any amount up to £2,370,500. However, there is a huge amount of competition and only the best make a name for themselves. Well-established and respected providers 888 online casino have established themselves as a market leader due to their use of new technology, their range of games, and trustworthy reputation, as a result, they are now a thriving UK online casino. They cater to the needs of millions of customers who love to gamble but also provide much-needed stimuli to the country’s economy.

In recent years there has been growing pressure from left-leaning politicians to relax Egypt’s strict anti-gambling laws. Supporters of legalisation claim that the US$200M currently brought in from gambling each year could be increased by as much as 300% if laws were to fall in line with most other modern countries.


The third-highest gambling revenues in Africa come from Kenya which is remarkable when you consider that just 51 million of the continent’s 1.2 billion inhabitants live in the country. In Kenya all forms of gambling are legal, but by far the most popular activity is online sports betting. Football is the sport of choice for Kenyans with 83% of all bets being placed on the sport, usually the English Premier League. Whilst there is no shortage of betting shops in the country, most Kenyan gamblers prefer to place wagers on their smartphones rather than in person. Sports betting is so popular in the country that last year, US$29M of Kenya’s US$50M total gambling revenues were posted by sports betting companies.

Away from the lure of sports, casino gambling is becoming increasingly popular in Kenya. At the time of writing, there are 13 medium to large-scale casinos in the country with multiple planned developments in the pipeline. One major problem for the Kenyan gambling economy however is the prevalence of overseas company in the marketplace. Millions of Kenyans tune in to watch Premier League action every week and when they do, they are inundated with adverts and sponsorship logos from British-based sports betting companies. As such, it appears that most Kenyan sports fans prefer to bet with British companies, rather than homegrown providers.

Plans to ban overseas-based betting companies in Kenya have been mooted in the past, but as of yet, nothing has been done to stem the tide of money leaving the country every week and going into the bank accounts of British based gambling companies. If the Kenyan government can find a solution to this problem and promote domestic gambling companies, gross gambling revenues in the country could explode.


Africa is a melting pot of different customs, cultures, and religions and as such has no uniformed approach to gambling. In most Muslim countries on the continent, there are strict anti-gambling laws to discourage citizens from partaking in the activity. On the other hand, there are plenty of countries in Africa where almost every form of gambling imaginable is completely legal. In these countries though, there remain many challenges ahead to ensure to economy benefits from gambling sufficiently. There does appear to be a wind of change in many countries though, so perhaps in years to come there will be plenty of African countries with the thriving gambling industry.

Original article on Taarifa Rwanda

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