There is an urgent need to address the "regulatory void" in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) surrounding online forms of gambling and the promotion of gambling products, researchers have said.
A comparative policy analysis of gambling regulation in SSA was published in the January 2023 Public Health Journal. The analysis aimed to find out if legislation in different SSA countries is equipped to regulate the impacts of gambling on public health, in light of the proliferation of the industry over the past few years.
What the researchers found was a “lack of coherence in regulatory measures and the need for more transparent public reporting across SSA territories”.
Additionally, the researchers highlighted “the importance of a public health approach to protect against an increase in gambling-related harms”.
One of the researchers, professor Gerda Reith from the University of Glasgow, said: “The rapid expansion of the gambling industry into Sub-Saharan Africa is especially worrying when the regulatory frameworks that might control them are often weak or poorly enforced, as this research has found.”
The project's principal investigator, Darragh McGee from the University of Bath, stated that “decisive action by policymakers across Africa can safeguard against the kind of runaway excess and harms that have been an avoidable by-product of gambling in markets such as the UK".
Gambling is regulated in some form in 41 of the 49 SSA countries, prohibited in seven and not legislated for in one.
Out of the 41, 25 of those countries have independent regulators and 16 are overseen by government departments.
Only two of the 41 regulated countries, Malawi and South Africa, have published annual reports consistently since their regulatory bodies were established, with an additional three countries doing them inconsistently.
Rates of harmful gambling have only been reported in Botswana and South Africa, and Botswana's regulator was the only one to offer participation statistics.
“In 36 (87.8 percent) countries, no reports were published. Enforcement activities were documented by all five regulators that published reports,” according to the analysis.
When it comes to advertising legislation, only 18 out of the 41 regulations explicitly mention it.
Even fewer countries (15 out of 41) specifically address online gambling products.
Legislation explicitly addressing online products was identified in 15 of 41 countries and in 18 of 41 for advertising.
Beyond analysing existing research, the international team based in Europe and Africa conducted a desk review of gambling policies across SSA via structured internet searches to characterise the policy environment in each country.
The researchers also conducted interviews with regulators and used VIXIO GamblingCompliance’s database for an overview of the current regulatory situation in the 49 SSA countries.