Gambling in all its forms is an immensely popular pastime all around the world, and nowhere more than in Africa. Online gambling has opened up the market to appeal to a whole new demographic of people - those who may not have ever set foot in a casino or bookmakers before.
Many countries across the continent have followed the example of the USA and countries in Europe and begun to regulate online gambling on sports and in casinos. The money it brings into the local economy cannot be ignored. The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe has only increased interest in online casinos and sportsbooks, as people seek risk-free socially-distanced entertainment.
But some nations have yet to pass legislation to regulate online gambling, and Malawi is one such country. However, intense interest in casino games and sportsbooks (as well as the tax revenue the government will reap) means that legislation is surely on the horizon.
Gambling in Malawi
The laws regarding gambling in Malawi are extremely relaxed compared to many other African nations. All forms of gambling are legal, and residents can enjoy playing in casinos, wagering in bookmakers, or trying their luck on the lottery. The casino scene is mainly based in and around the capital Lilongwe, which contains Pirates Casino, the largest establishment of its kind in the country. Pirates have nine card tables, as well as numerous options for roulette, and hundreds of slot machines.
Sports betting is very popular in Malawi, however, most bookmakers offer odds on overseas sports - the English Premier League is especially popular, and European football in general. While Malawians love local football, it is largely ignored by bookmakers. The Malawian national lottery regularly attracts 15 million players, making it one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the country.
Plans to Regulate Online Gambling
Malawi is almost certain to legalise and regulate online gambling in the near future - they only need to look at the USA, where states such as New Jersey are generating tens of millions in tax revenue from the industry. However, not all governments are regulating - closer to home in South Africa online casinos are technically illegal, although the law is targeted at casinos themselves, rather than individual players. In South Africa, fans of casino games must look for safe legal solutions on listings sites like Playcasino.co.za.
In Malawi last year a request for proposals was put out, allowing companies to apply for licenses to run gambling operations. So it is probable that many homegrown casino and sportsbook options will be available to Malawians, if and when legislation is passed.
As mentioned, Malawi has long had a relaxed approach to gambling, without any of the social stigmas it faces in some parts of the world. The Malawi Gambling Board was set up in 1996, and gambling began to be regulated fully in 1998. Sports betting, casinos and lotteries became taxable by the government, with a flat 12.5% gross revenue tax. But while the law is broad and relaxed, it has not been updated to follow global gambling trends or the emergence of new technology.
In fact, there has only been one update to the law, and that was in 2015 when the lottery was licensed. Online gambling in casinos or bookmakers is not regulated. Technically it isn't illegal, and there is no precedent for prosecution in the country. There is only one Malawian-based online sportsbook - Premier Bet Malawi - an established land-based bookmaker. Fans of casino games or sports punters currently need to seek out websites outside the country.
It seems inevitable that Malawi will regulate gambling at some stage - although their laws have been slow to change in the past. Until then, residents of the country will have to make do with land-based options or international websites.