Addressing Responsible Gambling Regulations in Africa: A Complex Challenge

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By Ejiofor Agada

Gambling and gaming industries have long been associated with money laundering and financial crime. The high volume of transactions and turnover of customers make them attractive targets for illicit activities. In response, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) added casinos to its list of businesses required to follow guidelines on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CFT) in 2003. Casinos were expected to implement know-your-customer checks and transaction screening similar to those applied by banks and other financial institutions. However, new challenges have emerged with the rise of online gambling and gaming.

 

In recent years, online gambling and gaming have gained significant popularity. The convenience and accessibility offered by online platforms have attracted many players. However, this has also raised concerns about the potential for financial crime in the sector. Recognizing this, the FATF has expressed its worries and is currently consulting on updated guidance for virtual asset service providers (VASPs) on a risk-based approach to AML/CFT. The FATF aims to ensure that the online gaming and gambling sector is effectively regulated and does not become a haven for financial criminals.

 

Regulators in Africa are also stepping up their efforts to regulate the gaming and gambling sector, particularly online businesses. They are issuing fines to operators who violate anti-money laundering or responsible gambling rules. The UK Gambling Commission, for instance, has imposed substantial fines on operators for breaches in AML and responsible gambling regulations. This increased regulatory activity is driven by international pressure to combat international financial crime. African regulators are now working to understand the growing pace of the industry and implement measures to effectively regulate it.

 

African gaming legislators and regulators are making a concerted effort to address the rapid growth of online gaming. They aim to understand new technologies, payment methods, and the changing landscape of the industry. However, keeping up with technological advancements is challenging for gaming regulators. They need to ensure effective measures are in place to protect players, understand the evolving playing field, and expand their tax net. Roy Bannister, an African Gaming, AI, and 4IR Consultant, emphasizes the need for continental cooperation among gaming regulators to improve responsible gaming practices and financial regulations. Bannister suggests that embracing technological developments and expertise from global experts like LexisNexis can help African regulators effectively regulate the industry.

 

Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda have taken the lead in passing specific regulations aimed at online gambling. These countries have recognized the need to adapt their regulatory frameworks to the growing online gaming industry. The Gaming Regulators Africa Forum (GRAF) is also working towards improving coordination among gambling regulators across the continent. GRAF aims to build awareness of the risks associated with gambling and enhance regulatory practices. Except in Nigeria where the confusions arising from regulatory authority between NLRC and State Regulators, have stunted innovations.

The Role of Automated Solutions

 

As regulations tighten around the gaming and gambling sector, automated solutions are playing a crucial role. These solutions are designed to verify customer identity and location, as well as assess transactions and users for fraud risk. One such solution is ThreatMetrix, which allows online operators to screen for suspicious behavior and activity in real-time. By utilizing machine learning, large volumes of data, and sophisticated analytics, these tools reduce the risk of fraud while minimizing the impact on legitimate customers.

 

Gambling operators are facing increasing pressure to take a leading role in responsible gambling programs. In many countries, operators are responsible for ensuring that self-excluded gamblers cannot re-register under a different identity. While responsible gambling programs in Africa are still in their early stages, operators are likely to face greater obligations in the future. However, the lack of coordination between regulatory boards poses a challenge in identifying self-excluded players.

 

Regulators worldwide are becoming more active in the gaming and gambling sector, particularly in online businesses. They are issuing fines and enforcement actions against operators who violate AML and responsible gambling rules. The UK Gambling Commission, for example, has imposed substantial fines on operators such as Casumo and Betway for breaching these regulations. In 2020, the UKGC issued fines totalling almost $33 million, signalling a strong stance on enforcement.

 

The Need for Stronger Regulations

 

The challenges faced by African regulators in enforcing responsible gambling regulations highlight the need for stronger legislation and enforcement. African regulators are under pressure to align with the regulatory approaches adopted by regulators in the US, Asia, and Europe. As technology continues to advance, regulators must stay ahead of the curve by embracing new developments and seeking expertise from global industry leaders.

 

The enforcement of responsible gambling regulations in Africa presents unique challenges. The rise of online gambling and gaming has necessitated a closer look at the industry’s potential for financial crime. Regulators in Africa are making efforts to understand and regulate the growing online gaming sector. Automated solutions play a vital role in screening for suspicious behaviour and reducing fraud risk. Responsible gambling programs and coordination among regulatory boards are essential to ensure the integrity of the industry. Fines and enforcement actions further emphasize the need for compliance with AML and responsible gambling rules. Strengthening regulations and embracing technological advancements will be essential to regulate Africa’s gaming and gambling sector effectively.

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