Gambling is big business the world over. The African continent is no exception. South Africa’s GGR (Gross Gaming Revenue) in 2021 hit approximately $2.5 billion, making it Africa’s biggest gambling market. Nigeria is also a big hitter, raking in approximately $58 million in 2018 with an expected growth rate of 16% by 2023. Another African country with a thriving gambling market is Rwanda. Between 2008 to 2012, Rwanda’s GGR was approximately $10.5million; not quite the punch packed by South Africa or Nigeria, but one to watch, nonetheless.
Boosting the Economy
Rwanda’s gambling industry has already had a significant effect on the country’s economic growth. The industry employs upwards of 5000 people, which translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars in Taxes Payee. These jobs increase people’s spending power, which in turn benefits the surrounding community. And since 2011, the government has reinvested the revenue from gambling into community-based projects, such as education and IT infrastructure.
Casino gambling was officially legalized in 2011. In 2013, the Rwandan government established the Rwanda Gambling Board. All gambling establishments are now required to obtain a license from the Rwanda Gambling Board, and they must pay the Rwandan government 13% of their GGR in taxes. Due to strict regulations and steep operating costs, there are currently only three major land-based casinos, all of which are based in Kigali, the country’s capital city. The biggest of the three casinos is the Casino Kigali at the Lemigo Hotel. However, slot machines can be found in various restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
Online gambling is also permitted under the Rwandan gambling laws. However, there is currently only one Rwandan-operated online gambling platform – Cheza Rwanda Games. If a resident of Rwanda wants to expand their online gambling activities, they have no choice but to consult a casino specialist like MrCasinova to find a reputable online casino. It is perfectly legal for Rwandan players to play casino games at international online casinos, but by doing so, Rwanda is missing out on an extremely lucrative revenue stream. International online gambling sites are not required to pay taxes to the Rwandan government.
During the Covid pandemic, all land-based gambling establishments in Rwanda were ordered to close their doors. The negative effects on the industry have been enormous and widespread. Not only have the businesses suffered from loss of revenue, but employees have been let go, and landlords have not been paid. The Rwandan gambling industry lobbied heavily to get casinos up and running again, and many complained that they were not given the opportunity to switch to an online platform.
As previously mentioned, the only Rwandan online gambling enterprise is Cheza Rwanda Games. The reason for this is twofold. The first is the fact that land-based casino operators need a separate license in order to operate an online casino. The second is that the Rwanda Gambling Board are making it difficult for land-based operators to switch from one licence to the other. The reasoning behind this is because the Gambling Board are said to be using Cheza Rwanda Games to assess online operations and then create regulations specific to the online platform. Rwandan casino operators argue that by issuing an online license to only one online operator, the gambling board have effectively created a monopoly. Many have questioned the legalities surrounding this issue.
It’s not hard to see why so many operators are frustrated by the difficulties they face when trying to move their operations online. From Apr 2019 – Mar 2020, the UK’s GGY was £14.2 billion, with the online sector responsible for 39.9% of the total revenue. During the height of the pandemic, from April 2020 – March 2021, the total GGY for the online casino sector (including sports betting and bingo) was £6.9 billion, an 18%increase from the previous year. A huge amount that clearly indicates that people did not stop gambling during the pandemic, they simply moved their habits online. If Rwandan casinos had been able to operate online during the same period, the industry and the country’s economy could have reaped huge benefits.
Casino owners will, of course, be pushing for concrete regulations to be established for online gaming, allowing more operators to set up online gambling sites. The more online sites, the better the circumstances will be for Rwandan players. As it is, playing online at international sites offers little or no protection to Rwandan players, and exchange rates impact winnings. Players will end up having to pay taxes on their winnings, but it’s a fair trade off for better protection and a stronger economy. Even though things have been dire for the gambling industry over the pandemic, all is not lost. We expect to hear great things from the Rwandan gaming industry in the years to come.