Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are significantly impacting the worlds of entertainment and gaming. It was only a matter of time until they spread to the world of online gambling. With the first virtual reality online casino launched in 2015, players could explore 3D games and interact with others in a detailed, real-time environment. Since then, game developers have been striving to popularise VR online gambling. AR has an advantage over VR. All you need is a tablet or a phone. Besides reducing the cost, AR online casinos can be accessed anywhere, just like a mobile casino.
Let’s start with the most apparent difference between virtual reality and augmented reality. The advanced technologies are shaping the future of human-computer interaction, virtual gaming, and online betting. They are already being used across multiple disciplines and industries. The VR revolution has been accompanied by a rise in the popularity of augmented reality (AR). While augmented and virtual reality have similar names, they are far from identical.
What are Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality?
Virtual reality enables users to interact with a virtual world. A simulated reality based on sight and hearing is created and stimulated. The objective is to immerse the user entirely into a virtual world, thereby preventing them from seeing the real world. Virtual Reality is approximately 75% virtual and 25% authentic. The technology generally requires a VR headset equipped with loudspeakers and a visual display encompassing the entire visual field. Augmented reality, on the other hand, amplifies users’ real-world surroundings adding on virtual interactive features for users. Augmented Reality does not attempt to block out the real world or immerse the user. It overlays graphics and animation over real-world environments. AR uses different mediums like headsets, apps, and digital cameras.
The Online Betting Connection
Online casinos and betting sites have been continuously evolving and improving since the first casinos appeared online in the mid-90s. Online casino games and betting possibilities were previously restricted to home computers; however, they are now enjoyed by millions of users worldwide on mobile devices. Most online casinos today have adjusted their approach to focus more on mobile gamers. Moreover, some of them are ready for virtual reality. Betting sites have been quick to adopt new technologies to stay ahead of the competition and providing
users with the ultimate online gambling experience.
The Future of Online Betting & VR/AR Technology
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are about to transform online gambling. The near future will see VR technology providing online bettors with an entirely immersive gambling experience. The experience will block the outside world, replacing it with real-world or imagined environments. Augmented Reality serves to provide the interactive element of a real-world setting by adding digital layers of information to it. The technology is similar to that used by Snapchat lenses and Pokemon Go. A VR headset equipped with sensor gloves and a screen is used. When VR comes together with AR, they create a Mixed Reality (MR). This brand-new technology is starting to take off, for instance, with Microsoft’s HoloLens. A few online casinos are already offering virtual reality rooms. The next logical step is to integrate virtual reality and augmented reality.
The VR Casino Experience & Sports Betting
VR has infiltrated the gambling industry. Players are treated to a virtual environment. They can then play in a 3D environment where they can compete against one other, just like a real casino. The technology is capable of transporting players to famous locations and casinos in Las Vegas for an entirely immersive and realistic gambling experience. Players can play roulette, blackjack, poker, and slots at a Vegas Strip casino, and they can even communicate between themselves. Virtual Reality is already gaining ground, with AR in development to take virtual gambling up to a higher level. The technology will enable the superimposing of real-world objects onto a digital environment. Players will be able to see others through an enhanced environment with detailed visualisation and realistic sound. This can provide tactile physical sensations allowing players to interact more intensively with objects from the virtual world. How will it work? Players will be able to visualise the dealer enter the room. They can shake hands, hold cards, and press slot machine buttons. The technology provides players with a comprehensive 360° environment in view. They can then freely see everything going on at other tables and decide which one to join.
The Effect on Land-Based Casinos
The long-term effects on land casinos will be profound, particularly since social distancing has become a reality. You will be able to enjoy an immersive and greatly enhanced experience from your home. There are still few barriers stopping the implementation of VR and AR on a large scale on online betting. Despite AR taking huge strides in many industries, it is yet to catch on in a big way at online betting sites. The cost factor for VR hardware is still to be determined. Moreover, AR software for online casinos is still in development, as is the equipment. As technology advances, it becomes more affordable and is ready for integration with online betting sites and casinos. The technology will be capable of integrating with advanced graphics and sensory experiences, so immersion becomes easier to achieve. It may define the future of the online gambling industry.
In the early days, the Internet gambling industry struggled to attract casual gamblers. They did not seem to trust the algorithms, preferring to play against real dealers. At that time, the option was not available. Today, most online casinos offer live dealer games. Most online operators use the latest WebCam technology. However, it is suitable for table games like blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and other table games. Slots and video poker were off-limits. VR will further enhance the fun element in online betting. You can play immersive live dealer games and interact with live dealers. The versatile technology will be easy to implement in online slots. They continue to top the popularity charts at online casinos. You will genuinely feel like you are in a real casino when spinning the reels of slot machines or playing video poker. Live dealer games will feel far more realistic than presently when you are wearing a VR headset and seated at a virtual table. It is highly probable that the online betting and casino industry will spearhead VR innovation. The technology will allow operators to bring back the poker face and restore the lost shine of online video poker. The future of online betting will be tied closely to VR and AR technology. The benefits will be felt for years to come.
Australia does not have one overarching statute or a single gambling authority that regulate gambling activities in Australia. Instead, gambling is regulated at state, territory and federal levels. Australia’s eight mainland territories and States regulate gambling activities separately within their respective jurisdictions. Moreover, there is a series of federal statutes that cover different aspects of gambling in Australia. The constitution in Australia grants the federal government the power to regulate and govern in the various states and territories. Such capabilities include enacting legislation to regulate interactive gambling, anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism financing, consumer and competition protection.
Reforms Under Consideration
Gambling reforms currently being considered at a federal government level include disruption measures, blocking of internet service providers and financial blocking. The implementation of any rules will be implemented progressively throughout states and territories in Australia. In January 2019, the federal government enacted legislation prohibiting corporate bookmakers from taking bets on the outcome of a lottery. In December 2019, state parliament in South Australia introduced legislation significantly reforming gambling regulations. Amendments planned for the regulations under the gambling acts include changes to the Advertising and Responsible Gambling Code of Practice, guidelines for a new gambling administration, and community impact assessment guidelines. Stakeholders are to be consulted regarding the proposed changes in late 2020 to commence the reforms as a finished package later in the year. In effect, state parliament already passed legislation in 2019 to significantly reform the regulation of gambling activities across South Australia.
The Gambling Administration Act 1995
The previous Gambling Administration Act of 1995 was repealed and replaced by a new administrative and regulatory framework under the new Act, the Gambling Administration Act of 2019. Regulations to support the new Gambling Act will be drafted shortly and is subject to a thorough analysis of the Advertising and Responsible Gambling Code of Practice. Prescription notices with Guidelines will be replaced. It deals with the implementation of online solutions to facilitate a multi-venue barring system with changes to the length of the barring period. The broad social responsibility requirements include all gambling licences issued by state or territory adopting stricter requirements concerning responsible gambling. Restrictions to gambling advertising include inducements to open a betting account, and some jurisdictions prohibit adverts encouraging gambling.
Proposed Amendments to Gambling Legislation at Federal Level
The Federal government has recently implemented amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act. Gambling advertising and odds promotion are to be restricted during live broadcasts and online streaming of sports events. There are more stringent restrictions in place between 5.00 am to 8.30 pm. In late 2018, all Australian state and territory gaming ministers came together to agree on a National Consumer Protection Framework for online betting. It is in the process of being progressively implemented. The primary objective is to have a nationally consistent approach to minimising potentially harmful measures. They include prohibiting inducements like first deposit bonuses offered to prospective customers to open an online betting account. There is a mandatory opt-out of pre-commitments and a self-exclusion national register.
Run Down of Gambling Regulatory Bodies in Australia
Let’s take a look at the relevant regulatory bodies in Australia with a brief description of how they operate and regulate gambling. Interactive online gambling is under the wing of ACMA. The body is responsible for regulating media and communications throughout Australia. That includes the monitoring and enforcement of gambling regulations. ACMA also monitors compliance and enforces online gambling conditions. Federal interactive gambling laws prohibit activities like online slots, instant lotteries, casinos and poker. It regulates all forms of online betting services that provide in-play betting on live sporting events.
Australian Communications and Media Authority
ACMA has the power to instigate civil proceedings, notify border protection agencies of directors and principals who operate illegal offshore betting sites. They may be placed on a movement alert list that disrupts travel to Australia. It also liaises with foreign agencies and regulators to stop the offenders.
Australian Transaction Report and Analysis Centre
The Australian Transaction Report and Analysis Centre is responsible for regulating money laundering activities and the finance of terrorism. The Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorism Financing Act of 2006 requires specific gambling activities classified as designated services to maintain a compliant program and report suspicious transactions. They include threshold transaction reports and suspicious matter reports. If an operator fails to comply with regulations and does not maintain a compliant program or file reports late, civil penalties are imposed, and criminal proceedings started.
Australian Consumer and Competition Commission
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission is responsible for enforcing Australian consumer protection laws under the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010. With regards to gambling, ACCC monitors compliance by providers or online gambling services and their obligations, including gambling advertising. It is empowered to take the appropriate enforcement action wherever it deems that necessary.
Regulatory Licences and Permits
Operators require a license to offer casino table games, slot machines, lotteries, keno and retail wagering. Permits are typically long-dated and granted by the relevant state or territory. Bookmakers providing sports betting and racing with fixed-odds as well as phone betting require a corporate bookmakers Licence. Australian corporate bookmakers are mostly licensed in the Northern Territories. Land-based casinos, gambling parlours, hotels and clubs require both a gaming venue and a permit for every gaming machine on the premises. Gambling machines in West Australia can only be offered at a casino, while bingo can be conducted for charitable fundraising purposes by a community or non-profit organisation.
Nevertheless, a state or territory license is required to operate bingo centres in relevant jurisdictions. Any kind is social gaming without cash prizes does not require a permit since it isn’t classified as gambling under federal, territory or state laws. Skill games without an element of chance are not considered gambling; therefore, no license is required. If operated online, skill games fall within the interactive gaming regimes that are regulated by each state and territory. Online gambling is growing at approximately 15% annually, registering the fastest growth in its sector and showing no signs of abating.
The gambling landscape has changed forever with social distancing becoming the norm. Land casinos across the world have implemented new regulations to limit the spread of the virus. Many states in the USA have already allowed land casinos to reopen under strict rules and other countries are likely to follow suit. On the other hand, a 20% surge in demand for online casinos was reported during the lockdown. Sports betting sites and online bookmakers diversified their betting products to include eSports, virtual sports betting and online casino games. Sports leagues have started to recommence the season. The German Bundesliga has already kicked off, and other European leagues are about to restart, albeit with empty stadiums until social distancing rules are relaxed. Nevertheless, once stadiums reopen, capacity is likely to be reduced. Post-COVID, demand for online casinos is set to remain buoyant. New customers gained during the pandemic will likely remain loyal, and at the very least, land casino converts will retain the online version as a back-up.
Caesars Implements Post-COVID Plans
Land casinos will need to adapt and change practices, and are already implementing drastic regulations that will change the previous norm. American brands like Caesars Entertainment Corp. recently revealed reopening plans for its 36 casinos and resorts operated across the USA. Other brands have implemented similar policies. The company is opening its multiple properties in phases in line with initial demand and capacity limitations. Caesars already announced it had drafted a comprehensive health and safety strategy to be implemented across all properties. That ensures the health and well-being of staff and team members, guests, and visitors. The health and safety program focuses on enhancing cleaning and sanitation practices in all public areas, guest rooms and gaming areas to help limit the spread of the pandemic. Employees will be obligated to wear a face mask and gloves. Customers will be encouraged to wear face masks, but not obliged. Moreover, Caesars will facilitate and promote social distancing practices across all its casinos by limiting seating at gaming tables and slot machines on casino floors.
Post-COVID Surge in Demand for Casinos
Land casinos have been closed for months with gambling centres like Las Vegas rendered ghost towns. Land casinos all over the world are focussing on implementing social distancing practices recommended by local state and health officials. Casino resorts in Las Vegas are offering substantially reduced room rates to encourage patrons back to Southern Nevada, while some are offering to pay for visitors’ air tickets. The Bellagio and New York-New York, both operated by MGM Resorts along with Caesars Palace, The Flamingo, and Harrah’s, operated by Caesars Entertainment have started accepting visitors. The Las Vegas Sands, The Venetian, Palazzo, Wynn and Encore also opened their doors to guests. Up and running Vegas casinos include Treasure Island, The Sahara and The Cosmopolitan.
Demand Picks Up
Despite reduced visitor volumes, land casinos are starting to reopen and already reporting better than expected bookings. Initial demand to visit the Las Vegas Strip has proven substantially stronger than initially anticipated. In Europe, betting shops and land casinos have started the arduous trek back to a semblance of normality, operations and financial viability. Some casinos began accepting guests in May while others won’t be accepting patrons until July. Enthusiasm in the casino industry as a whole has remained surprisingly robust. CEO of Eldorado injected optimism regarding a planned merger with Caesars Entertainment Corp despite the pandemic induced slump. The CEO of casino operator Eldorado’s, Tom Reeg still insists his company will close a $17.3 billion merger with Caesars Entertainment Corp. by the summer, as initially anticipated. Land casinos are gradually easing restrictions many businesses, including casinos, set to reopen—optimism in US states such as Nevada mirror the rest of the world.
The New Casino Normal
While online casinos have not been forced to modify their business models, nevertheless, competition is fierce. The pandemic has led to an expected increase in demand for online business, including online casinos. There are no social distancing rules for online casinos; however, competition has become even more fierce. The first and second-quarter earnings for the year have attracted even more competition. Online casinos need to improve their products to compete. Once the stringent coronavirus restrictions ultimately wind down, the global economy will pick up, and all types of gambling will thrive.
The Future to Come
The pandemic crisis has decimated economic growth and effected the jobs market and spending power. Online and land casinos are looking at a windfall and release of pent-up demand caused by lock-down restrictions. Social distancing protocols enforced in small crowds and the requirement of using face masks in public will likely remain in effect long after the pandemic. Land casinos, along with big and small businesses around the world, are actively implementing the post-lockdown as a new normal.
Online casinos and land-based operators are being forced to navigate in the near-term. Citizens are desperate to resume public life; however, without a vaccine on the immediate horizon, uncertainty in the industry will persist, albeit at a lesser extent. Cashless transactions, smaller office space, fewer on-site employees, cleaner hotels and less crowded casinos without buffets are post-lockdown realities. Changes to public life will be subtle, yet dramatic. There will be structural changes in the gambling industry and the economy. The pandemic has opened up new opportunities. The gambling industry as a whole has suffered less than other businesses. Bookmakers have survived the postponement of sports events, and land-based casinos and bookies rode out the storm. Economists are predicting that it will take up to two years to recoup lost growth in the first two quarters of the year. Hotels and land casinos have been haemorrhaging money and are desperate to return to normal. Whether patrons feel safe enough to return to public life in their droves is still an open question. The gambling industry is in the process of imagining a casino experience with social distancing. By and large, casino floors are vast and can accommodate many patrons nevertheless. Casinos will have to spread out slot machines, games and equipment. There will be more equipment and processes to sanitise and enforce social distancing regulations. Elegant open-air buffet dining and packed casino floors will be a thing of the past. With fewer games on casino floors to provide the spacing requirements, casinos are coming back with much more infrequent.
Coronavirus is having a ripple effect on the gambling industry. Professional sports have been postponed, land casinos are closed, and social distancing has shut home games down. What can a gambler do, and what does the future hold for online and offline gambling enterprises? COVID 19 has already had a profound effect on the betting companies. Although casino websites are currently thriving, there is no telling how long that will last. Land casinos all over the world have experienced a significant drop in revenue due to social distancing and travel bans. Casino resorts in Las Vegas are experiencing considerable declines in visitors, and they are set to drop further as Coronavirus continues to spread. Mitigating measures may thwart the threat of contagion somewhat with checking fever before allowing guests to enter the venue. There are increased cleaning schedules and a ban on food buffets. As the fear of the virus continues to grow, more gamblers are embracing the idea of staying at home. That may be bad news for casino resorts; however—good news for online casinos and betting sites.
Betting Habit Changes
Staying indoors and keeping a distance from people has already become the norm in the hope of stemming the speed of the spread of the virus. Online gambling provides a much safer environment than a crowded casino or football stadium. Countries throughout Europe are implementing lock-down procedures; subsequently, gamblers no longer have the choice of going to a land-based betting establishment. Although there are many reputable online casinos, the betting landscape is changing. Players can go online to play their favourite slot machines and RNG table and card games. Players can participate in online tournaments and leaderboard challenges.
Challenges for Sports Betting Sites
One of the most significant challenges within the sports betting industry is the cancellation or postponement of sporting events. Without live sporting events to bet on, fans are looking at alternative betting opportunities. One such avenue is eSports. It is played online, therefore does not require the participants to come into contact with each other. Such games are significant money events, and the best players are stars in their own right eSports tournaments like FIFA 2020 and NBA 2K20, which attract huge audiences. Punters bet on the outcome of the games, and eSports is proving to be a massive hit during the lockdown. There is also an increase in betting on more random events.
The Future is Uncertain
For now, online casinos seem to be weathering the COVID 19 storm. Some are benefiting from it. The question is, will that last? The industry, in general, may experience a drop in revenue due to unemployment and lack of funds. The number of people losing their jobs in the travel and tourism industries will likely have a knock-on effect, and the reliance on government aid is frightening. If people are not making money, they are unlikely to be spending in other sectors. How long that will drag on is anyone’s guess.
Lessons learnt from the Great Depression.
The president of the Federal Reserve of St. Louis predicted unemployment to reach 30% and GDP to drop to 50%. If that actually comes to pass, we may be facing a disastrous calamity far worse than the Great Depression. There is a silver lining, however. During the Great Depression, gambling in the United States ironically experienced its most significant period of growth. States started turning to legalised gambling to generate much-needed tax revenue. The Great Depression led to the legalisation of full-scale casino gambling in Nevada. The economic transformation was unparalleled in American history. With widespread unemployment and poverty during the depression, it is hard to imagine betting on the horses or buying a lottery ticket. However, Americans responded to legalised gambling with enthusiasm in the 1930s. By the 1950s, as economies returned to a more stable economic climate, gambling in the USA blossomed into a multibillion-dollar industry. Studies have shown that during economic uncertainty, punters gamble even more!
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to cause delays and interruptions, the effects of the pandemic on the sports betting and online casinos are continuing to evolve rapidly as well. The Centre For Disease Control (CDC) issued guidance that will likely extend the length of lockdowns nationwide. The impact on sports betting may seem inconsequential during such a severe public health pandemic; nevertheless, there will continue to be tangible effects on the industry.
The effects of Coronavirus on sports betting have taken a big hit with cancellations of national leagues and major sporting events around the world. The Japan Olympics are postponed indefinitely, and EURO 2020 has been delayed until June 2021. The industry is facing unprecedented challenges, and the spread of Coronavirus continues. No one can say with any certainty when national and international sports will resume. With the largest countries in Europe and the USA under quarantine, lower league football teams are already facing financial difficulties.
How are betting sites coping?
With live sports suspended indefinitely, punters are turning to the only few options remaining. Online casinos are reporting increased online activity, so is eSports and virtual sports games. Horse racing may go ahead in some countries, less the crowd, and a handful of live events may still go ahead providing a trickle of events online bookmakers can exploit. One such event is the MML fight between Habib and Ferguson planned for April 19th. Betting sites are already offering odds for the eagerly anticipated battle. The silver lining is more people than ever before are going online and turning to alternatives. Land casinos have closed, and many of those players have gravitated to online casinos.
Trends and Diversification
We should not forget many bookmakers offer casino games. Another trend that is increasing is live dealer casino games such as those released by industry leaders. Online Poker, bingo, scratch cards are all viable alternatives to sports betting. Horse racing is set to continue behind closed doors, but unfortunately, the Grand National will not be held this year. Esports was already growing exponentially and will increase in popularity even more in the coming months. Virtual sports are the closest to the real thing for ardent sports fans. Sports betting companies and the media businesses that capitalised the industry are already cutting costs to keep afloat and trying to find creative ways to keep fans engaged while the sports world is in limbo. Online gambling companies are launching betting pools around politics or TV shows, as well as looking to smaller, international events that are still ongoing like horse racing, rugby.
Fantasy Video Sports
All eyes are on the Autumn NFL season as the next comeback opportunity for sports betting fans. Sportsbook operators are in a tight spot, as they own massive casinos and retail locations that have been hit worst. Online gambling providers are including daily fantasy and virtual sports to weather the economic climate. Sports leagues and associations, like NASCAR, are starting to turn to video gaming simulations or Esports which could provide new betting opportunities. The Coronavirus isn’t just affecting people’s health, but it has begun to affect sports matchups worldwide. It is causing a ripple effect on the betting market. Multiple organisations from Italian soccer to the NBA have discussed precautions for playing games due to the global outbreak.
Contingency Plans and Alternatives
Sportsbooks are preparing for upsets by underdogs due to the shakeup that is being caused by the illness. Every sport has the same plan set should they need it. That is, to keep playing the schedule without fans. Games would be played without fans behind closed doors, but played, nonetheless. The NBA informed teams with a memo that if there was a risk of Coronavirus infection, they should prepare to play without any fans in the stands. However, some athletes won’t agree with such measures. Coronavirus could make for an unexpected payday for those gambling on sports events. Payouts will be higher on the underdog. The worst-case scenario is to have the games played without fans in the stands but might be the only option. Athletes have been informed of the Coronavirus symptoms, and each player will be evaluated and tested before playing in the Championship. Either way, it is safe to say the entire sports industry is on top of the virus outbreak and they are taking proper, responsible precautions to avoid the further spread of the virus. In doing so, they have created what could be an extremely lucrative spread for all future sports events and those who love to bet on them. While sports fans may not be able to attend games, they will still be able to wager on them.
The gaming market in Colombia is the first jurisdiction in Latin America to set up a regulated online gambling environment. The eGaming Act was approved in 2016, and since then, the Colombian gambling market has been open to licensed operations. Colombia and Latin America have been targeted by major players in the industry due to the immense potential the region holds. Recent studies point towards a spike in demand for online gambling services in past years in the area. That has led to a surge in the number of gambling operators and service providers becoming interested in investing in local markets. The positive reaction is that multiple jurisdictions are considering the possibility of legalising online gambling and opening up their markets for online gaming with licensed operations.
Paving the way for Latin America with Legislation
Colombia is essentially paving the way for countries like Mexico and Brazil to follow suit and fine-tune and update their existing gambling laws meet contemporary demand. Colombia is moving away from its notorious status as a drugs capital. With recent headway made to end decades of conflict and revolutionary between militia groups, Colombia is finally emerging from that shadow. Colombia’s emergence as a jurisdiction for online gaming stems from Law 643, that is a 2001 provision aimed at increasing regulation of the gambling industry. Over 60% of Colombian adults regularly place wagers and are enthusiastic about gambling. Land-based casinos, slot parlours, bingo and lotteries are currently legal in Colombia. The state passed a set of laws in 2008 outlining the rules for the operation of slot halls and casinos. All operators were required to abide by the new set of regulations to continue operating in the country. The law stipulates casinos can only operate in commercial venues with the main activity being gambling. All electronic gambling games must be connected to a national information database network, and also follow the protocols.
Colombian eGaming Act
The Colombian government introduced measures to block any gambling website that does not follow proper licensing procedures. The Colombian eGaming Act contains a set of rules that govern the operation of online cash gaming activities, including poker, casino games, and sports betting. Instead of having to obtain separate licenses for every type of gambling, operators can opt for one license covering all activities. Moreover, to operate legally in Colombia, operators need to pay a licensing fee of around $200,000 a year and 15% tax on gross gaming revenues.
Colombian Gambling Authority
The gaming industry in Colombia is regulated by a governing body, just like other jurisdictions. The El Consejo Nacional de Juegos de Suerte y Azar (Coljuegos) ensures operators follow the protocols and legal requirements. The organisation replaced the defunct Empresa Territorial para la Salud (ETESA) in 2011 due to allegations of rampant corruption. The Coljuegos was responsible for drafting new gambling legislation and regulations, enabling it to exert a tighter grip on gambling activities and increase revenues.
Building on the Past
The Colombian government was restructured under a new Constitution in 1991, and Law 643 was enacted. The objective was to organise the prevailing, unsupervised collection of casinos, bingo halls, and slot parlous. However, by 2001, gambling was entirely controlled by underworld figures and paramilitary organisations that plagued the country for generations. The new rules proved successful, and under the guidance ETESA, Columbia saw its tax revenue from gambling increase by over 500%. Nevertheless, up until 2008, illegal gambling was rampant to such an extent that 20% of all betting on the county was unlawful, and 20,000 out of the country’s 65,000 slot machines were unlicensed. ETESA issued ten new gaming licenses by 2009, extended operations of 9 other venues, and renewed 22 permits for existing gambling enterprises. Colombia is only rivalled by Argentina in terms of South American casino operations. Cartagena, San Andrés, and Bogotá are home to many casino establishments. ETESA was disbanded in 1012 following a series of corruption scandals; however, the agency has been replaced by Coljuegos.
A Growing Market and Future Challenges
Colombia has a population approaching 50 million and an expanding economy that is fast becoming a hotbed for gambling activities. One of the most significant challenges the Coljuegos faces is to modernise the existing system of issuing gambling licenses to regulate the online gambling industry. A new draft was presented by the Coljuegos in 2016 outlining the new regulations for online gambling. Changes in Colombian gambling laws means operators need more starting capital; however, it will help players develop a sense of trust. Prior to the Coljuegos taking control of gambling activities in Colombia, the system was rife with corruption and illegal gaming activity. The association was formed to eliminate bribery and illicit activities, thereby creating realistic regulations that fully reflect modern gambling trends, and increase revenues. These positive changes are already attracting betting companies to set up operators in Colombia and growing revenues through taxes and licenses. The Colombian gambling regulator Coljuegos has already granted an iGaming license to locally owned betting company Aquila Global Group, which was the first authorised by the regulatory body. Colombia’s regulated online gambling market closed strongly in 2019, while over 1.7m new customers registered in 2018. Colombia has steadfastly persevered through years of turmoil to become a shining example for South American countries to follow in terms of gambling legislation. The online gambling industry in Latin America is about to be transformed, and Colombian law is the catalyst!
Developments related to gambling activities in Kenya published in both Romanian and English in Casino-Magazine.ro
Brazil has the fifth largest population, and the ninth largest economy in the world, the country could easily be a significant market for sports betting. With a population approaching almost 220 million, Brazil’s online sports betting market could be worth over $1.15bn, as Senator Flexa Ribeiro pointed out. Although Brazilian online sports betting has been largely unregulated until now, online sportsbooks were legal. Attempts to ban online gambling prove how prevalent it is. The government in Brazil tried to ban online gambling payments way back in 2006, 2008, and most recently in 2010. Thus far, all attempts have failed. Furthermore, the Senate attempted to ban online sportsbooks in 2011. That measure also failed to gain sufficient support. The Brazilian Senate passed a bill in 2015 that proposed to regulate and tax online sportsbooks, and additionally creating two new lotteries.
Legal Grey Area
Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff vetoed the bill in 2015, and so far, online sports betting operates in a legal grey area. Although Brazilians love betting on sports events, there are not that many legitimate online sportsbooks in Brazil. Until now, Brazilian gamblers have accessed international online bookmakers that accept real money players from Brazil.
Regulations for online sports betting in Brazil
Online sportsbooks that cater to Brazilian bettors need to include South American and European football betting options. A legitimate Brazilian sportsbook provides betting on Jiu-Jitsu in mixed martial arts. Several Brazilian fighters participate in the MMA; therefore, sportsbooks will need to offer bet options on the UFC, as well as, the other significant MMA associations. Other popular sports in Brazil include South American and NBA basketball, along with horseracing. Sportsbooks will need to have all online sports bets in the Portuguese language. Sites should also support online transactions in Brazilian Reais.
New sports betting legislation
The Brazilian Congress finally approved the Provisional Measure (MP) 846. It was subsequently signed into Law 13,756/2018 in December 2018 by the President. The law authorises online sports betting and land-based betting, however, legislation is yet to receive specific enforcement regulations enabling licenses to be granted to private betting operators. The Brazilian Ministry of Finance will be the new regulator for legal sports betting on the country. It is estimated that another two years are needed to finalise all the specific regulations.
Since the Law 13,756/2018 was approved and sanctioned, the Brazilian sports betting market experienced a massive shift. There has been significant growth in advertising revenue for local soccer clubs. Increases have been noted in the number of soccer tournaments and leagues, sports ambassadors, and sponsorships. New land-based and online operations have sprung up as the projected increase in the betting volume takes effect. The new legislation sets out fixed quota betting for retail and online operators. Online operators will be obliged to pay back at least 89% of bets handled back to the customer.
Additionally, operators will have to pay a tax rate of 8% on their turnover. Out of these 8%, 3% is to be channelled into education, social security, along with law enforcement. Unexpectedly, approval of the bill was passed relatively quickly for the country, notorious for its cumbersome political system. The new political climate seems to be much friendlier towards gambling. The Senate Bill PLS 186/2014, passed this year, legalising online sports betting, online casino games and bingo was defeated by 13-2 in a senate vote.
Final Public Consultation
Potential sports betting operators in Brazil are being invited to a final public consultation. It is a chance to influence and shape the new gambling rules before they are carved in stone. The Ministry of the Economy in Brazil announced the consultation regarding proposed plans, and the regulation of online and offline sports betting. Interested parties had up until the end of September to submit their proposals and counter-reactions to the new draft decree. The document was initially launched in July, and attracted 1,850 submissions, with a third of them from industry types. The draft decree was the result of the ministry’s interpretation of submissions. However, there were apparently still several areas of uncertainty.
Moreover, the decree confirms both online and land operators will have to pay 1% tax on betting turnover. According to government estimates, that will work out at about 6% of the gross revenue from gambling. The draft decree does not contain any other information regarding fees or taxes; however, the government previously confirmed licensees have to pay an upfront fee of US$735, and monthly fees of BRL30k for online operators, BRL20k for land-based, and BRL45k for both at once. Applicants for betting licenses need to provide proof of financial reserves of $1.5m to ensure bettors are paid if the bookmaker encounters financial difficulties. All advertising for betting has to be accompanied by a responsible gambling messaging, and the online operators’ home pages need to be visible. Operators will not be permitted to make fun of the cultural beliefs or traditions in Brazil, or mock people who disapprove of gambling. Operators who are flouting the rules may face penalties amounting to 100% of their gross revenue. Repeat offenders are charged double the original penalty. Betting legislation was signed into law last year, allowing two years for the government to make the final betting regulations. The plan is to prepare and finalise the rules by December 2019, ahead of a betting market launch in June 2020. Operators are already salivating at the prospect of offering sports betting to Brazil’s 212m residents.
When it comes to the gambling and gaming industry, Africa should be the next big area to focus on. This is due to its huge population (over 1.2 billion people), the high rate of internet and smartphone penetration. Kenya, alongside South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana are some of the countries where the gambling industry has really expanded in the last couple of years.
In particular, the gambling industry has been booming in Kenya in the last couple of years. The success of the gambling industry in Kenya is greatly due to the hugely successful mobile money industry in Kenya. Virtually, every adult in Kenya has a mobile money account. In fact, MPESA, the leading mobile money platform in the country, is the dominant medium of financial transactions in Kenya. This, coupled with the high rate of internet and smartphone, has led to the success of sports betting and online casinos and, to a lesser extent, land-based casinos. In fact, the growth in sports betting and online casinos has been unbelievable since 2014.
There have been concerns, however, about the implications of the rising gambling culture in the country and lack of clear-cut regulations in terms of taxation. According to a survey by Geopoll, Kenya has the highest number of youths involved in gambling and gaming activities. There have been recent developments and proposed changes relating to the control of gambling and gaming industry in the country that industry players need to keep track on, to ensure compliance or be ready for adjustments if necessary.
Regulation of gambling and gaming activities in Kenya
When it comes to gambling and gaming regulations in Africa, Kenya is at the forefront compared to other countries; its regulation framework is more organised. Gambling and gaming laws are outlined in the Betting Lotteries and Gaming Acts of 1966. The Act puts the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) in charge of all administrative duties of gaming and gambling activities both at the national and county government level. This includes 11 bingo halls, 30 casinos, one horse racing track event and 3 Sportsbooks. The BCLB is placed, in turn, under the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
The global gambling and gaming activities are on the rise, and newer and more sophisticated forms of gambling are blooming. This has raised concerns over the legal framework of gaming and gambling in Kenya. The Betting Lotteries and Gaming Acts of 1966 has all been caught up, and there is a need for its review.
Applying for a gaming licence in Kenya, the applicant is required to get in touch with the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) and fill a special form referred to as Form 13A. Upon completion, an application fee is paid to the board to carry out an evaluation to determine the suitability of the applicant.
After realising the huge potential in the online gambling industry in terms of the revenues collected, the Kenyan government decided to impose greater taxes on players and operators alike. Corporate tax for betting companies was increased from 20% to 35%. There were a lot of backlash from operators. SportPesa, arguably the largest sports betting operator in Kenya, withdrew its sponsorship for the national football team in retaliation. On their part, players were to part with 20% of their winnings. This regulation was, however, halted by the high court in April 2019.
All in all, the overall handling of online gambling and land-based casinos in Kenya has been great. This year, 2019, the government invited all stakeholders to a meeting and several things were proposed as outlined below.
Proposed new developments
The stakeholders meeting was held on 1st April 2019. The Cabinet Secretary to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government outlined several proposed measures and changes to the regulatory framework of the betting industry in the country. During the meeting, the Cabinet Secretary expressed the need for a total overhaul of the regulatory framework of the betting industry since it is inadequate. Among his major concern was the need to protect youths and the poor who are predominantly involved in gambling activities in Kenya. He insisted that online gambling and gaming has become a crisis.
The ministry announced the following proposed measures and changes:
1) The Ministry intends to come up with a gambling and gaming policy together with a Bill that will be presented to the National Assembly for consideration regarding new statutory regulation of betting activities upon completion of consultation among industry stakeholders.
2) The Cabinet Secretary announced that all gaming licences would stand suspended as from 1st July 2019 apart from those who will have complied with the law and their tax obligations as will be determined by the BCLB. The Cabinet Secretary expressed his concerns over low tax received from the sector compared to the huge revenue generated.
3) The Cabinet Secretary issued directions to the Communications Authority of Kenya and BCLB to ensure that advertisements are not repugnant to good taste or deceptive. He ordered the two bodies to review all advertisements relating to gaming and gambling activities in Kenya.
4) The Cabinet Secretary also ordered the Immigration department jointly with BCLB to document all agencies involved in gambling activities and vet all the foreign nationals involved in gaming and gambling activities.
The ministry announced that there would be another meeting later between the relevant government agencies, including The National Treasury and Communications Authority, and other industry players to collect their views on the running and operations in the gaming industry.
The cabinet Secretary reiterated the ministry’s resolve to have clean, organised and reformed gambling and gaming industry in the country.
Among his commitment, the Cabinet Secretary promised an overhaul of the regulatory framework of the gambling and gaming sector. Operators and other industry players can expect significant regulatory and administrative changes in the gaming sector. They, therefore, need to keep track of any change and ensure compliance.
It would also be very vital for industry players to take part in the sectoral consultations between the government agencies and stakeholders. Their input in the proposed legal, regulatory review process is important. It will also help them anticipate and prepare adequately for the expected changes.
Huge opportunities in Africa
The African continent has over 1.2 billion people living in it and accounts for 16.3% of the world’s population, making it the continent with the largest population behind only Asia.
Of the countries we will focus on here, Nigeria is the country with the seventh largest population in the world. The Democratic Republic of Congo is 17th and Kenya 29th.
Due to its potential, which is based on the size of its population and the resulting revenue that is available across the continent, Africa could easily become the next big area of focus over the next few years when it comes to the gambling industry.
The fact that this is all relatively new in African countries and many such opportunities remain unexplored, helps explain why the sky is the limit as far as gaming and Africa goes.
Of course, seeing the potential and having the frameworks in place to explore it are two very different things. Knowing the local laws, processes and acquiring the necessary licences to make it all happen require knowledge, connections and experience. Which of course is where we come in to make it all happen.
To what extent is gambling regulated in these countries?
Nigeria presents the best opportunity of all
A few years ago, PriceWaterhouseCoopers released a report called the Gambling Outlook 2013/17 which studied the pace at which gambling might grow in Africa over the next few years. Of all the countries included in the report, Nigeria came out top in terms of being the one with the potential for the fastest growth, which could be anywhere north of 17% in terms of year-on-year growth.
Lotteries held at national level are regulated through the National Lottery Act of 2005 which determine how they should be run, what taxes are paid by both the Operator and the winners and what other measures need to be put in place to ensure everything runs smoothly and fairly. In 2011, the Money Laundering Act was put in place to establish measures and penalties relating to Money Laundering offences, which apply to the Gambling industry.
Whereas both of those are relatively recent Acts, most of the other ones relating to Gambling in Nigeria are from a while back.
For example, the definition of ‘gambling’ can be found in the Criminal Code of 1990 and the Gaming Machines Act of 1977 is the one that relates to gaming machines such a slots and video poker.
At present, there does not seem to be a set plan by the Nigerian government to get this legislation updated.
For example, 2013 saw the first-ever Nigerian online casino open its virtual doors. NairaGames Casino has admittedly shut down since but it shows that being granted a licence to operate as a legal online casino there can be done. Further proof of that is the fact that not only are there five licensed online sportsbooks, but two of them also have online casino games on their site.
What does the law say?
As things stand, Nigeria can be said to be semi-regulated.
The law states that legal betting includes skill-based card games such as Casino Hold’em, Roulette and Backgammon, which can be played at one of three legal bricks-and-mortar Casinos in Nigeria. These three Casinos also offer sports betting facilities which make up a greater share of the country’s revenue generated from gaming than all the table games put together.
There are currently also a handful of Nigerian-based and owned sports betting sites. These are extremely popular and 100% regulated.
It is also legal to bet on state-run betting pools and horse racing totes. These two forms of gambling are actually regulated very strongly with measures put in place to ensure every bet on them is registered, the winnings are divided equally and properly among the pool winners and that any establishment running them is licensed before being open for business. Anyone running these operations without the proper license can face heavy penalties including huge fines and imprisonment, all of which reiterates the point that everything needs to be done by the book and that of course is where our work as consultants will be invaluable in making sure that no stone is left unturned.
Similar licensing requirements and subsequent penalties to those who do not have them also apply when it comes to running lotteries.
Understanding Nigerian Law and how to interpret it is therefore paramount and for those who succeed in making it work in their favour, the business potential is almost unparalleled.
Kenya among the frontrunners when it comes to regulation
Gambling laws in Kenya are mostly set out in the Betting Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1966. The first thing it did was to hand power over to the Betting Control and Licensing Board, responsible for virtually all aspects of gambling in Kenya but above all, set up to regulate gambling establishments.
That includes the 28 casinos, 11 bingo halls, three sportsbooks and one horseracing track available on Kenya.
In this respect, Kenya has a more organised and formal approach to regulating gambling than other African countries, of which Nigeria would be a good example, as mentioned already.
Examples of the state having a formal and organised approach to gambling within their borders are that gambling is a big source of revenue for the state. This is mostly through a 20% tax on lottery winnings charged to players and further taxes imposed on operators through taxes and licensing fees.
To apply for a gaming license in Kenya, applicants need to contact the Betting Control and Licensing Board and complete a special form referred to as 13A. On completion they will have to pay the Board a fee to carry out an investigation to determine the suitability of the applicant (and in the case of a land-based business, the premise). The Board will then decide whether to grant the license.
Congo – Regulation at Government level has been a success story.
Unlike Kenya, there is no Gaming Authority or other special body regulating gambling in Congo. Instead, the Government itself is responsible for doing so and the absence of a dedicated body does not mean gambling there is not regulated. On the contrary: there are structures and procedures in place that mean gambling activities are controlled, tax is paid by licence-holders and that proceeds from running lotteries are put towards good causes.
Gambling in Congo is legal and since 2005, all ‘games of chance’ have been regulated. Since then, a few amendments have been made to update the definition of what are games of chance and what are not but as things stand, they include: lotteries, slots and other games where human interaction or involvement does not affect the actual outcome.
In contrast, there seems to be less clear-cut guidance regarding games of skill such as blackjack and poker meaning it is not obvious whether these games are considered gambling. Although you could argue they are, because they are readily available in both of Congo’s two Casinos.
In addition to these two land-based Casinos, other regulated forms of gambling in Congo are bingo (it is specifically mentioned as an example of a game of chance though Bingo halls are at a premium in the region) and lotteries. The National Lottery, authorized back in 1984 through Presidential Order No. 84-155, is 60% state-owned and 40% in private hands.
Much like the National Lottery in the UK, proceeds from running it, after winnings have been paid out, are used to fund socio-economic activities and causes that serve the public interest.
But if these forms of gambling are regulated, online gaming certainly is not. It is legal to play online but in the absence of any Congo-based online operators or specific rules relating to playing with foreign sites, that is as far as the guidance goes.
There is relatively recent legislation governing Gambling – The 2006 Gaming Act – which has made it legal to bet in Ghana and the body responsible for its regulation is the Ghana Gaming Commission (GCC).
The GCC’s responsibilities include the regulation, monitoring and supervision of games of chance and sports betting operators, as set out in the aforementioned Act.
That includes dealing with the licensing and running of the country’s four land Casinos and the five overseas companies (at the time of writing) who run Sportsbooks. Mostly focusing on European soccer but also offering markets on US Sports which are popular among Ghanaian punters, they have bricks-and-mortar shops scattered around the country and also offer the facility for Ghanaian players to place their bets online or via their mobiles.
Applicants wishing to obtain licenses must contact the Ghana Gaming Commission and follow the subsequent procedure. In the specific case of Casino licences, the applicant must also obtain approval from the National Redemption Council. Casino licences are granted for a period of one year upon the payment of a fee and the licence holder can apply for the license to be renewed at the end of that year upon payment of a renewal fee, which is considerably smaller than the one paid to be granted the licence in the first place.
The GCC however does not deal with the Lottery side of things, which is run by the National Lottery Authority (NLA), set up in 2007. Similar to Congo, the lottery is both an important source of revenue for the country through taxes, as well as a way of funding aid for the socially disadvantaged.
The National Lottery Authority (NLA) also owns a sports betting product going by the name of Soccer Cash.
In one respect, Ghana is therefore a regulated market when it comes to Gambling as we have seen, through a relevant and recent Act and bodies set up to make sure everything is run smoothly when it comes to for example, licensing and taxation.
Is online betting available in these countries?
Online betting is readily available in all the countries we considered as case studies and in particular in Nigeria, which has the highest quality and greatest reach when it comes to internet connections.
In Nigeria, there are local sports betting companies present within the country offering online/mobile betting and in the case of Ghana, there is the NLA-run Soccer Cash product that is available in shops, bars and online as well. Plus foreign companies who are allowed to operate on Ghanaian soil as long as they have the requisite license.
What all four of them have in common is that none of them have openly made it illegal for citizens of their country to bet online with foreign sites.
It is, therefore, up to each and every betting company to decide whether they want to accept players from the four countries we have looked at. Of the four, Nigeria is the country that foreign companies have been more sceptical about accepting customers from, but plenty of other operators have been happy to welcome them to their site.
Our findings on Gambling in selected African countries
Looking at the case studies covered here, we can reach a few general conclusions, even though all four countries are slightly different.
They differ is in terms of governing bodies specifically set up to regulate the gambling operations. Some of them have specifically appointed regulatory bodies to deal with some or all of the gambling-related issues within that country such as licensing, taxation and penalties whilst others, of which Congo is the best example, have managed it all through the Government itself without that necessarily making the regulation process any less effective.
Similarly, some are also more competent than others and how strict they are with granting licenses and imposing penalties, will also vary.
They all have land-based Casinos and lotteries available to play on their own soil and whereas some of them have their own sports betting operators, they all make it legal for their citizens to bet with foreign operators, if they so wish.