When it comes to gambling in Africa, Ghana is one of the countries to have a slightly more relaxed attitude to the pastime, compared to some of its counterparts on the continent.

The country has at least four brick-and-mortar casinos, at which both nationals and non-nationals can play, and sports betting is legal.

Online gambling is also possible, but is still something of a grey area since the legal system has been slow to acknowledge the presence of online casinos and regulate them.

This is a little like South Africa, where authorities frown upon gambling overseas online gambling operators can operate legally in the country.

People enjoy gambling in Ghana
People enjoy gambling in Ghana

How is Ghana protecting players and gambling operators?

The Gaming Commission of Ghana regulates gaming activities and strives to promote fair, responsible gaming. The agency advises the Ghanaian government on gambling activities in the country, as well as propose policy formulation on gambling, and provides gambling operators with licences. Although it investigates complaints from companies and the public, this government agency doesn’t have any say in matters concerning the state lottery, which the National Lottery Authority (NLA) operates.

The purpose of the state lottery itself is to generate revenue for the disadvantaged in society as well as to raise revenue for the nation. The draws from the lottery are the only lottery draws the government permits. Meanwhile, the NLA protects players by working closely with the police to close down illegal lottery outlets. The authority has done so for several years now.

The good news for online gamblers in Ghana is that online casinos can operate if they have a licence. Those who like the thrill of a gamble can do so in the likelihood that they’re playing on the site of a licensed operator, who is more likely to take care of the customer, and not be at the mercy of an unscrupulous illegal operator. Despite this being the case, the lack of computers and access to the internet means that playing at online casinos in Ghana isn’t as popular as it could be, although gambling as an activity does appear to be growing more popular.

People who prefer a more offline gambling experience can also enjoy a legal visit to a land-based casino. There are four in the country and often they open at noon for anyone who wants to play on the slot machines, whereas anyone who is looking to play table games will have to wait until the evening to visit. Visitors to any of these four casinos can play safely, knowing that the establishment is operating within the law and is answerable to the authorities if they break any laws.

Ultimately, Ghana has adopted a considerably liberal posture towards gambling, with the simple requirement of players to be 18 years or over to engage in any type of gambling activity. This protects younger players, over whom there is concern in some African countries about the effects of gaming, and also establishments, who wish for people to gamble responsibly.

People enjoy gambling in Ghana
People enjoy gambling in Ghana

Is there anything Ghana can learn from the UK?

Research has shown that Brits love a gamble. In the decade to March 2019, the total gross gambling yield — which is the amount the operators keep following payment of winnings to players — rose from £8.4 billion to £14.3 billion. The industry, however, has started to undergo a serious shake up, with the authorities subjecting operators to higher taxation and regulating the industry more closely. It will not be possible for people to use a credit card to play online, for instance.

What can the Ghanaians learn from the UK gambling industry? According to the UK Gambling Commission, UK operators must keep the cash in a separate account and must also indicate the level of protection the operator offers the customer. The commission advises paying special attention to this if a company holds large amounts of your money. This is something that Ghanaians should be aware of and look for when gambling with an operator.

As the industry tries hard to regulate itself more, one of the big developments has been the pledge of 10 major gambling operators to commit to making gaming safer for their customers. A £10 million grant from the industry will fund a four-year programme to educate young people about gambling. Two charities will deliver the programme and work with young people, their families and support workers to increase the awareness of the risks of gambling.

In terms of online gambling, and despite the availability of it to the population, the Ghanaian authorities could work more thoroughly on the regulations and the legal framework around the activity. Playing at casinos, sports betting, scratch cards, betting on horse races, bingo and playing on slot machines are all perfectly legal, whereas there is slight confusion around online gaming. Clarity in the UK’s legal framework for gambling activities protects consumers from fraudulent operators — which doesn’t mean that there are none out there, of course — and can help both the consumers and the operators to go about their activities without breaking any laws. This clarity enables operators to invest more in their games and improve the experience for users, without the fear of access being revoked at any moment.

Online casinos in Ghana often have a bad reputation before they even get going as their games are renowned for being low in quality. The tough but fair regulations in place in the UK mean only high-quality casinos are able to operate, resulting in players enjoying themselves a lot more. As an example, 777 Casino, a very uniquely retro designed Vegas of the 50ies themed online casino, have heavily invested in their games, while ensuring they meet all of the regulations, so when you login, you can rest assured you are playing at a top quality UK online casino.

The one thing that the figures from the UK have shown is that the nation’s appetite for gambling is an opportunity to rake in some serious revenue for government coffers. The British government’s measures to increase the safety of gaming for consumers illustrates they’ve recognised it. This potential is something to which the Ghanaian government could also be alert and could inspire the country’s leaders to work with judicial organs to provide clearer legislation surrounding gambling and boost revenue. Reports are showing that sports betting, for instance, is worth billions in Africa and will surely be generating revenue for the nation.

Anyone who wants to gamble in Ghana may do so, providing they’re over 18 years old, and may enjoy many forms of gambling without fear of the law. When it comes to online casinos, however, authorities seem to have a more neutral posture, neither endorsing it nor fighting against it. With the popularity of gambling starting to become clear throughout wider Africa itself, the Ghanaian government may wish to follow the UK lead and make the most of the opportunities the industry offers as well as protect the consumers and the operators while they do so.