Gambling Industry in Malawi
Gambling has been around for centuries in the world and 2300 BC is regarded as the first known record of gambling in the world.
Gambling comprises sports betting, poker, blackjack, roulette, lottery, bingo, raffle virtual sports and several others.
Gambling in Malawi was legalized in 1996 and throughout the years, the industry has gone through different strides.
The industry is young compared to those of other countries.
Of late, there has been a boom in the gambling industry.
In this article, we explore Malawi’s gambling industry to appreciate the strides, industry players as well as the future of the industry.
The Malawi Gaming and Lotteries Authority (MAGLA) is a body that regulates Gaming and Lotteries.
The body was formed in 2022 from a merger between Malawi Gaming Board (MGB) and National Lotteries Board (NRB).
MGB and NRB were established in 1996 and 2003 respectively.
The body has the following duties:
- Issue licenses to operators of activities related to gaming, betting & lotteries
- Supervise the operation of licenses to ensure compliance with terms & conditions
- Ensure that betting, gaming & lotteries are kept free from criminal activities
- Prevent, investigate, and ensure the prosecution of any offenders
- Supervise, attend, and validate the draws of all lotteries & other authorized games as it deems necessary
- License the importation, manufacture, supply, and maintenance of relevant devices & ensure that the devices are secure & satisfactory for the intended use
- Ensure that the winners are paid their prize money promptly
- Develop rules for the operations of gaming & lotteries in Malawi
Every company that operates in the gambling industry needs to have a license.
There are two ways how a company can get a license as an operator.
An interested company can apply for a license when the board issues a Request for Proposal (RFP).
The RFP specifies the type and number of licenses to be issued and any conditions that may apply as well as the area to which the license will relate amongst several other things.
A license can also be applied for by just walking into the offices of MAGLA and following the procedures that are given.
The license that a company can apply for includes Casino, Gaming machine site, Gaming machine operator, Wide area progressive, Manufacturer, Bingo operator, Junket agent, Supplier, Lottery licenses, and any other license as determined by MAGLA.
The following are the licensed operators in Malawi;
Gaming Machine Operator Licenses
- American Palace Ltd
- Mini Monte Gaming Ltd
- Highlands Leisure
- American Pirates Casino (Area 4 Lilongwe)
- Colony Club Casino (Amaryllis Hotel, Blantyre)
- Casino Marina (City centre, Lilongwe)
- Casino Marina (Chichiri, Blantyre)
- DBR International (Various locations)
- Vision Gaming (Various locations)
WAP Gaming License
- DBR WAP International Limited
- Good Investments
- DBR International Ltd
Sports Betting License
- Premier Bet
- World Star Betting
- Hollywood Bets
Popularity of Online Betting
Gambling has gone through vast changes due to advancements in technology such as the internet and electronic devices.
This has seen vibrancy in online betting.
Online betting became a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide and is currently valued to be between 70-85 billion US dollars.
In Malawi, online sports betting is becoming extremely popular.
Nowadays, a person can bet on a sports game on his/her mobile phone, and with mobile commerce services as well as mobile banking, individuals can transfer money to the betting account right on their phone.
This makes betting easier than other means that require one to go to a betting shop.
According to the MAGLA, online betting is becoming popular because it is an easier way of betting.
Online betting is convenient to the user as it is accessible anytime and anywhere as long as the user has an internet connection.
Betting shops are also spreading like wildfire.
There are betting shops in almost every part of Malawi, most of which belong to Premier Bet.
Premier Bet is also popular when it comes to online betting in Malawi.
Through its online betting portal, the company has sports betting, lotto, Quiz for cash, and virtual games.
Apart from sports betting, virtual games are also popular with the most popular amongst Malawians being ‘Aviator’.
The virtual game attracts thousands of Malawians each day.
Even after midnight, you can still find some people playing the game.
The fact that one can play such a game whilst in bed or anywhere else, makes it a popular option amongst Malawians than going to a betting shop or a casino.
Challenges in the Gambling Industry in Malawi
The Malawi gambling industry faces different challenges.
The biggest challenge is the misconception about gambling.
A lot of people think gambling is a means of getting income or getting rich quickly.
This misconception has led to a lot of people being addicted to gambling.
In its 2022-2027 strategic plan, MAGLA started that they faced the challenge of identifying problem gamblers as players hid their addictions.
This shows how much people are gambling to get money rather than just for leisure.
In its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Challenges (SWOC) analysis of previous years in the same strategic plan, MAGLA highlighted the failure to attract big players in the industry due to the size of the economy as a challenge.
In their further analysis, MAGLA highlighted threats such as lost revenue due to illegal gambling and lack of technology to monitor online gambling/betting, slow internet & high cost of data for online gambling, lack of local suppliers of gambling technologies, limited local capacity to test and certify gaming machines as well as software.
MAGLA as a regulator through its strategic plan is working to deal with all the challenges the industry is facing.
A notable challenge that it is already spearheading is problem gambling.
MAGLA has a hotline where one can call to report if he/she is addicted to gambling and wants to be assisted.
The Future of the Gambling Industry
The gambling industry in Malawi is still in its infancy compared to other countries.
However, the industry has been growing exponentially.
Licensed betting companies are also devising different ways to reach a lot of potential players in Malawi.
With the onset of online betting, the number of operators is increasing.
Internet speed improvement will also necessitate an increase in the use of online gambling sites.
Recently, TNM launched 5G network in the country, a move that also encourages people to play virtual games that require a fast internet connection.
Internet providers are now providing affordable internet bundles unlike in the past when the bundles were a bit expensive which even caused an online uproar a few years ago.
All these factors will enhance more players to start using websites for gambling.
The industry is also projected to see new operators on the market due to the growing interest in gambling.
As evidenced by Premier Bet’s rapid growth in the years it has been operating in the country, more betting companies are slowly flocking to Malawi.
Malawi is slowly creating an enabling environment for betting companies which will cause more companies will be interested to have a presence in Malawi.
The merger between Malawi Gaming Board and National Lotteries Authority has necessitated a well-coordinated regulation of the industry.
With the merger, the functions of MGB and NLB are under one body.
MAGLA explained that they want the gambling industry to be well-regulated and crime-free.
MAGLA plan to leverage technology to develop tech-driven compliance initiatives to ensure the sector complies with rules and laws.
This will enhance the protection of both the operators and players and ensure a fair, efficient, and transparent environment.
The body wants to further strengthen programs to counter problem gambling, underage gambling, and money laundering as well as to create an enabling environment for local participation.
With all the plans laid out, the future of the gambling industry in Malawi looks exciting for avid gamblers.
The Malawi gambling industry has a lot of potential to grow into a big industry.
Although it faces a number of challenges, it will still culminate like those of other countries.
The biggest challenge is the misconception and misuse of gambling sites.
There is a need for mindset change for people to understand that gambling is a leisure activity and not a quick way to get money.
The current state of the industry can be described as the infancy stage.
There is also a lot that needs to be done on the part of the regulator to ensure the industry runs for the benefit of both the players and operators.