Sunday, July 3, 2022

Covid 19 made a knock at Gambling Authority

The Gambling Authority (GA) which was birthed out of a 2003 policy paper that cautioned on the need to regulate gambling in Botswana through a dedicated authority was not spared from the global pandemic.

Figures shared by the authority in its annual report show that operations of the casino industry have been adversely affected by the Covid – 19 pandemic which led to a decline in revenue.

GA says casino license levies collected from the financial years 2016 to 2021 amounted to P86.15 million and 92.98 million was paid to government inclusive of interest. Some operators did hold off levy payment so as to save their businesses and retain employees.  According to Gambling Authority integrated annual report for 2021, the gambling industry in Botswana like the rest globally, was negatively affected by the COVID19 pandemic and they experienced a Gross Gambling Revenue (GGR) reduction of 36 percent.

Levies collected

The Authority collects 10 percent of Gross Gambling Revenue (GGR) as a levy into the levy fund. The reduction in GGR therefore affected the levy fund for the year. Due to the impact of Covid 19 on government finances, government through the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) has directed that all levies collected be paid across to the Consolidated Fund. Stated is that in that regard, P92.98 million has been paid to the Government of Botswana.

“Market share 2020/21 is led by the Grand Palm Casino and it continues to dominate the market with a 38 percent market share, followed by Avani with 27 percent. The Moonlite Casino has grown exponentially over the last year to capture a sizeable share of the market and it’s the third largest with a 19 percent share of the market,” reads the report.

Further stated in the report is that the gambling landscape is changing and that COVID19 has brought with it opportunities to innovate and leverage technology. Added is that the focus is to assist the operators to grow their digital footprint through internet based gambling and betting. “We view this as an imperative driven by both changing customer demands as well as the impact of COVID19, which disrupted how we currently operate”.

Gambling Authority outgoing Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thuli Johnson stated in the report that cognisant of the land-based investments, they will innovate together with the current operators to ensure that the invested casinos are not undermined. Johnson stated that new licences, lotteries and sports betting will be largely internet based given the anticipated customer base.

“Our regulations and oversight capability is being upgraded to ensure that these opportunities are captured,” he stated.

He observed that the global gambling market is driven by increasing penetration of online gaming and betting. He added that the Botswana market has experienced a 35 percent reduction in casino revenues due to the COVID19 pandemic; and it is expected to recover with the introduction of the National Lottery and other licence types such as sports betting. He said this recovery, which they had initially projected to manifest over a period of three years, may take longer as the COVID19 pandemic continues to affect market performance. He also stated that the Authority carried out this study to assess the prevalence of problem gambling in Botswana. He said key objectives of the study were to investigate problems caused by gambling, their impacts, causes, and possible ways to mitigate their effects.

“This was a national level study with data collected from a representative number of villages and towns across the country. The completion of the study is a milestone for the Authority as the research is pioneering and will provide a baseline for all matters around problem gambling,” he stated in the report.

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