Have you ever gambled here in Zimbabwe? If so, you’ll know that if your horse comes in, or you win on the pools, you have to pay 10% tax on those winnings. Win at the casino and you have to pay an even bigger 15%, which some people feel is unfair.
This article compares the laws on gambling here with laws in other countries and questions whether it’s fair, exploring the possibility of changes to legislation and any obstacles facing it.
Are Zimbabweans the only ones who have to pay tax on their winnings?
‘No’ is the short answer. In the Netherlands, for instance, players also have to report any winnings to the authorities and may have to pay tax on them. Lottery winners in France, Greece and Portugal must also pay tax on their winnings, too. Closer to home, our cousins in Nigeria don’t mess around: you pay tax on all gambling winnings. In South Africa, you don’t have to pay tax on lottery winnings and you don’t have to pay tax on any online gambling winnings, as long as you’re doing so for leisure.
Gambling laws in the UK
In the UK, the online gambling industry is an extremely lucrative and important part of the economy.
Gamblers in some countries get a much better deal. For example, in the UK, gamblers used to have to pay taxes on their winnings, but the authorities changed their approach as the industry progressed. Now they tax the operators more instead, so people there who strike it big at casinos online or offline, or who take part in other gambling activities, can enjoy their gains tax-free. The only thing they must be wary of is what they do with their winnings afterwards. If they were to invest them, then they’d still have to pay tax on the money they make from the investment.
The general idea behind the UK taxation laws is that the tax on the winnings would be bad for the economy. The winnings of some come from the losses of others and if the authorities were to impose taxes on winners, they may also have to introduce tax credits or similar measures to balance out the losses of the losers. Ultimately, it would cost them more instead of generating revenue for the UK government.
None of this would be welcomed in a country which has a huge appetite for gambling, especially online gambling which accounted for 38% of the total spend between October 2017 and September 2018. Part of the reason for online casino’s popularity, apart from the gaming experience, is the general accessibility and high-quality nature of the sites. At online casinos, players can play a variety of popular casino games from the comfort of their own homes. Playing on mobile or tablet devices means they can even play on the move as they wish. 888 Casino is one of the most innovative operators, developing their own unique games and also has a whole range of new and old favorite games to choose from, including classics like much-loved blackjack and American roulette, or even better yet, the hugely popular European roulette.
Is it fair?
Changing the laws could bring a lot of money in for the Zimbabwean economy, but it would mean a lot of hard work in terms of establishing regulations and legislation.
If you’re a gambler, probably not. A change in gambling laws could do the Zimbabwean economy a whole lot of good, but the problem is that there’s no clear regulation of the online gambling sphere in the country. Players could end up playing on illegal sites that don’t protect them, whereas solid regulation would make players feel safer. The implementation of suitable measures to protect player is a huge factor and one of the main reasons the gambling industry in the UK fairs so well.
What is clear is that there is a growing appetite for gambling in this country, especially amongst young people, a change in the law looks unlikely. The Africa Renewal information programme, which promotes the work of the United Nations (UN), has made this clear on its own website. Unfortunately, economic problems such as rising poverty and unemployment are driving this new founded urge to gamble, but there’s enthusiasm for the activity nevertheless and a change in laws could see the popularity of online gambling rise.
Right now, anyone who loves this country would appreciate a change in laws. As the situation stands, Africa is a potentially big gaming market and foreign operators can run their businesses in Zimbabwe but move the profits out of it, which means Zimbabwe sees little of them, if any at all. The Brits have prevented this free-for-all by making sure that any foreign operators in the company pay taxes to the UK government. It’s a lesson we could (and should) learn from a country that’s always been considerably liberal when it comes to gambling and is into its third decade when it comes legalising online casinos.
One of the other (many) problems the country faces is its infrastructure. It doesn’t have the financial infrastructure to facilitate online gaming easily. Although Zimbabwe now has the RTGS dollar, you can’t use it to play online and have to use US dollars, euros, pound sterling, South African Rands or other currencies to play. The other problem is that a lot of the population don’t have access to some of the payment methods on the sites offered by foreign operators. These are big hurdles to overcome.
Will Zimbabwe see any changes in its legislation soon?
It’s not looking likely. The Zimbabwean government have recognised the need for change, but haven’t gone a great deal beyond that so far. Whether change will come or not is anyone’s guess, but it would be good for the authorities to take online gambling out of the grey area in which it has been hovering through to a clearly regulated space in which players can feel safer. It would be a tremendous starting point, with the authorities being able to issue licences to operators and go from there.
Right now, with so many other challenges on its hands, the government has a lot to tackle before it can truly get to grips with online gambling. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done and, as internet use grows in the country, they may consider moving it higher up the priorities list because it could also be a lucrative move for the Zimbabwean coffers. It seems the nation surely wouldn’t mind if it did.