As the Ghanaian government continues to seek new ways of generating revenue for the economy, is it time for the authorities to turn their attention to sports betting stakes?
The Ghanaian sports betting sector has enjoyed astronomical growth within the last decade, with the country now ranked amongst the top five betting nations in sub-Saharan Africa.
The list of betting sites in Ghana is growing all the time, as more operators obtain their licences and enter the fray.
But is Ghana getting the most from its betting industry? How much of this betting money is actually staying within the Ghanaian economy?
In March 2021, while presenting the budget statement of the Ghanaian government, then caretaker Finance Minister, Osei Kyei-Mensa-Bonsu revealed that Ghana loses about GHS 300 million to leakages in the gambling sector.
These leakages are partly caused by Ghana’s vague gambling laws, which have allowed unlicensed gambling companies to operate in the country despite not meeting the regulatory requirements.
While the government looks to fix its gambling legislations, it is also seeking other ways of maximising the revenue generated from the sector.
The controversial e-levy, for example, was partly targeted at the online betting industry, but should Ghana take it a step further and place taxes on actual betting stakes?
Placing taxes on stakes is not a novel idea. It is currently being practised in Kenya, where bettors pay a 7.5% tax on every betting stake.
All registered betting sites in Kenya are mandated to make this very clear on their sites and include the tax information on all betting slips.
Unsurprisingly, the idea was initially not well-received in Kenya, with bookmakers and bettors kicking against the regulation, but the authorities stood their ground, and now, everyone is on board with the plan.
Given the negative reaction that followed the e-levy ruling in Ghana, any talk of placing a tax on betting stakes is likely to be met with an even fiercer backlash.
It is easy to understand why Ghanaian bettors might feel aggrieved if the government decided to tax their stakes, but such a law would actually be a win-win for everybody in the long run.
By taxing betting stakes, the government gets more betting revenue, which can then be ploughed back into the economy to create better infrastructure and improve the general standard of living in the country.
Given that only a small fraction of bets are actually won, a large percentage of betting stakes end up in the hands of the bookmakers anyway.
Hence, paying taxes on stakes guarantees that at least some of the money will go to the government, and by extension, to the Ghanaian economy. This would therefore be an indirect way of recouping some of the betting stake that would have otherwise been totally lost to the bookies.
It is safe to conclude the funds are more useful to Ghanaians when they are with the government.
There is of course the question of trust and accountability. Will the government actually use the money to develop infrastructure in the country?
That can only be answered by the government. In theory, placing a tax on betting stakes doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all.