The Fightback

The advertising blitz which controversial gambling operator 1XBet launched in Morocco in 2022 was so successful that the local gaming authority which finances the country's grassroots and elite sport saw a decline in projected revenue for the first time. But Morocco is fighting back and could lead the way for the rest of Africa to follow suit.

By Philippe Auclair

Morocco is an outlier in many respects. It is one of the very few Muslim countries to allow its citizens to visit casinos, buy lottery tickets and bet on football matches and horse races. Unlike its neighbours, it had also been spared the scourge of illegal gambling until very recently. There was, as there is anywhere else, a clandestine black market, but of negligible size. Moroccan citizens had no need to turn to illicit operators: all betting was and remains – at least in theory – the preserve of a state-sanctioned body, la Marocaine des jeux et des sports (MDJS), which was established in 1962 and offers a variety of jeux de hasard to the locals. What's more, every dirham of profit generated by MDJS is then passed on to the Fonds National du Développement du Sport, a national fund which finances both grassroots and elite sport throughout the country. 

The contribution of MDJS to the nation's sport reached a high of 645 million dirham (the equivalent of 63 million US dollars) in 2021, six times more than in 2010. It's not just by chance that Wydad Casablanca won its third CAF Champions League title in 2022, RS Berkane triumphed in the CAF Confederation Cup the same year (a competition which Raja Casablanca had won in 2021) and, most spectacularly, Morocco became the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup last December. It is ...

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