Increased internet penetration and rapid technological advancements are the main reasons for the exponential growth of online gambling worldwide. Today, Kenya is at the center of attention with its ever-expanding online gambling and sports betting market. Easy access to mobile devices has also boosted the online gambling market in Kenya.
A survey by US research firm GeoPoll in December 2021 found that over 80% of young Kenyans had tried the game and most were using touchscreen devices to place their bets. According to Fabio Ogachi, professor of psychology at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, many people gamble to solve their financial problems.
Online gambling market size and growth
In 2020, the gambling market in Kenya was valued at $40 million. Kenya is on the list of top 5 African countries in terms of market size. Industry insiders have estimated that the online gambling market in Kenya is growing at 7% every year. The highest gross gaming revenue comes from sports betting. Football, and specifically the European leagues, attract the most betting action.
The introduction of M-Pesa, an online payment service, has also contributed to the growth of the online gambling market. The truth is that online payment methods are not very popular among Kenyans. M-Pesa (also known as mobile money) allows players to store and transfer money through their phone. Another reason for the exponential growth of the online gambling industry in Kenya is that many people live far from betting shops. Therefore, online gambling is their only option.
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Moreover, a sufficient number of online casinos accept players from Kenya and support the local currency – the Kenyan shilling (KES). These gambling sites offer many games to match the preferences of all types of players. Since the majority of players are young, bets are usually low value but high volume.
Overview of Gambling Laws in Kenya
In Kenya, land-based gambling was legalized in 1966. The main gambling legislation is the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act. The authority that regulates the gambling market in Kenya is the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB). Online gambling became legal in 2011. But until 2019, the market was subject to a monopoly held by Betkenya.
Currently, foreign operators are allowed to accept players from the Republic of Kenya provided they have a license from the BCLB. Interested operators must meet high standards to obtain a license. To ensure players’ best interests are protected, the Kenyan Gambling Act stipulates that operators must pay out winnings within 7 days and establish an internal customer service center in Kenya.
Kenyans must be at least 18 years of age to engage in gambling activities. In an effort to reduce the harm associated with gambling, Kenya has introduced a partial ban on gambling advertisements. Advertising of gambling services is only permitted from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Additionally, companies are no longer allowed to use celebrities in their gambling advertisements. All gambling-related advertisements must promote responsible gambling and carry a sign indicating the minimum gambling age in Kenya. In addition, operators must obtain advertising signs to promote their gaming services.
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An article on the online casino states that the Kenya Revenue Authority imposed a 20% tax on the initial bet as well as gambling winnings in 2019. As expected, operators did not welcome the rise in taxes. Heavy taxes forced two of Kenya’s most reputable bookmakers, Betin and Sportpesa, out of the market. The consequences were also quite expected – betting income dropped significantly.
In 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed to lower the gambling tax to 7.5%. But in 2022, the Kenyan Treasury unveiled plans to bring back the 20% tax on betting and gambling wagers. Industry experts warn that the tax hike is set to trigger a mass exodus of operators. While the gambling market in Kenya has huge potential, strict regulations will have a negative effect on the market.
Peace Agyare loves to write and is addicted to reading. She is on staff at Ghaflagh.com & ghafla.com/music/ A well-bred journalist with a flair for entertainment, society and the arts. She enjoys covering events and reporting on personalities for public consumption.
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