Gambling in Kenya, between political irresponsibility and player’s desire to have fun in a regulated environment

Thursday, 19 March 2020

The lack of coherence of Kenyan politicians, and the use of the subject of gambling-addiction in messages with populist temptation in elections, prevented this country from finding its natural path to well-thought and long-term regulation of gambling business from here, leaving, in the same time, a lack of defense for the population, in front of the possible side-slips of many people towards the pathological game. A Geopoll survey from 2017-2019 shows that 57% of the total population of over 18 years in Kenya has gambled at least once in their life.

Casino Flamingo – Kenya

Casinos in Kenya

In Kenya gambling is legal. There are 3 cities with gambling facilities including 30 casinos. Other types of gambling are sports betting and horse racing. In the capital city of Nairobi there are 21 gaming locations with 128 gaming tables and 908 gaming machines such as slots or video poker machines. The largest casino in the country is Flamingo Casino, located in Nairobi. It has 15 game tables, 2 poker tables and 160 slot machines.

Gambling penetration in Kenya

Thinking objectively, by statistical figures, the prevalence of gambling among the African population in this country is at a high enough rate, which is supported by the possibility of betting on the phone and the love for football that Kenyans have for this king sport.

The same Geopoll study I mentioned, which was carried out by SMS on a representative sample of 600 people, also pointed out that there are 69% men and 44% women among those who have gambled in this country. Among those who bet, 47% are recreational players, who place bets once a month or less, and only 10% of players bet more than once a day.

Kenya’s lawmakers proposed by the end of 2019 to increase the gambling industry taxes

Following his re-election, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta introduced a 20% tax on player deposits to earn higher revenue to the state budget from gambling popularity. As a result, Kenyans have started to gamble at international online betting companies whose winnings do not require taxation.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

The Kenyan gambling industry could be heading for the most difficult year, if the newly introduced Gambling Law 2019 changes will pass Parliament.

The National Assembly of Sports Committees lobbies for charging the industry with additional taxes and fees and wants them to be implemented before the end of the current fiscal year, in June 2020, as local sources say.

This Assembly proposed the implementation of a gambling fee for 1% of the total revenues generated by the sports betting operators. Companies that do not pay the tax could face penalties of up to 200,000 Kenyan shillings. The money raised from the fines will be used to finance the National Gaming Authority and its efforts to reduce illegal activities in the field.

Online gambling in Kenya and SportPesa

Since 2014, the increased interest for bets of people in Kenya has been triggered by the love of football and the massive penetration of technology (especially mobile phones).

Founded in 1991 by Bulgarian businessman Guerassim Nikolov after moving to Nairobi, SportPesa is a Kenyan betting company that has dominated the online betting market in this country. You may be familiar with this name, SportPesa, from the shirts of the British teams Everton and Hull. SportPesa has gained its supremacy through its digital expertise and easy betting process on mobile phones or other devices. However, on July 1 last year, the Kenyan Gambling Control and Licensing Commission refused to renew the licenses of SportPesa and 26 other companies until they pay their unpaid taxes. It should be mentioned that when the Kenyan State wanted to introduce this tax system only SportPesa fired 453 employees…

The future of gambling is uncertain in this country and may be a case study for all those (I mean politicians) who think they know everything, including gambling. There is a state-private fight in Kenya, an irresponsible political class that has not been consistent and has used the gambling subject in electoral struggle, which turned the field into one where a tax is imposed today and tomorrow it is removed and in which the players (customers) are collateral victims. Probably everything will lead to a gray area, difficult to control and in which everyone will lose and suffer.

Author: Editor

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