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Did you know Kenya has one of the largest betting markets in Africa?
After South Africa and Nigeria, Kenya follows as the third largest Sub-Saharan African country in betting market size. It has been proven that Kenyan youth spend more money on online gambling compared to other African countries. Online gambling owes its popularity to the extensive internet penetration that stands at 83% of the Kenyan population.
In this article, we’re going to review the legal aspect of online gambling. We’ll look at the history of gambling laws in Kenya, including past and current laws governing online betting.
In 1966, the Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming Act under CAP 131 of the then constitution was passed to legalize and regulate all gambling activities in Kenya. Under the bill, the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) was formed to regulate and license gambling activities.
The bill, however, did not explicitly mention that online gambling was legal in Kenya. The first online gambling operator in Kenya was formed in 2011 as a state-owned monopoly. The site, which was called betkenya.com, later closed down operations. Since then, the online gambling legal situation has been unclear. Kenyan gamblers started seeking betting opportunities on foreign sportsbooks.
The next local online sportsbook, SportPesa, went live in 2013 after receiving an operating license from the BCLB. Many Kenyan punters registered on SportPesa as it was the only local online bookie. Foreign companies used this leeway to obtain licenses from the BCLB, and a huge wave of online betting sites hit the country.
After the 2010 constitutional review, several changes in the laws were enacted that changed the gambling landscape. Most of the changes affected land-based casinos, leaving online casinos largely uncensored.
This law censors gambling operators on personal data processing and offers data subjects rights. It also regulates the role of data controllers and processors. The act provided restrictions under which gambling providers must operate when collecting certain personal data from players.
For the first time, Kenyan lawmakers came up with regulations to govern online gambling in Kenya. The Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming regulations laid down their requirements of online gambling providers, both local and foreign. Operators were needed to provide the board with the following;
Foreign gambling providers requirements by the new board;
In 2019, the government proposed a new bill, dubbed the New Gambling Act of 2020, to protect young bettors and review taxes imposed on betting revenue. The law proposed a 35% tax on gaming adverts while maintaining a 20% tax on jackpot winnings. It also proposes increasing gambling licensing fees to KShs 100 Million for online gambling sites and KShs 50 Million for land-based ones.
The new gambling Act of 2020 proposed a replacement of the BCLB with a new regulatory authority, the National Gaming Authority of Kenya. It also seeks to establish a Gaming Appeals Tribunal to help settle gambling-related cases. In 2018, the government had raised gambling taxes to 35% but later reduced them to 15%. The 2020 Act promises to maintain the 15% tax rate, but it does not mention the 20% tax imposed on gamblers’ winnings earlier. Since the bill was proposed, there are no further updates on whether it will become a law.
Since the Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming Act of 1966, land-based casino gambling has been legalized. Over 30 casinos in Kenya offer popular table games like roulette, blackjack, and poker.
When online gambling hit the Kenyan betting market, the law was silent on the legal status of online casino betting. From 2011, the BCLB started issuing licenses to online gambling sites. Online gamers could play casino games on both local and foreign sites without restrictions.
Bingo is one of the most popular games globally. Since gambling was legalized in 1966, so was Bingo. The game has a significant fan base among Kenyan players, with most playing in the land-based casinos throughout the country.
Most of the online betting sites permitted and licensed by the BCLB offer Bingo to players. So it’s safe to conclude that online bingo is legal in Kenya.
Among all casino games, poker is the most popular. There are constant poker championships broadcasted all over the world, giving the game global popularity. It is safe to play online poker in Kenya as long as it’s played on the legally permitted sites - both local and international.
The lottery is legal in Kenya under the Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming Act of 1966. Operators can run lottery games on their sites, mobile phones, or electronic media as long as they are permitted by the Betting Control and Licensing Board of Kenya. The proposed New Gambling Act of 2020 seeks to form the first Kenya National Lottery System.
According to the new bill, a lottery operator will be decided through a tender-bidding process. Successful bidders will be issued with a 7-year license. The body also stipulates how much each winner must get from the lottery revenue. The National Lottery Trust Fund will be mandated to distribute money raised in lotteries.
James is responsible for the Kenyan market on BettingGuide. He has a keen interest in sports betting and Gambling laws in particular. James is a Lawyer practising in East Africa, loves writing, and has a Law Degree from Makerere University, Uganda and a Post Graduate Diploma from the Kenya School of Law, Kenya.