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Betting Kenya in Focus: Can International Betting Sites Make Further Inroads?

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Recent developments that have put the 2019 20% tax bill on betting wagers back into throes of national debate are expected to have a huge impact on the landscape of Kenya’s gambling industry. 

MPs in the National Assembly voted to repeal the tax bill towards the end of last month. The introduction of the tax had severe implications on the former largest betting operators SportPesa and Betin, among others, who were forced to shut operations. It has seen the rise of several betting companies with international appeal which have moved into more prominent positions in the market over just a short period of months. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta backed the popular vote in the National Assembly by signing an amendment to the original bill to repeal the tax, a major stopgap that has prevented the reintroduction of major betting firms in Kenya as certain operators have remained steadfastly opposed to it. 

Now, in a shocking development, the original bill has been upheld, meaning a continuation of the 20% tax on all betting wagers will remain in place, after suspect ties to SportPesa at the highest level were revealed. 

With the status quo upheld, it remains unlikely that two of Kenya’s native operators such as SportPesa and Betin will return to business in Kenya unless they make a switch in their own stance. SportPesa ceased operations in Kenya some months ago, although maintains a profile abroad. 

The landmark bill will likely remain a huge source of encouragement for the international betting sites that have made significant gains in the market since the expulsion of the aforementioned operators. 

The likes of Betway and 22Bet among others have since successfully sought licences from the Betting Control and Licensing Board to bring their successful sports betting and online casino platforms to potential plaudits. 

As this 22Bet review demonstrates, the acquisition of licences has led to a number of betting sites introducing betting features designed to appeal to the needs of Kenyan players and has seen a number of international betting sites increase their share of revenue exponentially. 

A purposeful move to offer Kenyan players access to global betting brands through the introduction of MPESA and Airtel as viable payment methods, as well as the ability to place bets and claim bonuses in shillings, has since filled a huge gap in the market. 

Viable alternatives

International betting sites such as 22Bet and Betway have proven popular in the absence of Kenya’s two leading betting companies SportPesa and Betin. Not only do international operators tend to be able to offer a wider range of features, they are now becoming increasingly popular and familiar brands with a growing Kenyan customer base. 

It remains to be seen if or for how long the 2019 tax bill will remain a central issue in national politics, and how the likes of SportPesa will react to the latest developments. What is for certain is that international operators have made significant gains over recent months and are becoming considerably entrenched in the Kenyan gambling landscape.

Viable alternatives to the country’s former big two betting companies look set to stay and provide increased competition in a growing, yet tougher marketplace. 

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