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Statistics show 83% of gamblers in Kenya cited football betting as their favourite. [ Photo / thetrentonline.com ]

Kenya is a country that loves to gamble. It’s one of the most popular pastimes on the African continent, with 57% of people over the age of 18 having enjoyed at least one bet in the past. In Kenya, gambling is most popular with males aged between 25-34, who gamble mostly on their mobile devices with 88% of gamblers in that age range having used their phones to place bets.

Despite gambling’s popularity in Kenya, legislators have been keen to impose strict regulations on the industry in recent years.  The government has recently attempted to limit the availability of foreign-based gambling providers in the country as well as imposing large fees on home-based providers.

Under the terms of the proposed new Gaming Bill, Kenyan based iGaming operators will be charged Ksh100 million for a three-year licence, which is a Ksh94 million increase on existing fees. With the threat of punitive legislation on the horizon, is it possible for online casinos to catch on in Kenya? Read on to find out.

Are online casinos popular in Kenya?

By far the most popular type of gambling in Kenya is betting on football, with other forms of sports betting also favoured.

Gambling is unquestionably popular in Kenya, but what truly drives the industry is the passion that Kenyans have for sports betting, football in particular. Statistics show that 83% of gamblers in the country cited football betting as their favourite thing to bet on.

The World Cup and the AFCON are two of the biggest draws to Kenyan gamblers, with the English Premier League also proving popular. Away from football betting, the participation numbers on other gambling pastimes begins to drop.

Online casino gambling is marginally more popular than playing the lottery in Kenya, with just 36% of gamblers trying out their luck and rolling the dice with online casino providers. That figure may not be as high as in other countries, but it does at least provide a basis for future growth.

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Across the rest of the world, online casino gambling is growing in popularity, even overtaking sports betting in participation in various countries. If Kenya were to regulate, promote and protect the online casino industry in a better way then it could experience exponential growth in the coming years.

How can Kenya make the most of online casinos?

There is so much that Kenya could learn from countries like the UK, where a highly regulated gambling industry hugely benefits the economy.

There are numerous countries around the planet that are making the most of the online gambling sector and growing the popularity of online casinos. However, the United Kingdom is undoubtedly leading the way.

In the UK, when it comes to finding the right online casino there is an abundance of choice. The majority of leading operators in the world are all based in the UK, catering for customers both at home and abroad. An exemplary operator who Kenya could take inspiration from is 888 Casino. Not only does the site offer a huge range of slots games and exciting live casino environments, it’s also highly regulated, making it a popular, safe and secure online casino that is well worth visiting.

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In 2018, the British Gambling Commission released figures showing that over a third of total gambling revenues (£5 billion) had come from the online sector alone. If Kenya is to make a success of the online industry, then it could do little wrong in following the lead of the UK.

Here are three things that the Kenyan gambling authorities and industry could learn from their British counterparts:

Regulation

Licensing and regulation in the UK is not about milking prospective gambling companies for every penny they have. Rather, it focuses on protecting customers and ensuring that unscrupulous providers are not allowed to operate in the country. Companies have also begun to contribute to helping gambling addicts with their recovery.

Comparatively, it is cheaper for a British gambling company to get up and running then it will be for a Kenyan one after the Gaming Bill has been ratified. As such there are more online casinos in the market in the UK than in Kenya, but all of them have been stringently vetted to satisfy the licensing criteria.

In making the process of applying for a licence relatively cheap, the British gambling industry has created a thriving and competitive market which brings in large tax revenues for the state whilst also providing the end customer with safety and choice.

Widespread legalisation

Almost every casino game or gambling activity you can think of is legal and regulated in the UK. As such there is absolutely no grey area for customers when it comes to betting on certain sports, playing poker or even playing the lottery.

In Kenya, however, there is ambiguity as to the legality of certain gambling activities with a recent survey showing that over half of Kenyan gamblers are confused as to what they can and cannot gamble on. Transparency, widespread legalisation and devolved regulation would do wonders for the Kenyan gambling trade.

Sensible taxation

Favourable tax rates and licensing costs are needed to stimulate the online casino industry in Kenya. This would encourage more companies to open facilities and thus raise future tax revenues.

The tax revenues generated by the gambling industry in the UK are phenomenal and go a long way to funding public infrastructure. Having said that, the tax rates are not punitive and do not dissuade large gambling companies from operating in the country.

There is an open and fair market that allows for healthy competition and thus results in larger tax receipts for the government. Kenya’s proposed approach to taxation and licensing seems premature and ill-considered.

In the short-term, the government may make more money than ever before by raising taxes and licensing costs. However, in the long-term those regulations could destroy the gambling industry in Kenya, thus drastically reducing future revenues.

Summary

In Kenya the appetite for gambling and online casinos are certainly there, perhaps more so than in other African countries. The industry and the government now have a golden opportunity to make the most out of gambling in the country to benefit players, companies and the public purse.

The proposed Gaming Bill could have a catastrophic impact on the longevity of gambling in Kenya. In order to avoid this, authorities should instead look to countries such as the UK for a successful blueprint of how to regulate and grow the online gambling industry in tandem.

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