Kenya restricts gambling to 5 star hotels

After South Africa and Nigeria, Kenya is the third most substantial gambling market in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country legalized betting on games of chance and sports back in 1966 when it passed the Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming Act under CAP 131. That is a bill under which the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) got established.

However, over the past few years, there has been growing concern about young people in Kenya overindulging in this pastime, as various research has shown worrying statistics concerning their gambling participation rates. In 2019, the Kenyan government proposed a bill dubbed the New Gambling Act of 2020 to come into force that would introduce a 35% tax on all gaming adverts. Now, Nairobi, Kenya’s most gambling-rich piece of land, boasting twenty-three casinos, is looking to launch an aggressive offensive against the betting industry by proposing legislative changes that would limit gambling to five-star hotels only. Moreover, anyone that decides to operate a gaming/betting venue outside of predefined working hours would face a fine of Sh10 million or a four-year jail term.

The gambling industry produces a sizable amount of tax revenues worldwide, mainly to support local health and educational systems. In a revenue report from the United States, the American sector generated $161.24 billion in revenue in 2018. Per some estimates, the casino (offline and online) market alone generated $227 billion in 2022, while the sports betting one is on track to hit a size of $179 billion by 2028, according to Zion Market Research.

One of the sponsors of the proposed Nairobi amendments, South B ward representative Waithera Chege believes that the legislative changes will help prevent gambling addiction and guide Kenya’s youth towards productive work. Furthermore, she Chege has stated that in line with the proposed amendment to the Nairobi City County Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Bill, – “All licensed lottery, betting and gaming premises, and gambling websites should only operate within the hours of 8 PM and 6 AM.”

Kenyan Youths Gamble the Most in Sub-Saharan Africa

GeoPoll is a mobile surveying platform that performs mobile phone surveys in conjunction with its various partners throughout the globe. It manages call centers in over sixty countries and has completed surveys on diverse topics in over eight regions, predominantly Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Concerning the latter continent, this company ran spending-related research in 2017, which revealed that the betting industry in Sub-Saharan Africa is still a very nascent sphere, as only 3% of polled youth consumers admitted to regularly setting aside money for gambling fun. Even though 54% of people between the ages of 17 and 35 proclaimed to have tried their hand at gambling. Kenya had the highest youth participation rate of all the countries polled, with 76%. Uganda came in second place with a participation rate of 57%.

What is curious about the 2017 GeoPoll survey is that most Kenyans gambling frequency is higher when compared to their American counterparts. Kenyans most prefer to bet on sporting events and mainly do so once per week. Weekend fixtures from the English Premier League dominate as the favored betting choice for young adult Kenyans. Plus, 96% of those engaging in this pastime in Kenya do so via their mobile phone. That is the highest smartphone betting participation rate in Africa.

Factors Influencing the Growth of Gambling in Kenya

Undoubtedly, the increasing societal acceptance of gambling activities as a recreational form and a hobby that promises economic benefits have dramatically fueled the rise of gambling in Kenya. On top of this, the country’s approval to allow gambling-related hobbies to fill government coffers has also played an enormous role in the proliferation of gambling in the country. That much is evident because, in the financial year 2016/2017, the Kenya Revenue Authority pulled in $33 million in taxes on gross gambling revenues. Since the tax rate was 7.5% for that period, the entire Kenyan gambling industry, at that time, had a worth of $440 million.

Given that a sizeable chunk of the population still perceives gambling as an activity with many negative societal side-effects, public pressure resulted in a surtax on bookmakers of 35% of their gross gambling revenues, who complained, causing the government to reduce it to 15% in the financial year 2018/2019.

Many experts agree that various socioeconomic factors such as age, income level, and marital status play a role in gambling growth in Kenya. Single males in their 20s are the most likely to regularly bet with most of the funds coming from HELB (Higher Education Loans Board) or their salary income.


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