Smartphone penetration fuels gambling in Kenya.

Apart from the success of the Kenyan economy, the gambling industry is quickly becoming an integral part of the country’s financial wealth. Statistics show that the industry is set to reach a turnover of $50 million by the end of the year.

One of the most prevalent trends for gambling within the country is sports betting, with around 30 sportsbooks licenced to operate in the country. The estimated combined revenue of this sub-sector of gambling is thought to be around $2 million, in which the first sportsbook to enter the market was SportPesa, who received their license in 2013. Whilst the first gambling licenses were established in Kenya in 1966, when the Betting Lotteries and Gambling Act outlined regulations and established the Betting Control and Licensing Board, the industry has only really begun to take off on a scale that is relatable to the rest of the world through the use of mobile technology.

With the rapid advancement of mobile technology in Kenya over recent years, almost 100 per cent of the population now have access to a mobile. This has been a catapult for the gambling industry as smartphones have been a key enabler, allowing for some of these people to start gambling frequently.

Statistics show that 64 per cent of mobile gamblers own a smartphone, compared to 40 per cent who own a standard phone. Of those who do gamble using their mobile phone, it has been found that 55 per cent of these people gamble more than once a week, showing a growing affinity for the industry.

On the use of mobile apps, the GeoPoll research found that among those who have gambled, mobile apps are by far the most popular medium for doing so; with 88% of gamblers having used their mobile device to place bets. Among this group, 55% place bets on their phone once a week or more. This makes mobile phone-based betting both the most popular and the most frequently used method of gambling, indicating how the ease of access to mobile phone gambling has significantly transformed the betting industry.

With many now using their mobile devices to access betting sites and platforms, the question then arises of what would become of traditional casinos.

Here again, industry trends and betting practices do not paint a very rosy picture looking at the future as the GeoPoll research notes that traditional and conventional casinos are less popular among gamblers, with only 36% of gamblers reported that they place bets from within casino premises, while a third of those who go to casinos state that they do so once a month or less.

Cyber cafes and betting shops (where people purchase pre-marked betting slips) are also losing their popularity and are less frequently used for betting than mobile phones, with only 28% and 33% of the gambling population respectively noting that they place bets through these shops.

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