The State of the Online Casino Industry in Kenya

March 26, 2020

Online gambling is definitely a huge industry in different parts of the world and it continues growing with time. Countries in Africa are also a part of the booming gambling industry as several territories have made sure that their residents can easily bet at virtual casinos and revel in a fruitful gaming experience.

Kenya is one of the countries where online casinos are quite popular and more players are looking for trustworthy websites where they can bet real money on casino games. While sports betting was predominately the virtual gambling entertainment that most Kenyans preferred until recently, in the last few years interactive casinos have gained huge popularity in the country. If you are wondering what exactly is the current legal status of online casinos in Kenya, we will help you with the information that will present further below.

Is Online Gambling Legal in Kenya?

Compared to its neighbouring countries, Kenya has adopted fairly lax laws when it comes to online gambling. This is why Kenyans have it easy when they wish to join a virtual casino or sportsbook and make real-money bets without having to worry about the law.

Although Kenya has a bad reputation when it comes to its laws and regulations, the gambling industry surprisingly looks well-regulated. Currently, the country has legalized land-based casinos, virtual casinos and even mobile casinos. This allows Kenyan players to enjoy a fun gaming experience in different forms, all of which are completely legal.

Since most Kenyans resort to their mobile devices to access various websites online, legalizing mobile betting has been an important factor that has influenced the popularity of virtual casinos in Kenya. 

It was the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act that introduced the current pattern of regulation in Kenya. The new law was passed in 1966 and prior to that, any form of gambling was considered illegal. With the exception of brick-and-mortar casinos, most of the gambling industry in Kenya is regulated solely by the government. 

One of the many reasons why the government is on board with the current legal status of online gambling is due to the positive effect the industry has on the overall economy of the country. Since 20% of the profits that Kenyans generate thanks to lotteries, gambling or raffles are required to be paid as taxes, the gambling industry has quite a contribution to Kenya’s economy. With new changes to the Gaming Act that are expected to be implemented in 2020, the tax rate may increase even further, leading to even bigger profits for the government.

Regulatory Bodies in Kenya

The Gaming Act has also determined that the Betting Control and Licensing Board is responsible for regulating the gambling industry in Kenya. This is the jurisdiction that is in charge of issuing gaming licenses to casino operators and it also acts as a regulator that ensures virtual casinos are offering fair and secure online gambling.

The Betting Control and Licensing Board is also dealing with the regulation of land-based casinos, horse racing, bingo halls and different forms of online gambling. 

The revenues from obtaining betting licenses in Kenya are also constantly increasing with numerous land-based gambling establishments applying for licenses. That being said, currently, there is no local online casino operator that has been licensed by the Betting Control and Licensing Board in Kenya. This leaves players in the country with no other option but to play in offshore online casinos. Despite that, the board has been issuing licenses to quite a few virtual sportsbooks that are also contributing to the boom of the online gambling sector in the country.

The Future of Online Gambling in Kenya

One good example that the Kenyan government can follow is the FAI sponsorship deal with SportPesa which was terminated after a strong critique from groups dealing with gambling addiction.

Ultimately, most of the changes to the Gaming Act aim to limit the increasing gambling addiction among a large part of the Kenyan population. Some believe that Kenya may ban its entire betting sector due to the increasing issue with gambling addiction but only time will tell the course of the gambling industry in the country.

On paper, the online gambling sector is tightly regulated in Kenya and players have the chance to bet only on casino and sportsbook operators that have obtained the proper license from the Betting Control and Licensing Board. The reality, however, is quite different as there are various loopholes and unclear laws that require serious amendments in the Gaming Act.

While there is no local casino operator that offers Kenyans the opportunity to bet on their favorite casino games, this does not mean that their options are limited. Since many offshore casinos accept players from Kenya, many opt for betting at foreign gaming websites. Because there are no penalties for players caught playing at offshore online casinos, Kenyans still feel pretty relaxed when it comes to online gambling.

There is no doubt that there should be some changes introduced to the gambling laws in Kenya as the country has a serious problem with a large portion of its population developing a gambling addiction. Due to the lack of real regulations and the fact that there are no local online casinos offering games to virtual players, many opt for betting in offshore casinos. Compared to other neighboring countries where there are harsh penalties for such actions, Kenya is still pretty relaxed when it comes to regulating its online gambling industry.

The government intends to introduce changes to the Gaming Act which are supposed to limit access to foreign betting sites. The new law will also introduce higher taxes and higher betting minimums, which are measures that target those who place low-budget bets. 

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