WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF ONLINE SPORTS BETTING IN KENYA?
By Iwo Bulski
Like many other African countries, Kenya is currently dealing with a booming betting and online casino market. The combination of the mobile revolution, the popularity of sports and the nation’s high rates of unemployment have made betting more attractive than ever.
This is especially true for younger individuals, who make up a large portion of the Kenyan population. The question of online sports betting has long been a dividing issue in Kenya. On one hand are advocates who claim that online sports betting is beneficial to the Kenyan government as it generates jobs for Kenyans and tax income.
Whilst, on the other hand, there are those who claim that sports betting is a bad influence on the population due to gambling addiction, loss of wealth and is one of the major causes of family discords.
With the growing ease of mobile betting, it has become harder to keep online betting away from children, who are more prone to be affected negatively from it. A few months back the Kenyan government implemented a 20% tax on all betting stakes even though the betting industry generates more than Ksh. 200 billion in annual revenue according to the Kenya Revenue Authority. A move the government says is aimed at cracking down on those that have been evading taxes.
This resulted in the exit of the two main betting companies in Kenya namely Sportpesa and Betin. The exit of the two betting giants although, has opened up a big chunk of the market up for grabs for foreign operators such as Betway, who will look to strike while the iron is hot.
On the downside, many employees of the affected companies have been laid off as a result as well as the government losing from tax revenue which it would have collected from the two betting company giants.
Kenya is at the forefront when it comes to African betting. And this is fuelled by increased internet penetration and the use of smartphones, according to the We Social Report. Several international betting sites operate in Kenya, and they welcome Kenyan players with open arms. Among these international betting companies are Betway and Bet365.
Whether the new law with higher taxation is a way to force the hands of some of the operators in the lucrative betting industry and purposely push them away, or it is what the Kenyan government genuinely thinks is a reasonable level is hard to say.
The fact of the matter though is that it has made the market a lot more restrictive, if a statement by Sportpesa claiming that the tax is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the betting industry, is anything to go by.
Where this story ends or how it ends is still unknown, but as domestic laws implemented by the Kenyan government make it more difficult for homegrown operators to claim a pie of the robust betting industry, more and more foreign operators are expected to take advantage of the available market space albeit at the moment.