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Gambling culture still strong among Kenyan youths

Kenya gambling news

When it comes to online gambling among the youth, no country comes close to Kenya. In fact, according to a 2017 survey conducted by Geopoll, Kenya has the highest number of youths engaging in gambling in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 76 percent of young people taking part in betting.

Findings from the same survey also discovered that the Kenyan youth place more bets in comparison to millennials from other sub-Saharan countries, spending an average of USD $50 per month on bets that are predominantly football-based.

A considerable portion of the disposable incomes of Kenyan millennials is channeled towards online sports betting, so much so that a director of a top brewery in the country noted that they had recently undercut the sale of alcohol.

One of the primary reasons why gambling has skyrocketed in the East African nation is the widespread use of smartphones. According to the findings of the Geopoll survey, an overwhelming 96 percent of young Kenyan gamblers admitted to using their smartphones to place bets.

Unlike past generations when one had to physically go to a casino or a racecourse to place a wager, the current crop of punters in Kenya relishes what could be dubbed as “a pocket-sized Las Vegas” that can easily serve as a mobile money wallet.

This has been propelled by the fact that sending and depositing money in Kenya is as easy as sending a text message, as money transfer services such as M-PESA and Airtel Money neither require an internet connection nor a credit card to transact.

It is therefore no surprise that up to 12 million gamblers have wallets with betting firms, as a recent peek into the online gambling platforms in Kenya revealed jackpots ranging from USD $120,000 to $2 million.

The betting industry in Kenya is one of the most lucrative on the continent, as the market is estimated to be worth USD $2 billion according to government figures, with over 25 betting companies each claiming their share.

SportPesa, Everton FC’s official jersey sponsor, was unequivocally the most popular betting firm in Kenya, boasting of over 40 percent of the market share. That changed in September 2019, when the company was forced to terminate operations in Kenya having lost its battle with the government over the renewal of its operating license; a move that resulted in the laying off of over 400 employees in the region.

SportPesa, which operated in Kenya as Pevans East Africa Limited, wasn’t the only company to shut down, as rivals Betin also terminated their operations in the country at the end of September.

In a desperate bid to tame the passionate betting culture in the country, the Kenyan government imposed a massive 35 percent tax on gross gambling revenue as well as a 30 percent corporate tax and a 25 percent contribution towards local social causes.

The government trimmed the gaming tax to 15 percent last year when the betting firms threatened to end their operations in the country, only to increase it to 20 percent in 2019.

According to Roy Gachuhi, who has covered sports in Kenya for over four decades, “Sports betting is a cancer which should be banned!”

The Betting Control and Licensing Board, which is under the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, has introduced desperate measures such as banning sports betting adverts both outdoors and on social media, as well as outlawing gambling ads on television between 6am and 10pm.

Despite the stringent measures, gambling still remains legal in Kenya.


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