An overview of gambling and betting in Kenya
Gambling is a popular pastime in Kenya where around 46 million-plus citizens reside. The legality surrounding online betting and casino gambling is somewhat complex but if you are a Kenyan national or looking to visit, this guide will help you out.
Online casino gambling
ONLINE CASINOS FOR KENYANS
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The number of online gamblers in Kenya is growing at a fast rate. Around 50 percent of Kenya’s residents have access to the web with online gambling a popular pastime for many.
In 2011, online gambling was regulated with the Betting Control and Licensing Board giving Amaya Gaming Group – parent company to one of the biggest online poker companies in the world, PokerStars – the rights to operate online gambling. Amaya opened an online casino known as betkenya.com but the website is no longer operating.
This has meant a number of Kenyans after online roulette, blackjack, baccarat and more turn to offshore casinos. While gambling at international sites is technically illegal, reputable offshore sites still accept Kenyans. Additionally, there have been no reports of Kenyans being prosecuted for gambling at these foreign Internet casinos.
KENYA SPORTS BETTING SITES
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As we mentioned above, sports betting is legal with three land-based bookmakers available to punters. Online bookmakers are also legal, provided they have a local license, although many operators that don’t have a license still do accept customers from Kenya, although BettingPlanet recommends betting with one of many locally regulated sports betting websites, which include:
Kenyans are obviously passionate about football with many punters following the Kenyan Premier League and many other African and International competitions. By and large football is the no.1 game in Kenya. However there is a growing movement towards horse racing with the Jockey Club of Kenya and Ngong Racecourse especially popular with young people.
Other sports Kenyans bet on regularly include basketball (NBA and other leagues), athletics, cricket, American sports like grid iron and baseball. One of the best things about betting with a locally licensed bookie is that you will find they have more markets targeted towards Kenyan events.
Online poker in Kenya
Kenyans can readily play online poker at many offshore websites, although there is currently no locally licensed poker websites. This means you can legally play at many of the leading poker sites in the world, such as 888 Poker and WSOP, although PokerStars withdrew from Kenya, and many other African markets back in 2017, with much speculation that it was to do with the new restrictions placed on gambling companies licenses by the united Kingdom Gambling Commission.
Kenyan gambling tax rates
Gaming operators in Kenya are subject to taxes which have been reviewed in 2017 in order to address revenue issues and provide a solution for social issues which come with gambling.
Prior to the 2017-18 state budget proposal gaming operators were paying 12 percent tax, betting companies were paying 7.5 percent, competitions were paying 15 percent and lotteries were paying 5 percent tax on all gaming revenue.
But the proposal saw a uniform 50 percent tax rate suggested for all gambling companies. The tax rate was suggested by Kenya’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Rotich, who said it will help limit the issues associated with problem gambling in the country.
Many operators opposed the tax hike, including lottery operator Bradley Limited Trading. Unfortunately, only betting companies were exempted from the possibility of a tax increase following a parliamentary vote.
Whether or not other gambling operators will be given the same reprieve is not yet known, but we will keep you updated here.
Proposed gambling taxes on players
While players who gamble at locally licensed gambling venues and sites are meant to be subjected to a 20 percent tax rate, via a withholding tax, operators do not collect them.
The government attempted to pass a 20 percent gambling tax in 2011 when the Finance bill was proposed but it was revoked in 2012.
It came back a year later under the Finance Act 2013 and under the legislation all winnings a Kenyan accrues through lotteries, gambling or raffles is taxable at a 20 percent rate.
While it remains part of the law there are no reports of operators collecting the tax, nor any Kenyan gamblers reporting they have paid it. Casino staff even went on record in 2016 to say gamblers go home with all of their winnings.
A 20 percent tax on lottery winnings has reportedly been successfully introduced, however.
How to fund a gambling account in Kenya
Kenyans can gamble with their local currency – the shilling – at locally licensed gambling venues. Most Kenyans will choose to deposit with M-Pesa which is the locally developed mobile banking system, which allows you instantly fund your sports betting account. However there are other common methods at gambling sites, which include:
For Internet punters and online casino gamblers who want to go international, the shilling may not be as readily available. But there are a number of other currencies, including the US dollar, the Euro and more which Kenyans can opt for.
Kenyan Gambling Laws
The Republic of Kenya has legalised gambling under the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act (BLGA) 1966. But only locally licensed operators can provide services to Kenyans under this legislation. This means a sports book, lottery company or casino must have a license from the Betting Control and Licensing Board – set up under the BLGA – in order to legally operate and provide its services to Kenyan gamblers.
But things can be somewhat vague when it comes to the legislation, so we break it down in terms of each gambling category.
Kenyan gambling venues
Land-based gambling is quite popular in the country, with around 11 bingo halls, three bookmakers and one racetrack available to Kenyans. A national lottery is available and players can buy a ticket in a local shop or online.
Under the BLGA, land-based casino gambling is legal. There are a number of casinos located around the country – around 28 – with slots and table games available to players. You will find a number of stand alone brick and mortar venues as well as a range of integrated resorts which feature hotels and other facilities ideal for international visitors.