The Republic of Kenya sits on Africa’s west coast, bordering Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Indian Ocean. Largely considered the third-biggest economy in the region, along with South Africa and Nigeria, the country’s gross domestic product was estimated at US$98.8 billion in 2020, with agriculture, horticulture, manufacturing, and exports being the main contributors to the local economy.
Gambling is popular and perfectly legal in Kenya. According to a GeoPoll research conducted in 2019, 57% of adult Kenyans have placed a bet in the past, with gambling being particularly prevalent among males aged 25 to 34 years old. Many locals prefer to bet via their smartphone devices, which is unsurprising given the higher mobile exposure Kenyans have seen over the past several years.
Kenyan law allows for various forms of legal gambling, including casino gaming, bingo, and lotteries. Sports betting is also legal in Kenya as is to be expected from a country that is home to some of the keenest football fans in the world. Landbased betting activities became legal back in 1966. In 2019, the Kenyan legislature proposed a new bill that sought to revamp the country’s outdated legislation and introduce new online gambling regulations.
Laws That Govern Gambling in Kenya
Landbased gambling activities in Kenya have been legal since the mid-1960s and subject to the regulations outlined in the Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming Act of 1966. The passage of this legislation led to the creation of the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB), which has the mandate of regulating the sector and eradicating unauthorized gaming activities in the country.
Part II of the 1966 Gaming Act outlines the regulatory entity’s structure and powers. The BCLB operates under the Kenyan Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. Its members can remain in office for no more than three years and are appointed by the Minister of Interior. BCLB meetings take place at least once every three months, with the agency delivering detailed reports to the Minister of Interior each year.
The agency has the remit to issue operating licenses to approved operators as well as to revoke or temporarily suspend them in cases of violation. However, the regulator cannot suspend the permits for more than 14 days. The BCLB also has the responsibility to see into Kenyan players’ complaints issued against its licensees.
Fees and Tax Rates in Kenya
1Corporate Tax Rates in Kenya
Licensed gambling companies must fulfill their tax obligations, which include a 30% corporate tax for local operators and 37.5% for foreign entities operating on the Kenyan market. Additionally, the companies with employees must register and contribute Pay As You Earn taxes as required by the Kenyan Income Tax Act. They also have to remit a Value Added Tax under the provisions of the Value Added Tax Act.
Gambling firms that offer taxable services or products valued at KES5 million or more within the calendar year should register for VAT remittance. Respectively, the companies must register all their employees with the National Security Fund and The National Hospital Insurance Fund.
2GGR Tax Rates in Kenya
Kenyan bookmakers are subject to a 15% tax imposed on their gross gaming revenue (GGR) as stipulated in Section 29A of the Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming Act. The GGR represents the overall turnover of an operator minus the amounts paid out to patrons in the form of winnings.
The GGR tax was previously much higher at 35% but the government reduced it due to local bookmakers’ outrage. The current 15% tax is payable to the Kenya Revenue Authority by the 20th of each calendar month. It also applies to prize competitions, casinos, and lottery operators as provided in Sections 44A and 55A of the 1966 BLG Act.
3Excise Duty and Withholding Taxes
Back in 2019, the Kenyan Financial Committee decided to increase the excise tax imposed on betting stakes from 10% to 20% in an attempt to draw in additional revenue for the government. A 20% withholding tax also applied to gamblers’ profits. With this tax in place, a winning wager of KES1,000 would bring the bettor only KES800, while the betting operator would withhold the other KES200 and remit it to the Kenya Revenue Authority.
The increase did not go down well with betting operators in the country. Two of Kenya’s biggest bookmakers, Betin and Sportpesa, consequently withdrew from the local market causing a drop in the betting revenue.
On a more positive note, President Uhuru Kenyatta gave his assent for the passage of the 2021 Finance Act on June 29, 2021, which amended the excise duty tax once again, reducing it from 20% to 7.5%. The changes became effective at the beginning of July, 2021 and apply to prize competitions, gaming, betting, and lotteries (bar charitable ones).
Online Gambling in Kenya
Remote gambling in Kenya is subject to the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming (Online Gaming) Regulations of 2019. Said regulations cover online and mobile lotteries, sports betting, casino gaming, and all other forms of remote gambling. Remote operators must provide the BCLB with a list of the games they intend to offer to Kenya players and information about their gaming servers, including their location.
All foreign operators must set up and run in-house customer support centers within the country to assist local players and respond to their inquiries. The companies should also maintain a database containing information about all wagers made by Kenyan customers and their corresponding outcomes. The processing of customers’ sensitive information must be conducted in alignment with the Data Protection Act of 2019. Operators can disclose customers’ sensitive information but only on condition players have given their consent.
The 2019 Regulations also stipulated that remote operators must pay customers’ profits within 7 days from the date of winning. Last but not least, the Regulations state that operating online or mobile gambling without a license or with a suspended/revoked license constitutes a criminal offense. Those found guilty of this contravention are liable for fines and/or incarceration of up to 5 years.
In May 2019, a new gaming bill was submitted to the country’s National Assembly and went through a first reading. If the bill passes as an act, it will establish a National Gaming Authority to replace the existing regulator, the BCLB. Said Gaming Authority will have the mandate to issue operating permits to gambling operators, including remote ones.
The bill also proposes new licensing fees for different gambling activities (KES100 million for remote gambling operators), along with a 15% tax rate. It would also create a Gaming Appeals Tribunal whose primary purpose would be to assist in resolving the disputes between licensees and Kenyan customers.
Social Responsibility Policies In Kenya
As is the case with most jurisdictions where gambling is legal, licensed Kenyan operators must run their business in alignment with various social responsibility requirements. For starters, all gambling companies must ensure only individuals who are legally old enough to gamble have access to their services and products.
Of course, this applies to both terrestrial and remote gaming operators. Kenyans can legally gamble provided they have reached the age of majority, i.e. 18 years old. Selling lottery tickets is legal only if the buyer is at least 16 years old. The only exceptions are when the underage individual partakes in gaming activities that take place in private dwellings under the supervision of parents or legal guardians.
The Kenyan gambling regulator has the mandate to grant permits for conducting public lotteries, where a minimum of 25% of the overall proceeds must go toward socially beneficial initiatives like public welfare and distress relief, for example. Many Kenya-licensed operators donate to charities or fund local sports clubs.
Gambling Advertising and AML Policies in Kenya
Since gambling is an activity that might lead to various social harms, advertising it in most countries is subject to severe restrictions and Kenya is no exception. Brick-and-mortar gambling operators in the country must obtain advertising signage permits provided that they have advertising signage of 300 millimeters to 600 millimeters.
Gambling venues that meet this criterion must apply for advertising signage licenses, issued by the authorities of the Kenyan counties. The permits have a validity of one year. Country governments can cancel them in case of contravention of the licensing terms and conditions. Other than that, only BCLB licensees can legally advertise their products and services to Kenyan residents.
The license numbers should be clearly visible on the ads. All advertisements must promote responsible gambling and specify the legal gambling age in the country is 18 years old. Betting activities cannot be glamorized or marketed as a quick means of earning money. The operators can advertise their products on television only between 9 pm and 6 am.
As for ads broadcast on radio, their number should not exceed four per hour, with the time restrictions coinciding with those for televised advertising. Kenya law disallows gambling advertising immediately before and after religious, family, and children programs. In early September 2021, local lawmakers unveiled plans to impose an outright ban on gambling-related programs on television but the measure has not yet been adopted.
All gambling businesses, landbased or remote, should operate in compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2009. They should watch closely for all suspicious or unusual transactions and report them to the authorities.
In line with the guidelines provided by the Central Bank of Kenya, financial institutions must require their customers to present written statements explaining the reasons for all monetary transactions over USD10,000. Should the customer provide false information or decline filing the written statement, the bank must immediately report the transaction as suspicious.
Kenya is home to one of the fastest growing gambling industries in Africa. Gambling in the country has been legal since the mid-1960s and subject to the monitoring of the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) ever since. Kenyans undoubtedly enjoy punting for recreation, with sports betting and online casinos topping the list of the most popular gambling activities in the country.
A bill outlining a new licensing and tax regime for online gambling operators recently went through first reading at the National Assembly. If approved in the future, the bill will also lead to the creation of a new National Gaming Authority to replace the existing regulator, the BCLB.