Kenya Set to Conduct Extensive Gaming Reform Which Could Force Industry Leaders to Withdraw

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To create a new Gambling Regulatory Authority, Kenya has introduced a Gambling Control Bill.

A new Gambling Regulatory Authority was created by the Gambling Control Bill 2023, which is presently being considered by the Kenyan parliament. If authorized, it will take the place of the existing BCLB (Betting, Control, and Licensing Board).

Complementing the current mandate of the Board, the new authority will also oversee licensing and regulation. According to the official statement, the Bill aims to control betting, casinos, and other gambling activities. It also permits media promotions, public lotteries, and prize competitions. Kimani Ichung’wah, the leader of the National Assembly Majority, is the sponsor of the state-backed Gambling Control Bill.

Stricter Enforcement of Unlicensed and Underage Gaming

The original mandate of the Board is intended to be significantly expanded by the recently introduced Gambling Control Bill. This comes after claims made in 2022 that most Kenyan operators weren’t adhering to licensing regulations. Following the operator’s unsuccessful applications, the BCLB at the time produced a report on the compliance status of betting, lottery, and gaming licenses. In addition, a crackdown on unlicensed gaming was demanded, asking the BCLB to compile a list of unlicensed websites that the Communications Authority could block.

The extensive package of new regulations will increase taxes and penalties for infractions, along with outlawing the registration of minors for any kind of gambling activity. Additionally, the Bill will forbid wagers smaller than KES20 (USD0.13) and impose a KES5 million (close to USD33,000) statutory fine on any operator that does so. It will also be illegal for TV and radio stations to broadcast gambling commercials between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Depositing and Taxation

According to the Gambling Control Bill, Kenyan nationals must own at least 30% of the shares in all licensed operators. Every entity needs to enable transactions through a bank that’s registered in Kenya. In order to cover any unpermitted gambling activity, companies running gaming must also deposit a bank guarantee or an insurance security bond.

Casinos will have to deposit a total of KES20 million (close to USD132,000), plus KES200 million (USD1,32 million) for lotteries and online sports betting. The licensing of all lotteries meant to generate money for charitable causes will fall under the purview of the newly established Gambling Regulatory Authority. Additionally, the lottery’s designated charitable cause must receive at least 30% of the proceeds.

Promoting an unlicensed lottery can result in a KES1 million (USD6,600) fine or a year in jail for any person or organization. The Gambling Control Bill additionally levies a monthly gambling levy that’s set by the local counties in addition to a 15% tax on gross gaming revenue.

The most recent Bill comes after Kenya’s Finance Bill, which imposed a 7.5% tax on wagering stakes and was signed into law in 2022. In Kenya, the stake tax has long been a contentious issue; industry leaders SportPesa and Betin, both offering appealing no-deposit bonuses, have already withdrawn their services.