Kenyan Gambling Bill Will Hit Unlicensed Operators

November 14, 2023
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Kenyan authorities have launched new legislation in a bid to crack down on unlicensed and underage gambling in the country.
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Kenyan authorities have launched new legislation in a bid to crack down on unlicensed and underage gambling in the country.

The Gambling Control Bill, which is in front of legislators, will attempt to enforce regulations by establishing a new Gambling Regulatory Authority.

The bill, which is sponsored by National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah, would mean a new authority would replace the current Betting, Control and Licensing Board (BCLB), but with significantly greater powers.

The new authority would also be responsible for both licensing and regulation, as well as introducing new taxation on operators.

If passed, it will impose a 15 percent tax on gross gaming revenue and a monthly gambling levy determined by local authorities. 

“The bill seeks to regulate betting, casinos and other forms of gambling, including the authorisation of prize competitions, public lotteries and media promotions,” the bill states. 

It follows claims that many of Kenya’s operators are failing to comply with licensing requirements.

The measures would increase taxes and fines for offences, as well as banning the registration of children for any gambling activity. Radios and TV stations would also be banned from airing gambling advertisements between 6am and 10pm.

Licensed operators would also be required to ensure that 30 percent of shares are held by Kenyan citizens in a move seen as a way to cut out overseas operators. All entities would also need to facilitate transactions via a Kenyan-registered bank.

Operators would also be required to deposit a bank guarantee or insurance security bond with the Kenyan authorities to cover any unlicensed gambling activity.

At the lower end of guarantees, casinos would be required to deposit KES20m ($131,000), while online sports betting and lotteries would need to stump up KES200m ($1.3m).

The bill would also prohibit bets of less than KES20 (13 cents), with a statutory fine of KES5m for any operator offering a stake below that figure. 

The gambling authority would be responsible for the licensing of all lotteries and machine betting, as well as advising local authorities on enforcing regulations.

Lotteries for charitable purposes would be forced to guarantee that 30 percent of proceeds go to charitable causes that the lottery promotes. Unlicensed lottery operators would face a fine or jail term.

Kenya’s government has been advancing its plans to update gambling laws and increase revenue collection from the sector in recent months.

In March 2023, the draft Gambling Control Bill 2023 and the draft National Lottery Bill 2023 were published on the recently created National Lottery Taskforce’s website. Revised versions of these bills were again published in May.

The National Lottery Bill would establish the framework for the lottery draw and the distribution of funds, as well as the establishment of a National Lottery Board, tasked with overseeing its operation.

Alongside the bills, the task force also published a draft gambling policy for Kenya in 2023, which includes 37 strategies aimed at improving responsible gambling measures, mitigating harm, extracting “continuous and sustainable” revenues to fund good causes, “while ensuring investors make a decent return on their investments”.

Additional reporting by Harrison Sayers.

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