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Kenya Updates Gambling Laws

Kenya’s National Assembly is about to debate a bill that would revamp its gambling regulations significantly. Among other measures, the Gaming Bill 2019 suggests much higher costs for licensed operators, and proposes establishing the first Kenyan national lottery.

Modernised Legislation

The proposed bill is designed to replace the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1966, and would reflect the greater prominence that online operators like Betin Kenya and other big brands have in the country’s 2019 market. Under the new legislation, the Betting and Licensing Control Board would be replaced with a new regulatory body called the National Gaming Authority. In addition, the Gaming Appeals Tribunal would be established to adjudicate any gambling-related disputes. Essentially, the new laws are more in line with current trends and requirements in the sector.

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Kenya’s First National Lottery

If the bill is passed into law, the country will also see its very first national lottery. A tender process will determine the operator, who will hold the licence for seven years. The National Lottery Trust Fund is also proposed in the document, and once established it would distribute the funds that were raised.

The money, set to be 15% of all generated revenue, will be directed to sports-related good causes. Winners will get 45% of lottery revenue, while 20% will go to administrative costs. The final 20% is to be distributed to agents and retailers.

Responsible Gaming Measures

Mounting concerns over problem gambling behaviour, particularly among the youth, is also addressed in the new legislation. A new minimum bet amount of KE$50, half of the current KE$100 that most operators use, is stipulated. This could help with money management, although the limit is still much higher than smaller bookmakers would like.

To further protect those at risk for problem gambling, advertisements will also be more strictly controlled. All television and radio adverts will have to dedicate at least 10% of their time on air to messages on responsible betting behaviour. In addition, ads will not be permitted to run between 6 AM and 10 PM except during live sport broadcasts.

Better Legislation for Kenyans

While the bill raises operator costs considerably, it does not raise the gambling tax rate. In the wake of a tumultuous 2018, where taxes soared to 35% and were then reduced to 15%, this is welcome news. Leaving the tax level as it is may also be a good idea, so as not to provoke more unhappiness in the industry.

Although many of the new gambling laws currently being introduced in African countries aim to increasing government profits, the proposed Kenyan bill is also designed to directly empower citizens. In an effort to give the country a real stake in the industry foreign operators will need to establish a physical presence in the country, and at least 30% of shareholders will need to be Kenyan nationals.

The serious profit-generating potential of the sector is well established. As long as the regulations remain transparent Kenya’s proposed bill could ensure that everyone is treated fairly and that citizens themselves benefit from it. The National Assembly vote will be observed with keen interest.

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