KRA Clears 10 Betting Operators
On Monday 22 July 2019 the Kenya Revenue Authority, or KRA cleared 10 previously suspended betting companies, allowing them to resume their operations. Lucky 2u, Eazibet, Kick Off, Eastleighbet, Palms Bet, Betway, Betboss, OdiBets, Mozzartbet, and Ken Bookmakers were the businesses that were cleared.
The news comes as a great relief not only to their customers, but also to the overall betting industry and to the greater Kenya economy which would have suffered under the reduced revenue and job losses had the operators not been cleared.
Kenya’s Stricter Gambling Measures
The Kenyan government’s efforts to control its burgeoning online gambling industry have made several recent headlines. In May 2019 the country’s new Gaming Bill 2019 was rolled out. Among other measures, the Bill called for a National Lottery, increased operator taxes to benefit ordinary citizens more, greater control measures for underage gambling, lower minimum wagers and local ownership requirements that would benefit the nation’s economy.
Originally, the Bill also recommended that a National Gaming Authority replace the current Betting Control and Licensing Board, or BCLB. This has not yet materialised, and in the meantime the BCLB has been taking its own actions to meet the requirements set down in the Bill. This includes banning outdoor advertisements, among other measures, and reviewing betting firms’ operating licences on an annual basis.
Cancelled and Suspended Permits
Kenyan gambling companies’ requirements for renewal of online operating licences include proving their financial stability for the past 4 years, being up-to-date with tax payments, and following the latest legislation as set down in the Gaming Bill 2019. Recently, the BCLB completely refused permit renewal for 19 firms and deferred the renewal of 27 others to a later date.
The 10 companies that have now been reinstated were part of the group of 27 whose operations were temporarily suspended, while being given a grace period to get their affairs in order and ensure compliance with all regulations.
During this time, telecoms giant Safaricom was ordered to stop processing the mobile payments made to and from these sportsbooks, casinos and lotteries to ensure that they could not run their businesses until they met all governmental stipulations.
Airtel Kenya has been issued with the same directive, and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i recently authorised the deportation of 17 firms’ directors – mostly from Eastern Europe – for violating their work permit conditions. The message is clear; authorities will not tolerate any form of gambling operator non-compliance as they work to establish regulations.
Relief for Certain Betting Sites
Now that Betboss, Eazibet and the other sites mentioned above have been found to be compliant with all relevant legislation, the Kenya Revenue Authority has cleared them to accept and pay out wagers once again. While certainly a relief for those who passed review, 17 gambling businesses remain suspended. This list includes SportPesa and Betin, market leaders who share 85% of all Kenyan bookmaker revenue with Betway.
Naturally, the new status quo could reflect larger earnings for Betway and other legal operators. However, the overall effect on Kenya’s online gambling industry and the financial growth that it has simulated remains to be seen. Insiders from social and economic sectors will need to monitor the situation closely.