Active players: 35.880.000
Currency: Kenyan Shilling (KSh, KES)
Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, land based casinos & betting shops, lotteries, horse racing, bingo
Operator types: Licensed bookmakers & betting shops – Unlicensed betting sites
Designated authority: Betting Control and Licensing Board
Status: Regulated. Unlicensed betting sites offering their services are not prosecuted
Kenya is often called the Mecca of online sports betting in Africa as 76% of the population place their wagers on an almost daily basis. Despite being considered a developing country, Kenya is a fast rising economy where 85% of the population have internet access and 96% of local players place their bets via mobile phones. The proximity and quantity of bookmakers is viewed with mistrust by the local authorities who have recently raised gambling taxes from 7.5% to 35% in order to “protect the exposed youth from the dangers of gambling”. As one might suspect, this has not curved the want for online sports betting among young Kenyans, who are choosing foreign betting sites to bet on their favorite English Premier League teams.
5 things to remember when Betting in Kenya
- You can practically bet on any foreign bookie as no legal action is taken against unlicensed betting sites
- Very few bookmakers accept KSh deposits
- Despite laws prohibiting wagering to persons younger than 18, underage gambling is a major issue in Kenya
- 80% of all bets are placed on football matches
- Many mobile payment services are available that let you transfer money to and from your betting account
Top 3 bookmakers in Kenya
Similarly to many other regulated sports betting markets in Africa, Kenya offers a mixture of regulated sports betting sites & shops and unlicensed foreign sportsbooks. The main local competitors include Betway.co.ke, SportPesa, & Betin where the majority of punters turn to place their bets using Kenyan Shillings. High taxes, low odds and absence of regulation have allowed foreign operators like Bet365 and 1xbet Kenya to draw the attention of millennial bettors who are familiar with using mobile payment services & e-wallets. In terms of regulation, betting sites & casinos are allowed to operate only if they possess a local license and offer their services through a local domain. Additionally, they have to pay as much as 35% on their total gaming revenues, a measure that is supposed to deter betting sites from applying for a license and theoretically protect youngsters.
Contrary to the government’s intentions and more specifically Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich, the recent tax hike has not resulted in a decrease in underage gambling. Both young and adult Kenyans are turning en masse to online operators that offer high odds along with well sought-after casino products. Four out of five bets are placed on football matches, mainly on the English Premier League and the Spanish Primera Division, with the Kenyan Premier League enjoying limited preference among local punters. As mentioned above, the largest portion of those bets are placed via smartphones, as Kenya ranks as the highest country in Africa in mobile penetration rates.
Competition among bookmakers
The leniency of the Betting Control and Licensing Board has split the local market into two different competing zones. Kenyan Shelling bettors & Foreign Currency bettors. Punters who are unaware of foreign operators or remain unwilling to use e-wallets and fiddle with exchange rates, are placing their bets on any of the 10 licensed sportsbooks in Kenya. These bookmakers generally offer lower odds compared to their European, Asian & American competitors who are technically operating without a legal permit. The most well-established African bookmaker in Kenya is without doubt Betolimp, while any bookie that accepts payments through credit cards, e-wallets or mobile payments can easily enter the local market.
The fact that most foreign betting sites won’t accept Kenyan Shelling deposits has forced Kenyan punters to start using e-wallets and mobile payment services. Skrill, Neteller & Ecopayz are most frequently used, with Paypal being reportedly on the rise. You can also deposit & withdraw through bank wire, credit & debit cards like Visa or Mastercard and paysafecard vouchers, however, you should be prepared to be hit with exchange rates for changing KES to USD, EUR or AUD.
Although I have never personally visited Kenya, I am well aware of the betting environment in the Eastern African country. They boast one of the most liberal gambling markets not only compared to the rest of Africa, but also most countries in the world, seeing that punters are free to choose between local licensed and foreign operators. The only issue is the government’s complete neglect towards protecting minors. All the taxes in the world won’t stop players from finding sports betting or casino gambling sites and in many cases they might end up signing for scam bookies. Kenya should approach the problem at its root: Force licensed & unlicensed operators to respect the age limits or restrict access to their websites.
Best betting sites in Kenya
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