Gambling is a popular pastime in Kenya where around 46 million-plus citizens reside. The legality surrounding online betting and casino gambling is somewhat complex but if you are a Kenyan national or looking to visit, this guide will help you out.
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About Kenya’s gambling laws
The Republic of Kenya has legalised gambling under the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act (BLGA) 1966. But only locally licensed operators can provide services to Kenyans under this legislation. This means a sports book, lottery company or casino must have a license from the Betting Control and Licensing Board – set up under the BLGA – in order to legally operate and provide its services to Kenyan gamblers.
But things can be somewhat vague when it comes to the legislation, so we break it down in terms of each gambling category.
Land-based gambling is quite popular in the country, with around 11 bingo halls, three bookmakers and one racetrack available to Kenyans. A national lottery is available and players can buy a ticket in a local shop or online.
Under the BLGA, land-based casino gambling is legal. There are a number of casinos located around the country – around 28 – with slots and table games available to players. You will find a number of stand alone brick and mortar venues as well as a range of integrated resorts which feature hotels and other facilities ideal for international visitors.
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The number of online gamblers in Kenya is growing at a fast rate. Around 50 percent of Kenya’s residents have access to the web with online gambling a popular pastime for many.
In 2011, online gambling was regulated with the Betting Control and Licensing Board giving Amaya Gaming Group – parent company to one of the biggest online poker companies in the world, PokerStars – the rights to operate online gambling. Amaya opened an online casino known as betkenya.com but the website is no longer operating.
This has meant a number of Kenyans after online roulette, blackjack, baccarat and more turn to offshore casinos. While gambling at international sites is technically illegal, reputable offshore sites still accept Kenyans. Additionally, there have been no reports of Kenyans being prosecuted for gambling at these foreign Internet casinos.
As we mentioned above, sports betting is legal with three land-based bookmakers available to punters. Online bookmakers are also legal, provided they have a local license.
There is only one online bookmaker licensed locally, known as elitebetkenya.com. It does not have as big of a range when it comes to betting markets as offshore betting sites do. This means Kenyan punters often look to international sportsbooks. While these are not technically legal, the Kenyan government does not block the sites and Kenyans are accepted.
Kenyan gambling tax rates
Gaming operators in Kenya are subject to taxes which have been reviewed in 2017 in order to address revenue issues and provide a solution for social issues which come with gambling.
Prior to the 2017-18 state budget proposal gaming operators were paying 12 percent tax, betting companies were paying 7.5 percent, competitions were paying 15 percent and lotteries were paying 5 percent tax on all gaming revenue.
But the proposal saw a uniform 50 percent tax rate suggested for all gambling companies. The tax rate was suggested by Kenya’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Rotich, who said it will help limit the issues associated with problem gambling in the country.
Many operators opposed the tax hike, including lottery operator Bradley Limited Trading. Unfortunately, only betting companies were exempted from the possibility of a tax increase following a parliamentary vote.
Whether or not other gambling operators will be given the same reprieve is not yet known, but we will keep you updated here.
Propose gambling taxes on players
While players who gamble at locally licensed gambling venues and sites are meant to be subjected to a 20 percent tax rate, via a withholding tax, operators do not collect them.
The government attempted to pass a 20 percent gambling tax in 2011 when the Finance bill was proposed but it was revoked in 2012.
It came back a year later under the Finance Act 2013 and under the legislation all winnings a Kenyan accrues through lotteries, gambling or raffles is taxable at a 20 percent rate.
While it remains part of the law there are no reports of operators collecting the tax, nor any Kenyan gamblers reporting they have paid it. Casino staff even went on record in 2016 to say gamblers go home with all of their winnings.
A 20 percent tax on lottery winnings has reportedly been successfully introduced, however.
Legal payment methods for gambling
Kenyans can gamble with their local currency – the shilling – at locally licensed gambling venues.
For Internet punters and online casino gamblers who want to go international, the shilling may not be as readily available. But there are a number of other currencies, including the US dollar, the Euro and more which Kenyans can opt for. Compatible payment methods with these currencies include Visa, MasterCard, Skrill, Neteller, prepaid methods and bank transfers which are all legally available to Kenyan gamblers.
Be sure to check the site and the policy of your preferred payment method before making a deposit and be mindful of any exchange rate which will be incurred due to currency conversion fees.