Online Sports Betting: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Online Sports Betting: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The online sports betting industry in Kenya has been on some sort of roller coaster in recent years- a proper mix of good and bad; and a sprinkle of ugly as well.

The online sports betting industry in Kenya has been on some sort of roller coaster in recent years- a proper mix of good and bad; and a sprinkle of ugly as well.

 

Online betting has really taken off in Kenya within the last decade, with the country emerging as one of the top gambling markets in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

Gambling isn't exactly a new phenomenon in Kenya- it has been around for ages- but online betting in particular has been growing at an alarming rate in the last few years.

 

Propelled by rapidly improving mobile penetration, better internet accessibility and sharp mobile money revolution, the sports betting industry has become one of the fastest-growing sectors in the Kenyan economy.

 

From Betika to 22Bet, Betway to Melbet; players can now place their bets on so many betting sites in Kenya!

 

With sports betting generating billions of shillings on a yearly basis, the eyes of the Kenyan government have unsurprisingly been on the industry.

 

The relationship between betting operators and the government has not been the friendliest, but for the most part, they have managed to cast aside their differences and found a way to make it work.

 

The Kenyan government launched an all-out assault on betting operators in 2019, suspending the licences of up to 27 companies due to unpaid taxes.

 

The affected companies included SportPesa and Betin- the two biggest operators at the time.

 

Since then, there has been an ugly back-and-forth, with court cases and constantly changing tax laws.

 

At the moment, the government collects a 7.5% tax on betting stakes, plus another 20% on any winnings. It will not come as a major surprise if that changes in the coming months!

 

Apart from taxation, the Kenyan government also seems to have serious issues with the morality of sports betting, with the President Uhuru Kenyatta at one point threatening to place a permanent ban on such activities in the country.

 

While that may seem radical and extreme, the concerns of Kenyatta and other betting antagonists are understandable.

 

In a bid to make quick money and recover the funds they have ploughed into betting; Kenyan youths have been falling into the trap of gambling addiction. This, unfortunately, has spiralled into financial and mental health issues.

 

Betting has become so ingrained in the society that even kids are now getting involved in gambling activities. There is a definite need for the industry to be better regulated, and in all fairness, Kenyan authorities have been doing a great job at that.

 

Having said that, there is no doubt that online sports betting has had its positives. 

 

The influx of more betting operators into Kenya has created more job opportunities, while it can be argued that betting has kept Kenyan youths away from the streets. These days, they are either in betting houses or on their phones trying to make money!

 

Not only do betting companies contribute to the economy through taxes, they have also been actively involved in several high-profile, big-money sponsorships.

 

Prior to their suspension in 2019, SportPesa were the sponsors of the Kenyan Premier League. Their termination of that sponsorship hit the top-flight clubs very hard, with many teams subsequently unable to pay their players' salaries.

 

There was renewed hope for Kenyan clubs in 2020 when another betting company, BetKing signed a record-breaking five-year deal to bankroll the league, but unfortunately, that agreement was terminated after one year due to alleged mismanagement of funds.

 

These are just some examples of betting companies giving back to society.

 

Online betting on Kenya has been on a heck of a ride so far, and the journey will only get more interesting in the coming months and years.

 

For all the seesawing, it is clear that betting is here to stay!