Players in Kenya will find themselves stuck in a political quagmire when it comes to finding out if they can legally gamble online. The current situation for Kenyan gambling laws is very much fluid. Just what is up and what is down is not immediately apparent, as Kenya’s own thoughts on the matter are in a state of flux. This doesn’t help players in the country understand whether they can gamble or not. Players should bear in mind that the information displayed on this page is correct at the site of writing.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Kenya?
Kenya overhauled its online gambling laws in 2018. The previous laws are found under the Betting, Lotteries and Gambling Act of 1966. It was revised in 2018 to include online gambling. Under the act, both online and land-based gambling are legal. That initially sounds like great news. However, there are lots of affidavits and footnotes to get through, so bear with us.
The Betting Control and Licensing Board of Kenya is the legal body responsible for the regulation of the Kenyan gambling industry. There are also the powers that be when it comes to handing out licenses to Kenya’s casinos, bookies and online operators.
In mid-2019, the Kenyan National Assembly was called upon to consider a new bill which would revamp the country’s regulatory framework. Designed to replace the old bills, it proposed the creation of a National Gaming Authority. Under the laws, foreign operators would be forced to have a physical presence in Kenya, such as servers in the country. License fees would also rise, with operators charged KES100m and an additional KES30m for renewing it. At the time of writing, that current license fee is just KES1m. There was also talk raising the tax on player’s winnings from 15% to 35%.
By December, the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta was instead calling for a total ban on gambling. The move came just months after the Betting Control and Licensing Board of Kenya effectively killed the industry, by arguing for a higher than on operators. After refusing to pay a higher tax, the operators were issued with a winding-up order. They are now taking the government to court.
To date, a new 1% tax on total revenues is set to be paid every month by the operators. Operators who fail to comply will face a fine of KES200,000. A new report published in early 2020 also brings back the 35% tax rate on winnings. Gambling is legal in Kenyan for now, although for how long, remains to be seen.
Kenyan Online Casinos
Kenyan online casinos need to be licensed by the Betting Control and Licensing Board of Kenya. There aren’t many casinos which are currently licensed (especially after the fight in late 2019), and most of Kenya’s betting sites tend to be online sportsbooks. These specialise in only catering to players in the country.
Offshore Casino Sites for Kenyan Players
Many Kenyans opt to play their favourite casino games at offshore casinos. While this is not technically legal, it does (in theory) get them out of paying the 15% tax rate. If that tax rate rises to 35%, expect many more Kenyans to visit these foreign casinos.
Offshore casinos are eager to capitalise on the Kenyan gambling market. Kenya’s gaming industry is the third largest in Africa, and that makes it particularly lucrative. However, there are too many of these casinos which accept Kenyan shillings. Instead, most accept the US dollar as their currency of choice. For the time being, Kenyan players do not need VPNs (virtual private networks) to play at offshore casinos, as the Kenyan government does not blacklist offshore sites. That may be about to change, though.
Is Anything Likely to Change in the Future?
As mentioned, Kenya’s gambling industry is currently in a state of flux. New rules have been introduced each year since 2018. The laws regarding gambling have swung from legalising everything and offering a top-quality service, to cracking down on gambling and making it virtually impossible for operators to turn a profit.
Ordinarily, we would say that the government’s current proposals will spell the end for the Kenyan gambling industry, with ISP (internet service provider) blocks on offshore sites, and very few licensed casinos and sportsbooks active in the country, owing to the huge license fees and tax rates the Kenyan authorities demand. However, the argument and assembly are so volatile that it could easily go the other way, so watch this space.
Top Kenyan Casino Sites
For the time being, Kenyans are free to visit offshore casinos to play, as well as Kenyan licensed casinos. Although they technically aren’t supposed to play at foreign sites, these domains offer Kenyans the best gambling opportunities online. Some of the very best foreign sites catering to players in Kenya feature on this page and all have been proven to be safe, secure and trusted domains.
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