Problem gambling in Kenya has risen to a massive scale. According to information that has leaked from the local gambling regulatory body, Kenyan punters gambled away over KES30 billion within a single month in 2019.
As mentioned above, the considerable size of the country’s betting sector has emerged from leaked data included in revenue declarations filed by gambling operators to the gambling watchdog – the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) – for May 2019. Only shortly after that, the Kenyan Government rolled out stricter regulation and introduced higher taxes for the sector that has been criticized for taking advantage of vulnerable individuals and turning them into gambling addicts.
According to experts, in case that the Government had not taken measures to stop the trend, Kenyan punters seemed to be on track to spend over KES360 billion on gambling activities on a yearly basis. And what is even worse, this amount is KES257 billion more than the amount which the Kenyan Government allocated to the health system in the 2019/2020 fiscal year. It is also larger than the funds that were allocated to counties as shareable revenue in the previous fiscal year.
The leaked data from the national gambling watchdog revealed that Kenyan gamblers staked almost 180 million individual bets in one month only. The average stake amount was KES170.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ 2019 population census figures, there are around 35 million adult residents of the country.
Campaigners Worry That Effects of Such Massive Gambling Participation and Spending Rates Could Be Devastating
After the leaked data has emerged, Nelson Bwire, co-founder of Gaming Awareness Society of Kenya, shared he was shocked by the extent to which gambling has risen among local residents. According to Mr. Bwire, the information has indicated that gambling has become a major contributor to mental health-related issues.
As campaigners previously signaled – the effects which gambling has on local communities are devastating, as they lead not only to financial problems and unmanageable debt but also to depression, addiction, relationship and family breakups, as well as to increased crime and suicide rates.
It is the UK-based investigative journalism project Finance Uncovered that first managed to obtain the revenue data, which originated from an insider at the country’s gambling regulatory body. The latter receives and compiles the industry’s monthly revenue reports, but this is considered the first time when figures regarding the entire betting industry have been made public.
A source from the sector shared some concern that the actual numbers about the Kenyan customers spending could be even higher, as the gambling watchdog relies on self-reporting from the companies.
For the time being, online gambling heavily dominates the Kenyan gambling sector, which according to industry experts, usually returns 90% of bets to gamblers as winnings. In comparison, the percentage returned to players from local brick-and-mortar betting shops, is 85%. In these cases, the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) of gambling companies that offer their services to Kenyan punters are between 10% and 15% of bets placed.