Sportpesa pulls out of Kenyan market frustrated with government actions

Kenya’s largest sports gaming firm, SportPesa, has announced a move to halt its operations in Kenya.

The firm said it would resume operations when Kenya puts in place “adequate taxation and non-hostile regulatory environment.”

The announcement just comes hours after the second-largest firm, Betin, announced that it was declaring its staff redundant.

The move comes after the government’s decision to impose a 20 per cent tax on all betting stakes, a move that the firms have cited as damaging on both their customers and treasury.

“Sportpesa is disappointed with the decision by the Kenyan legislature to impose a 20% excise tax on all betting stakes. The tax is based on a fundamental misunderstanding by the Rotich led treasury of how revenue generation works in the bookmaker industry,” read the statement in part.

List of betting companies with renewed licenses in Kenya

It added; “Until such time that adequate taxation and non-hostile regulatory environment is returned, the SportPesa brand will halt operations in Kenya.”

The firm said compounded by the currently in-effect 20 per cent Withholding Tax on Winnings, the economic incentive to place bets will be completely removed as the taxes will deprive consumers of their total winnings.

“This will have severe consequences for licensed betting companies, which dutifully pay their taxes and ultimately will lead to a decline in government tax revenue to near zero and will halt all investments in sports in Kenya,” the firm said.

Betin, which operates as Gamcode Limited, told staff on Friday that the firm had been left with no option but to let them go.

“This has been occasioned by the fact that we have not been operational since July 2019 a fact we are all aware of. Management has had several extensive meeting with relevant government entities regarding the company’s license renewal without much success,” the memo dated September 27 stated.

The two firms were among a number of betting firms whose licenses were revoked by the government over a taxation row that found its way to the corridors of justice.

It is not clear how many staff members are affected by the move by Betin but it is expected to affect about 2,500 including those at Betin Shops scattered in various locations.

The Star

Kenyans seem to know better about betting

It has been a subject of heightened discussion over the past three or so weeks. So far, the government decided to “crack down” on betting companies and it feels suspect. However, Kenyans know better.

It is a no brainer that attacking betting companies is counterproductive. These companies generate a lot of revenue which is needed by the government.

Kenyans aren’t easy to fool though. A good number are still making money and having good fun at it. There are companies that are licensed and are committed to providing service. OdiBets is one of them and they’ve got the hook up

Meet Rodgers Ochieng, a lucky man from Narok who won Sh1,014,467 on OdiBets. He won it in two separate bets on OdiBets and he recently joined OdiBets after the closure of some betting firms in the country.

Being an unstoppable Kenyan with prowess in betting, he scooped a cool Sh.560,667 and then three days later, he scooped Sh453,800 on multibets. That was on 30 teams and 22 teams respectively. Rodgers placed the first bet with Sh250 and then won the second bet using a stake of Sh.20,000


“I intend to use this money to buy land and construct a house for my mother in Rongo and also to pay for my Engineering course,” a happy Ochieng said.

It follows that Kenyans are likely to place their wagers with betting companies whose licence were renewed after the government declined to renew licences of 27 other betting companies insisting they comply with various regulations.

Besides being committed to giving customers an enjoyable “gaming experience”, OdiBets has stated that they are committed to giving back to the society by helping develop sports in the country.

List of betting companies with renewed licenses in Kenya

Betting companies in Kenya are having a hard time getting their licenses renewed. This is because of a drawn-out dispute with the Kenyan Government on the revision of taxes due and owed.

Henry Rotich
Henry Rotich

In his recent 2019 budget speech, Finance Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich proposed a 10% excise duty on betting for every amount staked in a bid to curb the negative impacts of gambling in society.

My friend gambled Sh700,000 meant for the church; Shocked city man narrates

The Government zeroed in on the industry with reports that most firms were failing to prove that they were tax compliant as required by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB). In a letter dated July 11, 2019,  Liti Wambua board’s acting director told betting firms;

This is to permit you to allow gamers of the subject firms to withdraw any funds they may have deposited in the material period within forty-eight hours from the date hereof and duly notify them of the same, quoting this letter as authority.

My friend makes 100K per month from betting, I am so envious; City Man

The firms affected by this directive have had their licenses suspended and as such have to comply. Those firms are;

1. SportPesa 2. Betin 3. Betway 4. Betpawa 5. Elitebet 6 PremierBet 7. Lucky2u 8. 1xBet 9. MozzartBet 10. Dafabet 11. World Sports Betting 12. Atari Gaming 13. Palms Bet 14. Betboss 15. Kick-Off 16. Millionaire Sports Bet 17 Cheza Cash 18 Betyetu 19. Bungabet 20. Cysabet 21. Saharabet 22. Easibet 23.Easleighbet 24. Sportybet 25. AGB lottery and gaming 26. Atari 27. Kickoff

There are however a number of firms that have been found to be compliant. They are;

1. BetLion
2. MCheza
3. Kwikbet
4. OdiBets
5. Gamemania
6. Betpalace
7. Betika

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Research shows oung people spend more than 5,000 on bets

More than half of young people in Kenya are using their mobile phones to gamble. A survey done by Geopoll shows that shows that 76% of young people bet on football matches, compared to 57% of Uganda’s youth population.

Youth who gamble on their mobile phones in spend close to Sh5,000 per month. A report by Geopoll shows that majority of them have never won more than Sh5000 they used to place their bets.

The frequency of gambling is highest among Kenyans compared to their fellow Africans. Whilst the rest bet mostly once a month, a majority of Kenyans bet once a week. As seen in the graph below, sports betting is the most preferred. The fixtures for football matches especially the English premier league are over the weekends.

Among the most popular gambling options, football betting reigns in all other countries except in South Africa. Kenyan youths bet the most with 79% of bets placed on football matches.

The mobile phone has become the most convenient tool for those gambling. 75% of those who bet do so using their mobile phones with Kenya having the highest number of mobile usage for gambling at 96%. South Africa, though having the highest rate of mobile penetration in Africa, has the lowest usage of the mobile for gambling at 48%.

Kenya is the leader in the most amount of money spent on gambling. Unlike youth in other African countries, most Kenyan youth bet once a week spending about $50 per month mostly on football bets. Youth elsewhere spend less than 50USD a month and most bet only once a month.

The average amount spent on bets is below $50 per month. A majority have never won any amount above $50.

Kenya has the highest number of betting youth , this is according to a recent GeoPoll rapid survey carried out among youth between the ages of 17-35 in Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.

Based on a rapid survey conducted by GeoPoll earlier this year, over 50% of earnings by youth consumers is  spent on personal care. This is much higher than gambling.

wpid-gambling-is-the-main-risk-for-cash-rich-footballers-according-to-the-sporting-chance-clinic.jpgGambling frequency

Most youth (54%) in SSA have tried their hand at gambling. Kenya has the highest number of youth who have participated in gambling or betting in the past at 76% followed by Uganda at 57%. Ghana has the least number at 42%