The President and the SportPesa, Kenya Gaming Given Kiss-of-Life

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta has brought his country’s sports betting back from the dead by significantly reducing a controversial tax that had forced major players out of the market.

Hitherto Kenyatta had been implacably opposed to gambling of all kinds, urging his country’s parliamentarians to pass a total ban on gambling.

“We have this thing called gambling and it’s so bad, I alone can’t finish it – go change the constitution,” Kenyatta was quoted as saying by local newspapers.

For years Kenya’s top sports betting firms, led by SportPesa and Betin, were locked in a KSH60 billion tax back-payment dispute with the government (£440m/US$550m/€470m). And when an additional 20 per cent gaming tax was levied SportPesa, a major sponsor of national football teams, decided to quit the market.

But in a remarkable volte-face, Kenyatta decided to lower the 20 per cent gaming tax to a more equitable 7.5 per cent – prompted by evidence that the hostile tax regime has only had the negative effect of driving online punters to the illegal underground betting market.

The new tax rate has now been rubberstamped by the Kenya 2021-2022 National Budget and signed into law by Kenyatta, who is the son of modern Kenya’s independence leader and founder Jomo Kenyatta.

“High levels of taxation had led to punters placing bets on foreign platforms,” said a spokesperson of the parliamentary Finance Committee. “These were not subject to tax and thereby were denying the government revenue.”

With Sportpesa now back operating in its Kenya home market under a new licence and the launch of Betsson AB’s Betsafe Kenya brand earlier this year, it seems that iGaming has returned to rude health in the East African nation and continental gateway.

Betsson has stressed its commitment to sustainable growth in Kenya and is promoting the market’s first safer gambling programme.

Something no doubt that meets the presidential seal of approval.