means business! Seventeen foreign directors of unauthorized online
sports books have been deported.
Online gambling regulation has been
known to take on a supremely strict role in the laws of various
countries. The Unites States made their position clear in the DOJ’s
wrangling of PokerStars and other internet poker networks
illegally welcoming American players. When the UK finds an operator
in violation of its rules, hefty multi-million pound fines are quick
to follow. Kenya, however, is handling matters a bit more drastically
– no doubt more swiftly than the rest of the world.
The East African nation has witnessed an
incredible boom in online sports betting over the last five years.
Many operators were accessing the country’s punters legally during
that time, having obtained a license from Kenya’s Betting Control
and Licensing Board (BCLB).
In a story confirmed by Reuters
just hours ago, we learned just how serious Kenya is about protecting
its people from any company that may feel inclined to violate the
nation’s staunch regulatory demands. The BCLB elected not to renew a
number of its former licensees this month. Upon doing so, the foreign
directors of those firms were booted right out of the country.
Kenya Reviewing Licenses of Online Sports Books
According to the interior ministry, on July 1,
the BCLB made the calculated decision not to renew the sports betting
licenses of 19 formerly approved firms – at least, not yet. The
regulator is putting these company’s under the microscope for an
in-depth review of their operations and shareholder structuring.
A brief statement from Wangui Muchiri, the
interior ministry’s head of communications, states; “The cabinet
secretary (minister) signed 17 deportation orders for directors of
betting companies.” No further details have been released.
A local newspaper, The Daily Nation, did
not name the directors who have been ordered to leave the country,
nor the currently unauthorized sports gambling operations they work
for. They did cite information from an anonymous source that
supposedly pin-points the foreign locations to which they will be
returning, naming the nations of Bulgaria, Italy, Poland and Russia.
Taking a Second Look as Sports Gambling Booms
Kenya’s desire to look more closely at the
foreign operators who are encouraging wagers from their citizens is
understandable. In the last few years, the industry has surged in
popularity and revenue growth like nothing before it. Last year’s
figures saw the value of sports betting grow to 200 billion shillings
(US$2 billion), up from just 2 billion shillings (US$20 million) five
years prior. That’s a dramatic increase of 9,900%.
The enthusiasm Kenyans have shown towards
sports betting is phenomenal from a business standpoint. But
regulators aren’t looking at the financial aspect. Their concerns lie
within the social impact of sports gambling, and the harmful effects
such a stupendous surge in betting activity could be having on their
Government Orders Halt of Payment Processing
Last week, in an effort to make sure its
recently unauthorized online sports books are no longer accepting
Kenyan bettors, the government ordered telecom companies to halt the
processing of payments for those firms. This includes, first and
foremost, Safaricom’s M-Pesa mobile payment solution, which
facilitates the vast majority of payments for Kenya’s iGamers.
Whether the BCLC will eventually approve the
renewal of any of their former licensees is yet to be seen. What we
do know is that the government doesn’t mess around when it comes to
the behavioral health of their 50+ million citizens.
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