17 Jul

Kenya Stomps Unauthorized Sports Gambling Right Out of the Country

Kenya means business! Seventeen foreign directors of unauthorized online sports books have been deported.

Kenya Means Business! Deports 17 Foreign Directors of Online Sports Books

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

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 citizens.

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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