The government of Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi is going after the multibillion-dollar betting industry. New legislative proposals being considered by lawmakers would restrict gambling to five-star hotels with casinos. There is also the possibility of a four-year jail term and a fine of $87,519 for operating outside of established hours.
Nairobi Cracks Down on Casinos
The Nairobi City County Betting Lotteries, Gaming Amendment Bill (2021) is currently in the Nairobi County Assembly. It wants to restrict who has access to gambling and when as an attempt to reduce youth participation. By limiting the gambling activity to five-star properties, youth won’t be able to gamble and the properties will benefit by catering to only deep-pocketed guests.
The five-star rating is only issued by the Tourism Regulatory Authority, and City Hall will issue operating licenses only to those who comply with the regulations. This means City Hall will not issue operating licenses for gambling premises that aren’t within five-star establishments.
Gaming companies will also have to use cashless betting in the county to prevent minors from engaging in gambling activities. Within six months of the Act’s enactment, the premises should be cashless.
The bill also prohibits broadcasting audio or video programming that promotes gambling, lotteries, and gaming ads before watershed hours.
Reduced Gambling Hours
The bill seeks to limit the operation of gambling and betting establishments in the City between 8 PM and 6 AM.
If it passes, it will be a change from the current situation in which gamblers can place wagers at any hour of the day. This idea has been floated since last year, with one lawmaker asserting that daylight hours are “productive human hours.”
The bill will also push telecom operators to end all Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) codes that radio stations use in their gaming activities. Some radio stations promote unlicensed activities by asking listeners to send or deposit certain amounts to phone numbers via USSD codes in order to have a chance of winning a prize.
Kenya Tackles Youth Gambling
A 2017 survey found that Kenya was the country where the most youth gamble in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the report, 76% of Kenyans are involved in betting. The majority of these people are between 17-35 years old.
Mobile betting is also being targeted by the proposed operating hours restrictions. Gaming companies will need to close their apps and paybills after hours in order to comply with these regulations.
The bill amends the Nairobi City County Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act, 2021, in order to tighten gaming regulation.
Governor Ann Kananu approved the bill in April of last year. It will govern the operation and licensing of gaming, betting and totalizator premises in Nairobi. Enforcement began on May 6, 2021.