Kenyan betting regulator sets new advertising guidelines for operators

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There will be no gambling-related advertisement on any Kenyan television or radio station between the hours of 4pm and 9pm, according to new regulations rolled out by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB).

The BCLB has never been shy of laying down the law, and Kenya’s betting regulator has once again flexed its muscles, imposing strict advertising guidelines on betting operators in the country.

The new directives from the BCLB are targeted towards promoting responsible gambling and countering the trend of malpractices like under-age betting in Kenya.

To this effect, every gambling advertisement must include a responsible gambling message and must clearly specify that the legal betting age in Kenya is 18. The ad must also include a customer care number at all times.

Before a gambling advert can be broadcast, both the betting operator and the advertisement must be approved by the BCLB. 

A BCLB license number must be displayed within the ad. This means that only licensed betting sites like betway can run advertisements in Kenya.

According to the new regulations, betting advertisements can only run between 9pm and 6am when children are likely to be asleep.

Operators are allowed to promote their corporate social responsibility activities between 6am and 9am, while responsible gambling messages can be aired from 9am to 4pm.

No adverts of any sort are allowed between 4pm and 9pm.

The BCLB also directed that gambling advertisements must not be aired around children and family shows, and religious broadcasts.

Before the BCLB grants final approval to an advert, the structure and content of the ad will also be scrutinized. The campaign must not glorify gambling in any way, while 20% of the content must contain a responsible gambling message, a BCLB licence number, an age restriction and the words “authorised and regulated by the Betting Control and Licencing Board”.

While the new regulations may appear very harsh on the operators and their quest to promote their businesses, the BCLB’s stance is very understandable.

The online gambling industry in Kenya is growing at such a rapid rate that if left unchecked, it may spiral out of control. Cases of under-age betting continue to emerge, while unlicensed bookmakers are still very much around.

Being the chief custodians of gambling in Kenya, it is the responsibility of the board to protect Kenyan players and ensure that the industry is safe and secure.

This is not the first time that the BCLB has imposed tough laws on betting operators, and it is definitely not the last time.

In 2019, the regulator suspended the licenses of up to 27 betting companies, including that of heavyweight operators, SportPesa and Betin over allegations of unpaid taxes.

This provoked a furious reaction from some of the betting operators, with SportPesa initially exiting the Kenyan market before returning to the country amidst strong resistance from Kenyan authorities.

After drawn-out disputes and back-and-forth over betting tax, Kenyan authorities and betting operators appear to have finally reached a compromise, with the government recently approving a 7.5% tax on gambling wagers. 

Compared to the previous 20%, the new tax rate is far more favourable for betting companies operating in Kenya.

Hopefully, this will pave the way for a smoother relationship between betting companies and the Kenyan government.

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