Kenya’s betting watchdog, on Thursday, announced sweeping restrictions on gambling advertisements, including outright bans on celebrity endorsements and social media promotions, in a blow to the fast-growing gaming industry in East Africa.
The new regulations introduced by Kenya’s Betting Control and Licence Board also prohibit gambling ads being aired between 6am and 10pm or outdoors. They will take full effect from May 30.
The board said in a statement gaming had the potential to lead to “addiction as well as some disorder” and the industry had a responsibility to protect “the young and vulnerable”.
Any promotions that fall within the new guidelines must have approval from the board, and include an explicit warning about the harms of gambling, the board added in its directive.
“The warning message must constitute a third of the actual advertisement,” the statement said.
The measures put curbs on an industry that has become something of a phenomenon across East Africa in recent years, driven by the ubiquity of satellite and digital television, and smartphones that enable online and app-based gambling.
In Kenya, gambling is legal over the age of 18 and betting on sports -especially European football -has become hugely popular.
According to an annual report for 2019 by Hootsuite and We Are Social, 11 of the top 20 Google search queries in Kenya last year were directly related to betting.
SportPesa, a Kenyan sports betting platform that sponsors English Premier League club, Everton, currently ranks as the country’s 11th most popular website, according to the website ranking site, Alexa.
Last month, while threatening to revoke betting licenses for companies that did show they paid tax by July 1, a government minister said Kenyans were “leading on the continent” for youth gambling.
SportPesa terminated its sponsorship of Kenyan sports teams in January 2018 during a row over government plans to more than quadruple gambling taxes from 7.5 percent to 35 percent.
The Kenyan Treasury backed down the following April, announcing a new taxation level of 15 percent. A week later, SportPesa said it would restart sponsorship of Kenyan football, but on a reduced budget.
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