Bill seeks Sh2m fine for use of phones to gamble online


A casino gaming room. A Bill seeks to restrict online betting. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Using a mobile phone to place a bet on an online gaming platform will attract a fine of up to Sh2 million or a maximum jail term of two years in the proposed gambling law that seeks to curb betting.

The penalty will shoot to Sh50 million if the culprit is a company, say the Gaming Bill — which is currently in Parliament.

The Bill seeks to restrict the use of telecom platforms such as mobile phones for betting in an economy where services like M-Pesa allow users to place bets, pay off losses and get winnings on their phone without needing a bank account.

The proposed stiff law aims at curbing the exponential growth of the gambling industry on the back of unemployed youth whom official data say spend an average of Sh5, 000 on betting per month.

The proposed law seeks to establish a real-time monitoring system accessible to the telecoms sector regulator, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), to facilitate remote tracking of gaming transactions.

This will help nab bets via mobile phones.

“A person in Kenya may not use a telecommunication platform for purposes of playing online games which include betting, lottery, casino games or any platform for other forms of online gaming,” reads part of the Bill that seeks to repeal the outdated Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1966.

To facilitate real-time monitoring, online gaming firms will be required to provide a website platform as well as all visual and audio communication channels.

Other disclosures in the proposed law include particulars and location of servers, operators system to show how a player may be registered and deregistered as well as the charges levied on players.

The law further seeks to outlaw the use of servers hosted in foreign countries for online gaming.

“The Communications Authority of Kenya shall ensure that no foreign operators offering online gaming services shall have access to recruit and offer services to players domiciled in Kenya,” the Bill reads in part.

“The board (National Gaming Authority) and the Communications Authority of Kenya shall continually monitor all online gaming activities to meet the prescribed conditions and any operator found to be in contravention with the provisions of this section, shall be blocked immediately and prosecuted accordingly.”

The gaming industry in Kenya has grown rapidly over the last five years to Sh200 billion shillings ($1.98 billion) from Sh2 billion, employing 5,000 people in the process, official data say.

Gambling in Kenya generally takes place online, notably through mobile phones.