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Kenyan Judge Stays Gambling Ad Restrictions After Musician's Petition

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We’ve seen the authorities in many parts of the world clamp down on the gaming industry with ever-stricter rules and regulations, but every once in a while, an individual decides to push back. On Monday, May 20, a musician in Kenya named Muriji Kamau Wanjohi, also known as MC Moreydoc, was able to convince a judge to suspend new gambling rules that were set to go into effect across the East African country.

MC MoreydocMuriji Kamau Wanjohi, a.k.a MC Moreydoc, Is Challenging New Kenyan Advertising Restrictions

What Was the Case About?

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On April 30, Kenya’s Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) introduced new gambling restrictions. The regulations impacted gambling advertising and endorsements, and they even included social media posts within their compass. These rules were slated to be applied beginning May 30.

The aspect of the new gambling regime that Wanjohi took exception to was a prohibition on endorsements of gambling brands by celebrities. As a musician of some local prominence, he could have potentially been affected by this ban.

Lawsuit and Decision

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Wanjohi filed suit against the BCLB, its Chairman Cyrus Maina, its Director Liti Wambua, and Attorney General Paul Kihara Kariuki.

MC Moreydoc claimed that the new restrictions interfere with his ability to earn a livelihood. He furthermore argued that the rules were issued without public consultation and that it was unclear what exactly was meant by the word “celebrity.”

His lawyer, Dennis Murithi, commented, “My client’s economic rights and those of other celebrities’ were in danger.”

The line of reasoning employed by Muriji Kamau Wanjohi and his attorney was successful in convincing the court. High Court Justice James Makau ruled:

Pending the hearing and determination of this case, a conservatory order is issued staying the implementation of the decision by the BCLB issued on April 30 touching on advertisement and endorsement of betting, lottery, gaming and prize competitions.

Impact on Gambling in Kenya

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Although it’s not traditionally considered a major gambling destination, Kenya has a surprisingly vibrant brick-and-mortar gaming scene. More than a dozen casinos exist within the capital city, Nairobi, alone. There are also bingo halls, racing tracks, and betting shops aplenty.

Gambling by placing wagers over the internet is also a popular pastime with Kenya’s residents. According to reporting from Business Today Kenya in February 2018, the third and fourth most popular websites in the country were the sites of two betting firms, Betin Kenya and SportPesa. Only Google and Facebook had more Kenyan visitors.

In order to capture market share, betting companies often employ sophisticated marketing techniques, including the use of celebrity spokespeople. Footballer McDonald Mariga, for instance, has appeared in ads for sportsbook Betin on billboards and television while radio personality Carol Radull signed a contract with competitor Betika.

Therefore, its clear that the manner in which Wanjohi’s petition is ultimately resolved will have serious economic ramifications for Kenyan sports figures, entertainment professionals, and other famous individuals with links to gaming entities.

Government Wary of Too Much Gambling

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The recently suspended ban on celeb gambling endorsements is one of the ways that Kenya’s government is trying combat what it sees as a social scourge. National leaders view real money gaming as being particularly harmful to the welfare of the poor and the young.

Statistics from the BCLB show that gambling revenue soared from $19.8 million to $1.9 billion over a five-year period. Meanwhile, a study published in March 2017 by GeoPoll found that 76% of Kenyan youth (defined as those between 17 and 35 years of age) had placed a bet in the past.

Secretary of the Interior Dr Fred Matiang'i points to unpaid gambling debts as a major reason why more than half a million Kenyans have been blocked from obtaining credit by the country’s Credit Reference Bureau.

Photo of Fred Matiang'iCabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i Seeks to Clamp Down on Gambling

Other Factors at Play

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While it’s undeniable that gambling has certainly soared in Kenya with the growth of online and mobile operators, and there has probably been a proportional rise in problem gaming, we tend to view the statements of the government on this subject with a degree of suspicion.

Many of the licensed betting corporations in Kenya have unpaid tax bills. The total owed is estimated at more than $250 million.

Even as they fail to pay what the law says they owe, many of them are repatriating their profits back to their home offices in other jurisdictions, removing the money from the Kenyan economy. There’s also the issue of foreigners allegedly working illegally in the Kenya gambling economy, 17 of whom were ordered deported by Secretary Matiang'i on May 21.

Thus, we can consider the government’s anti-gaming initiatives to be motivated as much by a drive to capture tax revenue and keep the economy under local control as to help gambling addicts.

Kenyan Musician Challenges Ban on Gambling Endorsements

Offshore Options Exist

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Apart from the organizations duly licensed by the BCLB to offer gambling in Kenya, there are plenty of other businesses that are located overseas and welcome Kenyan customers. While they might be technically breaking Kenyan law by doing so, the reality is that they’re mostly ignored by the authorities in Nairobi.

Sportsbetting.ag is a reputable example of an offshore betting company that happily transacts with the citizens of Kenya. Not only does it have a sportsbook, but there’s also a casino, a poker room, and several other gambling products. You can find out more in our comprehensive Sportsbetting.ag review.

If you reside somewhere else in the world other than Kenya, then you can get advice about the best places to play cards online by checking out our country-specific guides:

American-Friendly Internet Poker Sites

Online Poker Providers for Canada

Poker Rooms Online for Australians