Kenya has a long history of dealing with various gambling issues. Former President Daniel Moi went as far as forbidding civil servants to enter casinos.
Today, Kenya is known as gambling nation that is leading the charge in developing and regulating online casinos and sportsbooks. However, this was not always the case. The country has a long history with placing bets and playing games, and it has been as full of challenges as it is right now.
Though the nation’s Gaming Bill of 2019 overhauled the gambling legislation and created one of the most progressive frameworks of its kind in Africa, many people still feel casino games are problematic. They cite underage and problem gambling, along with fraud, as the major issues.
However, the economic and tax benefits of a thriving, regulated sportsbook and casino industry are also usually acknowledged today. This was not the case in the time of late former President Daniel Moi, who openly and harshly criticised gambling activities.
Problems Among Civil Servants
Of particular concern to Moi was the fact that politicians and other civil servants were frequenting bet shops and gambling halls so frequently. In 1966, when he was Home Affairs Minister and Vice President, he helped to form the Betting Control and Licensing Board, or BCLB. The Casino Bill 1970 took restrictions even further, and effectively banned MPs and other leaders from entering betting establishments of any kind.
In 1982, in his capacity as President of Kenya, Moi tightened the reins even more and forbid public servants of all ranks to set foot in casinos. He explained that he wanted to keep leaders’ attention focused on serving wananachi, or ordinary people. This was not possible, he contended, if they spent their time in casinos. Then-BCLB Chairman Samson Muriithi was also concerned that civil servants were spending too many hours indulging in gambling, and said that the revenue earned from casinos was not enough to counteract the issue.
Moi’s stated intentions, in addition to keeping leaders in line, were to save people from the negative effects of gambling, particularly those experienced after losing a bet. In his desire to creating decent families, as he termed them, by rooting out gambling, he orchestrated Kenya’s Central Bank to help casinos establish foreign-currency floats in commercial banks on their premises.
Many Kenyans were locked out of playing at casinos after the foreign-currency directive, while the move was also expected to help the country earn more foreign exchange from gamblers. For the head of state, it was a win-win situation.
Today, the laws are much more flexible for Kenyans and the economic benefits exceed those of the commercial banks’ foreign exchange. Still, the situation remains contentious with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’I launching an all-out war on gambling. Hopefully, with time, a balance will be struck that fixes the problems and maximized the advantages associated with sportsbooks and casinos in Kenya.