Kenya has the highest number of gambling youth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and sports betting has become the most popular form of gambling, according to GeoPoll’s series of studies on the rise of sports betting in the continent.

In April this year, GeoPoll ran a quantitative nationwide survey via mobile SMS to a sample of 1300 respondents whose demography had a 50:50 male to female ratio aged 18-45 years old. Our objective was to gain a deeper understanding of the Kenyan betting consumer, their consumption and gambling behavior, drivers, motivations and decision-making patterns.

In this article, we share some of the findings, particularly from the low-income earners who fall in the lowest social economic class according to Living Standards Measures (LSM).

In Sub-Saharan Africa, gambling has become a multi-billion dollar business. It is estimated that by the year 2022, the global gambling market could be worth $635 billion according to new findings by Dublin-based Research and Markets.

A 2017 PWC report put Kenya and Nigeria among the three largest gambling markets in Africa behind South Africa.  In addition, a 2017 GeoPoll study observed that gambling was becoming popular particularly among males in SSA due to their high affinity towards sports and technology, combined with the proliferation of local sports betting players and the convenience of the mobile phone as a tool for gambling.

Gambling: The Billion Dollar Industry in Africa

The gambling industry in Kenya has several sub-sectors including gaming, lotteries, sports betting and prize competitions. Kenya currently has more than 30 licensed betting firms and casinos.

A gambling outlook 2017-2021 report by PWC shows that the yearly turnover of the sports betting industry in Kenya is worth $20 million, and will reach $50 million in 2020 as demand grows. The formal Kenyan betting industry, which paid $28.3 million in taxes in 2015, is ranked third in Africa after South Africa and Nigeria, as reported by Business Daily.

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Figures from the Kenyan gambling regulator, Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB), show that gross gambling revenue for the 2016/2017 financial year was nearly Ksh 20 billion ($198m) – equivalent to about half of the annual health budget according to

Why Kenya has become a hotbed for Sport Betting

In Kenya, like in many other African countries, gambling is classified and positioned as a legitimate recreational and leisure activity. The rise of mobile and online based gambling has presented new challenges to the regulatory board amidst growing concerns on addiction towards sports betting.

Although gambling in Kenya has been around for some time now, the upsurge in sports betting has been due to the burgeoning of mobile phones and internet penetration, as our 2017 survey demonstrated.

The unprecedented success of sports betting companies can be seen with SportPesa- a betting company started in 2013, which managed to accumulate revenue enough to fund major premier leagues in Kenya before breaking into the international arena. Our study found SportPesa to be the most popular online platform in Kenya with 82% percent of gamblers subscribing to it, followed by Betin 40%, Elitebet 22%, Betika 12%, Mcheza 12%, and Betpawa 10%.

The success of this booming industry is also evidenced by the advertising spend of top betting companies. According to the latest data from Reelforge. the traditional top 10 advertising spenders have been overtaken by multiple gaming companies.

Top 10 Ad spenders in Kenya April – June 2018 – Data source: Reelforge


Understanding the Gambling Low Income Consumer

Low-income earners classified as LSM DE, who, according to a 2017 KARF establishment survey constitute 54% of Kenya’s population, offer a rich target market for the betting industry. According to our survey, the betting industry’s rags to riches narrative of poor rural folk holding huge cheques outside their mud huts, and stories of overnight millionaires has continued to resonate with the poor and low-income earners. While our study found that this group bets with amounts as low as KSH 10 – 50, their huge numbers multiply the tiny quantities into millions.

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The lowest social economic class LSM DE constitute 54% of the country

Their Demographic Profile

The gambling low-income consumers are spread out across the various demographic breaks such as age, gender, location with higher skews on particular profiles such as those of males of a certain age based in the urban areas. Both males and females participate in gambling, though our data show that males participate more often.

Across the age groups, it is notable that about half of low-income gambling consumers are 18-25 years. It is likely that the youth are most involved given the high affinity to mobile phones, sports, and unemployment rates.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2018 data, 7 million Kenyans are unemployed and out of this 1.4 million have been desperately looking for work. Our survey found that the highest proportion (40%) of the low-income gambling consumer is unemployed, and a third (29%) are students. This shows that a significant percentage of the low-income gambling consumer hope that gambling will turn into a source of income for them.

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