In the span of four years from 2018 to last year, Kenyan gamblers fervently placed bets amounting to a staggering Ksh 620.97 billion. This revelation, disclosed in a recent report presented to the National Assembly Committee on Sports and Culture, underscores Kenya’s status as the epicenter of a burgeoning betting craze, particularly among the youth.

The report sheds light on the alarming statistic that Kenya boasts the highest percentage of young gamblers in Africa, with a striking 76 percent of them captivated by the allure of quick riches. This phenomenon transcends employment status, encompassing both the unemployed and those with jobs, illustrating the widespread nature of this betting fervor.

Despite increased taxation measures implemented by the government, the betting craze in Kenya seems impervious. The report reveals that gamblers in Kenya pay taxes on both their winning bets and the total amount staked, while betting firms contend with a multitude of escalating taxes aimed at curbing the attractiveness of the Kenyan gambling market.

“Kenya has the highest percentage of young gamblers in Sub-Saharan Africa (76 percent), who outspend their peers on a per-capita basis, with 96 percent of them using mobile devices,” the report states, emphasizing the profound influence of mobile technology on this gambling surge.

While the report doesn’t break down the annual betting expenditures, it discloses that betting firms disbursed an astounding Ksh 532.72 billion as winnings to punters between 2018 and 2022. Over the same period, these firms amassed a gross gaming revenue of Ksh 88.24 billion, a testament to the lucrative nature of the industry.

In a bid to discourage gambling, the government imposes a 12.5 percent tax on every betting stake, coupled with a 20 percent withholding tax on winnings. Betting firms face a 15 percent tax on their gross gaming revenue and a 30 percent corporate tax on profits. These measures, however, have not deterred gamblers, who increasingly view betting as a means to swiftly meet their daily financial obligations amid a backdrop of high unemployment.

The typical profile of a Kenyan gambler, as outlined in the report, is a male under the age of 36, hailing from a low-income household, and possessing at least a secondary school education. This demographic is emblematic of the diverse cross-section of society drawn into the betting phenomenon.

In response to the immense sums at play, betting firms are flooding the Kenyan market, with the latest data from the Betting Control and Licensing Board revealing that out of the 110 licensed firms, 22 are new entrants. This influx underscores the intense competition among these entities vying for a share of the billions staked by Kenyan punters annually.