Kenyan Judge Suspends Gambling Ad Ban After Petition from Musician

  • Musician calls the gambling ban "irrational and unreasonable"
  • Kenyan judge suspends ban to consider musician's petition
  • Ban is part of an ongoing effort to reduce gambling's impact on the young and the poor
Flag of Kenya against blurred background
Musician calls Kenya’s gambling ad ban “irrational and unreasonable.”

“Irrational and unreasonable”

A ban on gambling ads in Kenya has been suspended after a musician complained that it reduced his ability to make celebrity endorsements.

Earlier this month, the Business Report disclosed that new gambling laws had been introduced by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB). Among them was a ban on advertising on social media and celebrity endorsements. The measures were part of an effort to reduce the impact of gambling on the young and poor.

According to a report from the Daily Nation, a musician, Murigi Kamau Wanjohi, has challenged the ban. In court papers, he argued that the ban, which was to take effect on May 30, was “irrational and unreasonable.” He went on to say that the ban deprived him of income considering he “earns a living thorough endorsement of products and services due to his influence and celebrity status.”

As a result, Justice James Makau has suspended the ban until the musician’s petition has been considered. Following the hearing, Makau said:

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.

Gambling in Kenya continues to gain pace. Figures from the interior minister note that the industry has grown from two billion shillings (£15.6m; $19.8m) to 200bn (£1.5bn; $1.9bn) in the last five years.

Tax issues in Kenya

It will be interesting to see what decision is reached and how it is likely to impact those who suffer from a gambling addiction as well as those who make money from endorsing it.

With 11 bingo halls, three sportsbooks, one horse racing track, and 28 casinos in Kenya, the popularity of gambling in the nation has given rise to problem gambling. A 2017 survey by GeoPoll found that Kenya has the highest number of youth – those aged between 17 and 35 – who gamble frequently at 76%.

A poll from 2016 found that around 78% of university students in Kenya were problem gamblers. It seems that an increasing number of young people are being lured by the idea that they could win big. Due to the market’s growth, Kenya is third behind Nigeria and South Africa.

In an attempt to reduce the impact of gambling on people’s lives, the government introduced a gambling tax at the beginning of January 2018.

However, an August report noted that MPs were facing pressure from gambling operators to cut the taxes to less than half of the current 35%. This was a significant rise from the 5% set by the country’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta. It was further noted last September that the ping-pong tax game in the East African country had yet to reach a conclusive decision.

It is thought that a second tax of 20% is under consideration. This time, though, it targets the gamblers themselves and their winnings and is aimed at limiting the number of problem gamblers in the country.