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UK tycoon seeks piece of Kenya’s betting billions




Gamblers in a betting outlet in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Africa focused betting firm, BetLion, has sought a license to open shop in Kenya as it seeks a piece of the gaming billions of shillings.

The firm has sought a permit from the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) in a move that will put in a head to head battle with firm like SportPesa, Betway and Betin that serve about seven million Kenyans registered for betting services.

A source at the board said the BetLion permit approvals are complete and that the firm could launch operations before the end of the year.

Kenya has witnessed a rapid growth on-line gambling and the government tax targets from betting estimates the sectors annual sales at more than Sh36 billion.

“BetLion focus will be on online betting and like SportPesa will ride on the mobile phone. They are Africa focused” said the source at BCLB—the industry regulator.
British betting tycoon Victor Chandler, who is worth £230million (Sh30.1 billion), is a significant shareholder of the Kenyan unit of BetLion that also count local investors as owners.

The betting boss, credited as a pioneer of telephone and online betting, is now eyeing a piece of Africa’s betting billions.

Mr Chandler built up gaming firm BetVictor, which is now the official training kit sponsor of English Premier League giants Liverpool before selling it in 2014.

BetLion has gained market share in the Ugandan market since setting shop early this year riding on the sponsorship. Kenya’s SportPesa started operations in Uganda in late 2017.

BetLion is seeking to have a presence in eight African countries including Zambia and others in West Africa.

The firm’s entry to Kenya comes after the Treasury successfully pushed for a change in law that cut gaming tax from 35 percent of gross revenues to 15 percent, caving in to pressure from betting firms.

The companies had opposed the 35 percent tax which took effect on January 1, saying the high taxes are hurting their business and had opened the door for a black market for betting that could deny the taxman revenues.

Kenya also raised the entry fee for investors seeking a piece of Kenya’s betting and gaming pie from Sh40,000 to Sh20 million to lock out small operators.