When sports betting first arrived in Kenya, Kenyan punters wagered in betting shops around Nairobi, Mombasa and other big cities.
Many Kenyan bettors could be seen carrying paper betting slips all over the place, and religiously ticking their games as the matches happen.
However, a few years down the line, the focus has shifted firmly to the online space. With mobile penetration and internet accessibility in Kenya constantly on the increase, sports betting has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the East African nation.
Betting has become very widespread in Kenya, both in the rural and urban areas. Along with South Africa and Nigeria, Kenya boasts one of the largest betting markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
Improving technology, especially the rise in mobile penetration, has been the main catalyst of online sports betting in the country. Mobile penetration in Kenya is higher than the average mobile penetration in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the Kenyan Communications Authority, the mobile penetration rate in Kenya stood at 119.9% as at June 2020. Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) estimated that there will be an additional 7 million mobile subscribers in Kenya by 2025.
Betting sites in Kenya have wasted no time in acting on this trend. Most of the sites now have attractive and functional mobile apps, enabling convenient mobile betting. About 88% of Kenyan gamblers have used their mobile phones to place bets.
While mobile penetration has been the main driving force behind online betting in Kenya, it has been ably assisted by better internet accessibility and affordability in the country. As of December 2020, Kenya had the largest internet penetration in Africa, commanding approximately 85.2%.
It is true that mobile phones and good internet make betting sites more easily accessible, but the bookies are effectively useless if users cannot deposit money on their sites.
Thanks to mobile money, especially M-Pesa, Kenyan punters do not have this problem. M-Pesa has completely changed the face of the financial system in Kenya. The service has made it extremely easy to send and receive money, and make payments online.
The online sports betting industry has been one of the great beneficiaries of the M-Pesa era in Kenya. The best betting sites in Kenya all allow M-Pesa deposits, making it very easy for players to deposit money.
In fact, any bookmaker that does not have M-Pesa is almost destined to fail in Kenya. They are not ready to do business.
M-Pesa deposits are very convenient, and can be done within a minute. Not only can bettors pay into their betting accounts via M-Pesa, they can also withdraw their winnings into their M-Pesa accounts.
Kenyan authorities have done their bit to limit the rate of sports betting in Kenya, imposing tough tax laws and ceasing the licenses of some of the biggest betting sites in the country, but sports betting continues to thrive.
With M-Pesa set to keep getting bigger in Kenya, along with mobile penetration and internet accessibility, sports betting in Kenya can only go in one direction.