‘We want to give Kenya’s BCLB its independence again’

Posted: Jan 18, 2023 14:31 Category: Africa , Online , Regulatory , Posted by Katy

In his opening keynote at the SiGMA Kenya conference today, the Deputy Director of Kenya’s Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB), Mr Fredrick Mbasi, spoke about the challenges and opportunities for Kenya’s gaming sector. He particularly emphasised the board’s mandate to promote responsible gambling.

The board carries out a number of inspections throughout the year to ensure licence applicants are suitable candidates – this includes inspection of premises and background checks. They also maintain and update a gaming register for all games, devices and systems, and employees in the industry.

Kenya BCLB: Ensuring minimal costs, maximum contribution

“Our mission,” he said, “is to be a world class gaming regulatory agency, not only in Africa, but the world. To ensure gambling is conducted honestly, responsibly, competitively, with minimal costs and maximum contribution to society.”

Mr Mbasi also spoke about keeping gaming crime-free, protecting members of the public and ensuring fairness for players. It is important, he said, that the government and the public are able to benefit from gaming operations. To this end, the Betting Control and Licensing Board operate a department catering exclusively to public complaints and queries.

Mbasi was later joined by a panel made up of other BCLB board members, including Judy Kirichu, Legal Officer and Esther Argwings, Assistant Director Gaming for Licensing.

New and evolving legislation

“As you may be aware we are currently using legislation from 1966 which doesn’t address the current needs of the industry. That is what we are trying to move away from. We have tried to find other ways to address current situations – including that of online gaming – something which was not around when the original Act was drafted, said Judy Kirichu”

“The process of amending legislation has a life of its own – but that is a parliamentary responsibility.”

“As a regulator we are trying to use leeway from the 1966 Act to address things such as online gambling. We want to give the board its own independence again, so that we do not fall under a department of any ministry.”

When will this new legislation come into force?

“I’m giving it two years,” says Esther.

Operating a foreign gambling business in Kenya

‘You would have to have a physical presence in Kenya – even with the newly proposed legislation. That is the only way we can supervise,’ explained Judy Kirichu in response to a question from the audience on the ease of operating a foreign business in Kenya.

“Shareholders will need to seek authorisation from the board, as well as undergo inspections of their premises, and due diligence checks. Allowing foreign gambling companies to operate without a local partner is still under consideration and has not yet been implemented,” she said.

“You must be vetted by the board – we ask what you are bringing to the country – what product are you bringing to the market? What is your knowledge or the industry and how are you connected to it? What is unique about you? These are all important considerations to be made before issuing a licence,” adds Esther.

She goes on to explain that licence seekers are also obliged to document any data breaches, players who have won large amounts of money, as well as submit tax records.

Communication and collaboration

An important part of the BCLB’s remit is to collaborate with other stakeholders, like the Communication Authority of Kenya, the Central Bank, and the Financial Reporting Centre, says Mbasi. They are also always ready to give advice to licence applicants.

“We’re very open,” says Esther. She believes that most often you can’t tell much from a document, which is why they always welcome a phone call or a meeting so that they can clarify the process.

The conference is taking place at the Trademark Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.




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