Kenya is a country of about 45 million people in Eastern Africa on the Indian Ocean coast. Kenya is certainly a developing country by world standards, and only has a per capita PPP GDP of a little over $3000 a year, but is one of the most developed countries in Africa.
Kenya has a fairly well developed country for the region, and gets about two thirds of its GDP from the service sector, and in particular, the telecommunication and financial services industries. Tourism also plays a big role in their economy. (1)
In spite of having a fairly high poverty level compared to countries in the world in general, poverty in Kenya isn’t anywhere near as bad as we see in several other African countries, and Kenya actually has a pretty vibrant middle class, which is particularly relevant when we are talking about the topic of gambling and poker playing, and many Kenyans have the means to engage in gambling at a significant level.
About half of Kenyans have access to the internet, which is pretty decent for Africa, and only places them a little behind countries like South Africa and Egypt, the two biggest gambling hubs on the continent. In addition to these two, only Mali, Morocco, Madagascar, Malawi, and Seychelles have a higher internet penetration rate in Africa, and several are under 2%, so Kenya stacks up pretty well in this regard. (2)
Gambling was made legal in Kenya in 1966, shortly after they achieved their independence from Great Britain, when they enacted the Betting Control and Licensing Board to oversee gambling in this country.
All gambling here must be licensed by the Board to be legal and the law here is very specific and comprehensive in the way it regulates gambling. Operating a non licensed gambling establishment is a crime here.
So gambling is permitted here at licensed land based casinos, and Kenya has a total of 13, located in 4 different cities, with 6 of them located in Nairobi, the capital and largest city in Kenya. These are modern casinos that are primarily directed toward tourists, as casinos tend to be everywhere, but many Kenyans can afford to gamble in them as well and do so. (3)
There is a total of 121 table games and 720 slot machines at Kenya’s licensed casinos, which is a modest amount generally but an impressive one for an African nation. Most of the gaming space is located in the Nairobi casinos, where other areas have much smaller venues that are almost exclusively set up for tourists.
These casinos are well beyond the reach of most Kenyans though, but they can play the state run lottery, which is popular. In addition, there are quite a few unlicensed gambling dens that run here, ones that are more in line with the gambling that the average Kenyan seeks, in spite of these establishments being illegal. Like elsewhere, if the demand for gambling isn’t satisfied by the legal options, and the demand is high enough, the illegal market satisfies it, and while governments prefer this didn’t exist, the will of the people generally prevails. (4)
Kenya recently passed a new law in 2014 that increases the tax that casinos pay to them, and the casinos are not happy at all with it, and are currently challenging the law in court. It is said that this may force some operators out of business due to the higher operating costs this will involve, but for now, no one is closing down. (5)
Poker in Kenya
Poker is pretty popular in Kenya, and while the game of poker hasn’t caught on in Africa in general like it has in many other parts of the world, it has grown here to the point where it’s at least a major player alongside other major forms of gambling.
Online gambling in general is very popular in Kenya, and Kenya even has regulated online gambling, although thus far there is only one site involved, BetKenya. As evidence to the popularity of poker here, BetKenya does feature online poker as well, although this site is restricted to Kenyans only, and Kenya doesn’t have the player base to support a very thriving domestic online poker site.
However, they are doing well enough with it to continue offering it, although the majority of online poker players in Kenya play at the much bigger offshore poker sites, where they can select from among the biggest in the world.
Amaya Gaming, which owns Poker Stars and Full Tilt, holds the license for Kenya’s regulated online gambling site, so these two sites have exited the market, as they certainly need to comply with Kenyan regulations to maintain their license. We don’t recommend either though and don’t feel that this is any loss, and most of our top sites do take Kenyans, which is good news for you if you are from here and enjoy great online poker.
All of Kenya’s 13 casinos do offer poker to some degree, so those who prefer land based, face to face poker can find games and tournaments without any trouble, particularly if you live in the Nairobi area. The hub of live poker here is at the Resort Kenya Limited Casino Poker Room, which features 4 full time poker tables. (6)
Kenya even has a poker tour now, the Kenya Poker Tour, which began in 2013 and has already elevated the game of poker in this country and is expected to do so even more in the coming years.
So poker is a fairly new game to Africa and to Kenya as well, but Kenyans have really taken to it, and to online poker in particular. Some people think that there is very little online poker that goes on in Africa, and in some countries that is true, but this isn’t the case in Kenya, and will likely grow even more as time goes on and more and more Kenyans are exposed to the game and develop a love for it.
Top Online Poker Rooms for Players from Kenya
4 of our top 5 online poker sites in the world accept players from Kenya, which is great considering that online poker regulation tends to scare off online poker sites, but that’s not the case here. The government takes a hands off approach to gambling at unregulated offshore sites, and doesn’t seek to prevent anyone from doing so, in spite of their preference for people playing at the regulated site which they collect tax revenue from.
So here’s our top picks for you, and all of them offer nice welcome packages for new players, including some bonus money to get you started.
888 Poker is simply the world’s best poker room in our opinion, and in the opinion of many others as well. This is just a great all around poker site, with everything in abundance, including tons of traffic and a great variety of variations. They also will give you some free money to play with even without putting in a deposit yet.
Bet 365 Poker and Titan Poker are pretty close though, they don’t quite have 888’s state of the art software, but they match up very well in other regards, and are both quality sites on the iPoker Network, which boasts lots of traffic as well. These are both well worthy of your attention if you haven’t tried them out before.
Black Chip Poker is our final selection for you, and they are a lesser known site but their site and the network they are on, the Winning Poker Network, has come a long way lately, and far enough to make it into our top 5. The competition here is particularly soft, which is something all players like or at least should like. This is another site well worth checking out if you are from Kenya or anywhere else for that matter.
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