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Betsafe launches in Kenya

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Betsson brand Betsafe has launched operations in Kenya, six months after signing major sponsorship deals in the country, having secured a licence from the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB).

The launch will be through Bet High Kenya, Betsson’s Kenyan subsidiary. 

Alex Kobia, Bet High’s acting chief executive, said Betsafe hoped to distinguish itself with a focus on responsible gambling.

“Betsafe was created with the safety of Kenya’s sports betting fans in mind, with a first in-class responsible gaming environment that contains unique control and safety features,” he said. 

“Additionally, we will be the first gaming company in the region, to hire a responsible gaming officer, to continually ensure alignment with Betsafe values towards its customers, and while managing our flagship responsible gaming programme in partnership with GamHelp Kenya – an organization that supports Kenyans with behavioural problems associated with gaming.”

In addition, the operator will offer a market-first in betting by text message and via social media channels.

The operator said it would employ 150 people in the country within two years and that it estimates it will support at least 1,000 jobs when including other businesses that may benefit from its presence.

Betsafe’s entry into the market comes after signing sponsorship deals with two of Kenya’s leading football clubs, Nairobi rivals Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, in June.

Both clubs had been struggling financially since the withdrawal of their previous sponsor, local operator Sportpesa, over a 20% excise tax on winnings, which was later removed from Kenya’s budget in July. Sportpesa returned to the Kenyan market again last week after a court overruled the BCLB’s efforts to suspend its attempt to return under a new licence-holder in October.

Kobia said the deals show the operator was committed to supporting local sport.

“Our three-year sponsorship deal with Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards signed in June 2020, before our official entry is a visible demonstration of our strong commitment to Kenyan football,” Kobia said. “Their large and loyal fan bases, will also give us an opportunity to engage with football fans and while also acting as the backbone to our planned investments in grassroots football and football infrastructure.”

AFC Leopards chairman Dan Shikanda said the operator launching was an important development for football in the country.

“The launch of Betsafe is monumental to the development of football in Kenya,” Shikanda said. “As a club we are grateful to them for having believed in us and agreed to sponsor and support us even before they officially started operations.”

“We look forward to working with them and ask our fans to fully embrace Betsafe as our sponsor and most importantly as our betting partner.”

Gor Mahia chairman Ambrose Rachier agreed with this sentiment and said Betsafe had shown a strong commitment to the club.

“Betsafe launches at the right time when our football league is returning,” he said. “Our partnership with them will go a long way in lifting the standards of our game to the next level. 

“In Betsafe we have a partner who is supportive and committed to us and we cannot thank them enough. We urge our fans to give Betsafe unconditional support and wholly take up their products with the zeal that is uniquely Gor Mahia.” 

While operators including Sportpesa have faced long disputes with the BCLB, Kobia said his business would work with the regulator to create a workable betting environment for all parties.

“Betsafe fully supports the government of Kenya’s efforts to create a safe and responsible gaming environment through the sector regulator, the Betting Control & Licensing Board (BCLB) and our gaming features and messaging are a testament to that,” Kobia said.

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