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Matiang’i pushes for tough laws that will drive many betting firms out of business

Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i has spelled out the radical changes his ministry is drafting to regulate betting policy in the country.

Speaking on Monday while briefing stakeholders in the betting industry as well as the Betting and Licensing Control Board (BCLB), Dr Matiang’i said it is now time to clean up the betting sector and that no stone will be left unturned in the purge.

Among the tough measure that will soon come into force is the suspension of all betting agency licences in the country, until the holders of those licences provide proof of their tax remittance compliance.

“From July 1, all betting agency licences in the country stand suspended, until the holders of those licences provide proof of their tax remittance compliance. The licence will only be then renewed if the betting agency complies with the taxes required,” Matiang’i said.

He added that he is prepared to go the whole hog to ensure changes and regulations are implemented in the betting sector.

According to the CS, Kenya has turned into a betting country, which is not the way it should be.

BETTING COUNTRY

“76 percent of young people are actively involved in betting and 54 percent of those actively involved in betting are low income earners,” said Matiang’i.

He warned that many of the stakeholders in the betting sector will soon be out of the business when the stringent laws they are drafting come into effect.

He said that a gaming bill which will be taken through parliament, to actualise these changes and regulations in the sector is in the works.

Gambling as a form of entertainment has been present on Kenyan territory for quite some time, but it has been a little over half a century that corresponding regulation allowed the establishment of numerous land-based gambling venues.

The Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1966 made way for gambling as a practice to be introduced as yet another developing industry.

Currently, Kenya ranks third in Africa based on the amount of traffic it produces during its land-based and online endeavors, with strong signs of greater progress down the line.

GAMING TAX

In April last year, the Treasury was forced to cave in to pressure from betting firms and proposed to cut gaming tax from 35 per cent of revenue to 15 per cent after the government had introduced the new tax which had taken effect on January 1 2018.

Before January 1, lotteries were taxed at five per cent of their sales, betting firms at 7.5 per cent, casino gambling 12 per cent and competitions like raffles 15 per cent besides other taxes and levies.

After the new tax took effect, Pambazuka National Lottery was the first casualty of the higher tax regime and closed shop hardly 18 months after it was launched.

Kenya’s biggest betting firm SportPesa stopped Sh600 million local sports sponsorship following the imposition of higher gaming taxes in a move that hurt football clubs, rugby union and the soccer federation

Treasury secretary Henry Rotich said the government increased the taxes to curb exponential growth of gambling that was hurting the young and vulnerable.