Forces are at work to dramatically curtail Kenyan booming gambling sectors, with a series of amendments introduced to the country’s legislation. The inimical bill, currently in the committee stage, is not without its own formidable opposition.
A group of Kenyan parliamentarians and stakeholders are urging the government to reject new legislation that could severely damage the country’s blossoming gambling industry.
Amendments to the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Bill, first introduced in January by Orange Democrat MP Jakoyo Midiwo, aim to dramatically restrict what gambling opponents see as an industry getting out of hand.
The legislative package includes stipulations that any and all online gambling companies operating in the country must be fully owned by Kenyan citizens. The bill would specifically ban telecommunications providers in Kenya from partnering with sports betting operators, meaning Kenyan firms would have to create their own bespoke platforms.
Severe restrictions on marketing have also been tabled, as has a pernicious policy to tax the winnings directly from players, and an illiberal hiking of the minimum gambling age to 25. The bill would also double the tax rates on all forms of gambling in Kenya.
A month later however, the government ‘snuck’ in its own bill. Joseph Nkaissery of the Internal Security And Coordination Of National Government Secretary for Kenya introduced his own rival legislation which seeks to address the same issues. A, some have argued, cynical and partisan battle is now ensuing.
“Ours is an Orange Democratic Movement-sponsored bill and there is no way the government will be allowed to sneak in its bill and take over our initiative,” Midiwo told the local media.
The Kenyan regulator, the Betting Control And Licensing Board, rejects the solutions proposed by Midiwo. A tax on winnings had already been tried, it said, and had “posed a challenge” due to “the nature of some of the gaming activities” involved.
“The best way would be to make income from gambling above $965 taxable at normal rates and the onus [would then] be on the winner to declare the same while the operators file the requisite documentation,” the regulator said in a statement.
Midiwo’s clique has also made enemies with some private firms. Ronald Karauri, CEO of sports betting operator, SportPesa, and chairman for the Association of Gaming Operators, slammed Midiwo’s suggestions that online gambling was used to facilitate tax avoidance and money laundering.
“Everything is online, transactions are with the bank,” Karauri pointed out. “It is impossible to do any money laundering, especially with online gaming.”
Karauri says the Orange Democrat’s amendments would be devastating. “There appears to be a concerted targeting of the industry through measures that are designed to cripple the industry,” he said.
Most scathing of all was an eloquent attack from another member of the Association of Gaming Operators, this time CEO Alloyce Omondi, who took to a column in the national press to air his views.
There he argued that Midiwo had “blatantly mislead his colleagues and the public” in his debate on the bill, “skewing his presentation” to “create a picture of a major crisis”. “It was laughable if not painful to watch member of parliament Jakoyo Midiwo blatantly mislead his colleagues and the public during the debate on the Betting, Lotteries And Gaming (Amendment) Bill,” Omondi goes on.
“Midiwo needs to read the Geopoll survey released last week that shows only five percent of cash earned by young people is spent on gambling. The majority, 55 percent, is spent on personal care, 26 percent on investments while 6 percent goes to entertainment. Dear Midiwo, facts are stubborn.”
The bill is currently with the committee who feel the matter needs to be addressed urgently, and are reportedly prepared to negotiate the proposals. ““We cannot just say that we defer,” said Cherangany MP, Wesley Korir. “Bring your proposals. Let’s sit again. Let’s talk again. Let’s become friends and we deal with this.”