EDITORIAL: Move on betting baffling

Thursday July 02 2020

The apparent reopening of doors for the return of betting firms is surprising. When the government tightened screws on the firms, which were making huge profits, they were accused of, among other vices, fuelling addiction, especially among the youth, and further impoverishing Kenyans. There was also the much-publicised spat over taxation by the government with top officials being highly critical of the companies.

By cracking down on the firms accused of exploiting the poor, the government was wildly cheered. It was seen as a protector of the people, which would brook no nonsense in driving out firms encouraging Kenyans to idle around betting instead of doing productive work.

When one of the firms that had spread its wings out of Kenya to sponsor European football teams was also kicked out overseas, the government appeared to have been vindicated.

Naturally, a number of questions now arise from the government’s apparent softening of its strong stance against the betting companies. A major bone of contention had been the government’s decision to tax winnings. So, what has changed, now that it has dropped the 20 per cent excise duty on bets, which is contained in the Finance Bill assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta this week? Could it be true that a change of ownership of the firms is what has cleared the suspicions and animosity?

What of the adverse effects of betting on the population? What measures are being put in place to prevent the entrenchment of the evils associated with betting?

It will take a bit more effort to convince the people that the business will not have adverse effects on them and should be allowed to continue. The government ought to be consistent in policymaking in the people’s interest.