Gaming machine operators have filed contempt proceedings against county government administrators and the police for defying a court order prohibiting a crackdown on their business.
On Wednesday, the government destroyed close to 1,000 betting machines in Nakuru in a crackdown on illegal gambling shops.
But the Counties Amusement and Gaming Society, through Chairman Sammy Kahiu, said the crackdown on genuine businesses was illegal because they have a court order, obtained in 2016, stopping the crackdown.
He added that they have adhered to all the regulations and are operating legally.
Mr Kahiu said that the gaming industry is self-regulating and has rules that promote responsible gaming. He said the Ministry of Interior and the county governments should focus on unregulated gaming, which is conducted online.
He added that county administrative officers and the police were also taking advantage of the swoops to steal money from the machines, and that some were selling the slot machines they had confiscated.
The operators had obtained orders stopping the government from harassing or arresting them Mr Kahiu said, but a number of have been arrested and taken to court following a directive by Dr Fred Matiang’i.
The order not only directed to the government but also individual police officers and administrative officers from confiscating betting and gaming machines or disrupting the businesses.
In the petition, the operators have argued that the said machines are their main source of employment. They also argue that the County governments regulate and supervise their businesses to ensure that they have no harmful effects to the society.
Mr Kahiu denied the allegation that the said machines are a danger to national security arguing that gambling is constitutional.
In their petition they state that the Betting Act enacted in 1966 cannot apply post 2010 constitution because counties are now empowered to issue licences.
The operators argue that under the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution the function of national betting, casinos and other forms of gambling is vested in the national government whilst county governments are vested the functions and powers in respect of cultural activities, public entertainment and public amenities including betting, casinos and other forms of gambling.
The Betting Control and Licensing Board has defended the directive, saying it was within the law.
“In the premises the Betting Act has no application to betting, casinos and other forms of gambling that fall within the jurisdiction of counties pursuant to paragraph 4 of Part 2 of the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution,” the petition reads.
They argue that the directive by the betting board had led to loss of property yet they had been duly licensed and regulated by County Governments in the respective areas.
In affidavit, Mary Wanjiru, who operates gaming and betting machines said the machines have been duly registered.
“County governments regulate and supervise our businesses to ensure that they have no harmful effect to society and particularly children who are not allowed to engage in gaming activities. The allegation that our machines are a danger to national security are false and malicious given that the Constitution envisages and provides for gambling,” she argued.
In their response Council of Governors Chief Executive Officer Ms Jacqueline Mogeni asked the court to direct the matter be resolved through the mechanisms established under the Inter-governmental Act.