In a bid to control gambling, the government has introduced stringent measures on importers of betting machines.
In a Kenya Revenue Authority notice published in the dailies on Sunday, the taxman said individuals intending to import the equipment must seek clearance from the Ministry of Interior and National Coordination.
“KRA wishes to notify importers, custom agents and the public that the government has stopped the importation of gaming equipment, machines and devices forthwith,” said the notice.
Late last year, there were widespread complaints from Kenyans about illegal gaming dens mushrooming in slums.
This prompted Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch and his Kisumu East counterpart Shakeel Shabbir to petition the government to investigate the smuggling into the country of slot machines.
The lawmakers complained that the unregistered businesses owned by foreigners — mostly Chinese — were defrauding slum dwellers of their cash, adding that the betting craze was tearing families apart.
The two lawmakers’ sentiments were echoed by Kisumu Regional Assistant Director for Immigration Peter Karoki.
He called for an investigation into how the gambling machines were being smuggled into Kenya.
The complaints reached Betting Control and Licensing Board chairman Anthony Kimani who responded by instructing county commissioners to help fight the betting and gambling craze among young people.
A crackdown on the machines and their owners was launched in Kisumu.
More than 500 coin-slot machines were impounded by police officers and regional administrators. Fourteen foreigners were arrested.
A similar swoop in Kisii County in November saw 100 gambling machines that were being transported to Nairobi impounded after a tip-off from the public. Another 150 machines were seized across the county.
In Trans Mara, Administration Police officers confiscated seven such machines and arrested 12 people.
Similar crackdowns were carried out in central Kenya, especially in Nyeri County.
There are reports that owners of the machines have taken them to private homes where the business is still thriving.