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Pay tax or leave, Fred Matiang'i tells betting firms

Monday April 1 2019

BRIAN OKINDA
By BRIAN OKINDA
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Betting and gambling enthusiasts have a reason to worry as some of their favourite firms could be out of business if a notice issued by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i is implemented.

The companies have until July 1 to provide proof of tax compliance or their permits would be revoked.

Dr Matiang’i on Monday also vowed to introduce sweeping changes to regulate the industry.

The minister spoke during a forum of the Association of Gaming Operators and the Betting Control and Licensing Board at Sweepstake House in Nairobi yesterday.

GAMING BILL

Among those who attended the meeting were representatives of Kenya Charity Sweepstake, SpotPesa, casinos and several other gaming firms.

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“We must come up with changes to make betting and gambling governable. While the industry may present possible opportunities to some, and probably contribute to the economy, it comes with challenges,” Dr Matiang’i said.

“With the participation of betting stakeholders, we have come up with a policy and will soon draft the gaming bill to be taken to Parliament.”

He, however, added that despite the participation of betting stakeholders, the envisaged measures would be stringent “as it is the only practical way to regulate the industry”.

The country, the Cabinet secretary said, now leads the continent in betting among young people. He added that 76 percent of Kenyan youngsters are involved in betting and gambling while 54 percent of those taking part in gaming are low-income earners.

REGULATE INDUSTRY

“Are we telling our children that it is right to bet and do nothing more to improve their lives? More than 500,000 of our youth have been blacklisted by lending institutions because they borrow and hardly repay,” he said.

“Many borrow and lose the money on betting. This is not the right way to run a country.”

Dr Matiang’i directed the board to furnish him with comprehensive status reports on the gambling situation in the country within 30 days.

The reports, he said, should include the numbers of registered betting agencies and parameters under which they operate.

“I don’t know of any country that has made economic and social progress through betting. From July 1, betting and gambling licences stand suspended. They will not be renewed unless the holders provide evidence that they have been paying taxes,” the minister told the gathering.

GAMBLING NATION

The CS added that it would be tough for some companies as they would go out of business.

“There must be a healthy balance in the industry. The Interior Ministry is ready to face the consequences that come with the enforcement of the rules. It is time to organise and clean up the industry for the good of the country,” Dr Matiang’i said.

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho agreed with the CS, adding that Kenya has been transformed into a gambling nation as regulations are virtually non-existent.