Kenyan betting operators are urging the government to block legislation which could destroy gambling in the country.
The Association of Gaming Operators of Kenya (AGOK), on behalf of the betting industry, have requested that the National Assembly halt the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming (Amendment) Bill 2016 on the basis it is deeply misguided.
The bill presented by MP Jakoyo Midiwo proposes to crack down on Kenyan betting companies after he announced these companies most likely aren’t paying taxes.
To combat this, Midiwo proposes to double all tax levies – including a betting tax increase from 7.5 per cent to 15 per cent, a gaming tax increase of 12 per cent to 20 per cent, a prize competition tax increase from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, and a lottery tax increase from five per cent to 20 per cent.
The bill was approved following its first reading in December last year, and it now set for the committee stage.
Sportpesa CEO and AGOK Chairman, Ronald Karauri, said the second reading, which took place last Thursday, is a different bill then when it was first introduced.
“There appears to be a concerted targeting of the industry through measures that are designed to cripple the industry,” Mr Karauri said.
He also added betting operators aren’t being fairly treated due to the high levels of stigmatisation.
Midiwo’s bill also wants online gambling limited to Kenyan investors, the minimum gambling age changed from 18 to 25, and to limit the amount which can be won to address addictive gambling.
AGOK members have challenged the research behind Midiwo’s stance on problem gambling in Kenya, which accompanied the bill, stating he has ‘wildly exaggerated’ the current climate to promote a false agenda.
Members added the bill fails to address the increase of illegal gaming machines and lack of regulatory framework to implement responsible gaming.
But stakeholders aren’t the only ones up in arms about the bill.
On Monday, Kenyans took to social media to express their opinion on the legislation using the hashtag #MidiwoExposed.
“Betting is not killing anybody, if you think you care about Kenyans propose a bill to fight drugs, alcohol and corruption,” one user wrote.
Other users attacked the MP for being corrupt.
“Jakoyo Midiwo has been blackmailing various corporates including the betting industries for bribes #MidiwoExposed,” another user wrote.
The committee has revealed it will negotiate amendments to the bill, but they can’t defer it any longer.
“There is some urgency in the matter,” Committee chairman, David Were said.
Cherangany MP Wesley Korir added AGOK should bring their proposals so they can be discussed and fairly dealt with.