Betting companies in Kenya have until June 30 to prove that they are tax-compliant or risk having their operating licences revoked, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i has declared.
Speaking during a meeting at the Betting Control and Licensing Board offices in Nairobi on Monday, the tough-talking minister effectively suspended licenses for all the over 20 registered betting companies in the country from July 1.
The CS said renewal of the licenses would be subject to proof of tax compliance.
According to Matiang’i, the betting industry in Kenya generated at least Sh.202 billion in revenue last year alone but only remitted Sh.4 billion in taxes.
Matiang’i also raised concerns over the number of Kenyan youths actively involved in gambling. He said 76 percent of Kenyans aged below 35 years are involved in one form of gambling or another, with 54 percent of those coming from the low-income earning bracket.
“Right now, we have about 500,000 of our young people who have been blacklisted by some of the lending agencies because they borrowed and cannot pay,” Matiang’i added.
“What are we raising our children to become?” he posed.
“Are we telling them to just do nothing with their lives, go around betting and become millionaires?”
The CS has also directed the Betting Control and Licensing Board to submit a comprehensive status report on betting in the country within 30 days.
“I have instructed Immigration PS and Director General to be involved to ensure that anyone who is involved in this exercise, especially those who are not citizens of our country, are properly documented and they have the right papers to be in our country,” stated the CS.
“Where they are not, the law should take its course immediately and we should call them to account. We cannot run a sector where we are supporting indirectly money laundering in some kind of disguised way where it looks like they’re doing the right thing.”
Matiang’i further tasked the betting board and the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) with reviewing advertisements of betting companies. He said media houses should also be held accountable for the gambling commercials they air.
This comes as the government seeks to introduce radical regulatory changes within the gambling sector in a bill that only awaits stakeholders’ input before it is tabled in Parliament.
“54% of people involved in betting are low-incoming earners; 76% of youth in Kenya are bettors – this is the highest figure in Africa; while half a million have been blacklisted by lenders because they borrowed to bet and failed to pay back.” – Interior CS Dr. @FredMatiangi pic.twitter.com/4rzSR9sIGO
— InteriorCNG Ministry (@InteriorKE) April 1, 2019