Kenya Lawmaker Introduces New Set of Gambling Curbs

The government of Kenya has moved to introduce more changes to the way the country’s gambling industry is regulated. Slot machines have become the target of new curbs that are yet to be voted by the East African nation’s lawmakers, local news outlet allAfrica has reported.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale has tacked the proposed changes onto the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill. A first reading of the legislative piece took place on Wednesday.

If the proposed changes gain the necessary support in the Kenyan government, they will appear as amendments to the nation’s current gambling law, the Betting, Lotteries, and Gaming Act.

Under Assemblyman Duale’s proposal, county governments will be given the authority to decide whether an interested gambling operator should be granted the necessary license to set up businesses in their jurisdiction or not.

At present, the Betting Control and Licensing Board is the regulator tasked with issuing gambling licenses to investors that want to provide their gambling services in the country. Under the proposed changes, the regulatory body will have to present the respective county government with a copy of an operator’s application for a license. County officials will thus be able to review the applicant and to reject their application if they spot any irregularities.

Assemblyman Duale’s proposal also includes an increase in the security deposit a gambling operator must pay upon applying for a license to KES20 million from KES40,000.

Other Proposed Curbs

As mentioned above, slot machines have also appeared on Kenyan lawmakers’ radar screens. The number of the gaming machines installed across the nation has increased significantly in recent years. Slot machine operators have been placing devices on storefronts and other visible locations, and both across cities and smaller villages around the country.

Under the recently proposed changes, slot machine owners who are not authorized to provide this type of gambling could face fines of between KES5,000 and KES2 million and could be sentenced to up to two years in prison. Changes are also planned for the maximum bet a player could place. The amount allowed could be increased from KES1 to KES50,000, under the recent proposals.

Kenya’s New Gambling Tax

Earlier this year, the Kenyan government announced that it would introduce measures to curb the proliferation of gambling in the country, particularly among younger members of the country’s population and vulnerable people. As a result, lawmakers proposed and approved a rise in the gambling tax rate.

At present, operators servicing local players must pay 7.5% on their full-year net revenue. Under the Finance Act 2017, which was signed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta back in June, all gambling services, both land-based and online ones, will be taxed at 35% on net revenue. A previous tax scheme proposed a 50% rate, but it did not see much support from the government. The new tax will come into effect on January 1, 2018, but has already seen much opposition from industry stakeholders.

SportPesa, the Kenyan sports betting operator, which recently expanded into the UK, criticized the new tax regime heavily and announced that it would withdraw all its football sponsorships in the country when the 35% rate takes effect in early 2018.

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