SUSPENSION

Betting firms shut due to coronavirus heat

In Summary

•This follows a directive from the Ministry of Interior ordering the closure of all casinos and betting shops, until further notice.

•The gambling industry had been experiencing tough times before the wake of the coronavirus leading to  betting firms SportPesa and Betin exitting the Kenyan market.

A man analyses the odds at a popular betting site
BETTING: A man analyses the odds at a popular betting site
Image: VICTOR IMBOTO

The betting industry has started feeling the heat from the novel coronavirus which is taking a toll on various social and commercial activities in the country, with a possibility of a lockdown.

This follows a directive from the Ministry of Interior ordering the closure of all casinos and betting shops, until further notice.

“You are also required to note that all gaming and betting advertisements on radio and television are hereby suspended with effect from the date of this circular, until further notice,” read the statement from the Interior ministry.

 
 
 

According to a 2017 Geopoll, Kenya has the largest number of young people regularly gambling in Sub-Saharan Africa therefore such measures could lead them to resort to other unscrupulous ways of earning such as crime.

The gambling industry had been experiencing tough times before the wake of the coronavirus leading to betting firms SportPesa and Betin exiting the Kenyan market.

Both operators along a number of other Kenya-facing gambling companies were embroiled in a bitter dispute with country regulators and lawmakers over license renewal issues and the introduction of a 20 per cent excise tax on all betting stakes placed by Kenyan bettors in 2019.

The gambling industry could also face more heat if the Gaming Bill 2019 is passed in Parliament.

The National Assembly Sports Committee is pressing for burdening the industry with additional taxes and fees and wants these implemented before the end of the current fiscal year in June 2020.

The committee has proposed the implementation of a gaming levy at 1 per cent on the total revenue generated by sports betting operators.

Companies that fail to pay the levy could face penalties of up to Sh200,000.

 

The Bill seeks to repeal the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1966.

 
 

On Tuesday, Kenya confirmed nine more coronavirus cases bringing the total to 25, with no fatalities.