High Court quashes ban on betting adverts

Says mandate of regulating advertisement of gambling lies with county governments

In Summary

• Court rules directive was unconstitutional and unreasonable, says only counties can regulate gaming and such adverts. 

• Directive was supposed to take effect on or before May 30. 

Betting and gambling firms got a reprieve on Tuesday after the High Court blocked the state from banning their billboards, broadcasts and social media adverts.

It ruled that regulating gaming is a county prerogative and the ban was unconstitutional and unreasonable.

On April 30, the Betting Control and Licensing Board banned outdoor advertising of gambling, advertising of gambling on broadcast and all social media platforms between 6am and 10pm.

It also banned the endorsement of gambling operations by celebrities. 

The directive also ordered advertisers of betting firms to write a large warning message about the consequences of gambling and its addictiveness. I

However, Justice John Mativo quashed the directive against the Betting Control Board and Nairobi county government, which did not defend themselves.

Mativo said there was evidence the respondents were served by the Outdoor Advertising Association of Kenya but never responded. 

“When the case was filed, there was no appearance on behalf of the [betting contol] board despite their being served with the court papers," he said.

“Accordingly, I find and hold that the impugned decision was adopted in a manner inconsistent with the constitutional and statutory requirement,” the court held.

The court noted that only the county government is mandated to regulate betting, casinos and other forms of gambling. 

Further, the judge said it was unreasonable that the contents of the press release dated May 2 stating that the regulations take effect immediately, yet the meeting scheduled for May 20 was meant to discuss regulations that would have taken effect.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of Kenya through chairman Peter Odoyo and secretary Stanley Kinyanjui had argued that that the board does not have any powers under the act to control, regulate or ban outdoor advertising of gambling. 

The company, which has 25 outdoor advertising companies under its umbrella, claims that betting companies contribute to a substantial amount of revenue to the outdoor advertising industry.

It said some of its members have existing contracts and obligations to various betting companies, hence, they stand to suffer irreparable loss.

The company said the Ministry of the Interior, under which the board operates, issued a press statement referring to unspecified regulations to take effect immediately.

The betting board also directed that it must approve any form of advertisement. 

It had directed that the requirement is complied with on or before May 30. 

(Edited by R.Wamochie)