•Majority of Senators fault Matiang'i saying his action is a threat to the economy
•Call for development of a legal regime to regulate betting
Senators have accused Interior CS Fred Matiangi of harassing genuine business operators and investors following the government's crack down on betting firms.
While some legislators lauded the CS for reigning in rogue firms, the majority faulted the CS saying his action is a threat to the country's economy.
The Betting Control and Licensing Board under Matiangi's ministry has shutdown pay bill numbers and short codes of 27 firms.
The board says they have failed to comply with the set out laws and regulations.
“Harassment of players in the gaming industry and legitimate businesses will only work to discourage business interests from potential investors,” Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala said.
Malala sought a statement from the ministry on why it unilaterally shut down the firms.
He said some of the firms are law-abiding and have been contributing significantly to the social and economic growth of the nation
“Kenya is a country governed by the rule of law. Actions by individuals, institutions and the government must conform to set rules and be adjudicated by law. It is not prudent just to penalize the formal, legal industry in the pretext of reigning on errant firms,” he said.
“It is evident that some of these gaming companies have sought recourse through the courts and acquired injunctions as part of the required legal procedure."
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen claimed that some companies omitted from the list of punishment by Interior ministry was as a result of business rivalry.
He said there is need to put in place the necessary laws and regulations, adding there is need to remove the decision from one Cabinet Secretary to a collective institution that will oversight betting firms
“We must put in place laws and regulations that will ensure equity among betting and gambling firms. We don’t want to have a country where it’s dependent on the decision of one person. This country must be governed by the rule of the law not the rule of the jungle,” Murkomen said.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr charged that there is a need to develop a legal regime to regulate betting firms and to stop strong influence against government functionaries.
Although he supported having legal backing to regulate the sector, Kilonzo Jr said gambling has broken marriages, youths committing suicide and wasting money and it must be tamed.
Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula asked National Treasury CS Henry Rotich to explain why he reduced betting tax from 35 per cent to 20 per cent, terming the move suspect.
“If they really need to be reined in, the government has the ability to even monitor their gambling machines. You tell them this was your revenue and this is your tax. But a country that wants to partake in proceeds of corruption participates in that crime,” said Wetangula.
(Edited by N.Mbugua)