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GAMING CRAZE

MPs slam brakes on Matiang'i bid to let police tame betting

The CS sought to amend Gaming Bill to prescribe application fees for licences

In Summary

• The bill sought to grant police powers to inspect premises without search warrants.

• MPs rejected attempts to gag media outlets that hold gaming licences from using platforms to market betting products.

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

Lawmakers have rejected Interior ministry's bid to tighten betting laws and provision of punitive measures to discourage the activity.

Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i sought to give the gaming authority and the police the power to conduct security checks, vetting and due diligence on gaming.

The CS further proposed stringent criteria for vetting applications including conducting background checks on companies and individuals seeking to engage in gaming business.

The ministry wanted applicants to obtain certificates of good conduct, be 50 per cent owned by Kenyans and bank their proceeds in local financial institutions.

Matiang’i sought to deny gaming licences to those with a history of fraud, money laundering, dishonesty, violence, drug abuse and trafficking and organised crime.

People with integrity questions were also to be locked out with the board required to check if they have a history of corrupt activities.

Matiang’i further wanted the Gaming Bill, 2019 amended to give the CS  powers to prescribe application fees for licences.

“These amendments are intended to enhance the operational capability of the gaming authority and to ensure it operates seamlessly in a legal regime,” he  said.

But members of the Sports committee chaired by Mavoko MP Patrick Makau said in a report following a review of the Bill that the proposed powers may be abused.

They also rebuffed attempts to give the inspectors powers to check gaming premises to ensure compliance with the law.

 

The inspectors were to get powers to examine equipment and devices used in gaming, monitor handling and counting of money in casinos.

They were to have a free hand to require any person with gaming equipment to produce the same for inspection on demand.

Inspectors were to get powers to raid premises with warrant to inspect machinery and records and take copies relating to the inspected records.

They were also to seize any equipment for purposes of obtaining evidence of the commission of an offence or withdraw the same from use in entirety.

Matiang’i further sought to give gaming inspectors powers to stop any game conducted in any licensed premises on suspicion that the operator has violated the law.

“This was to pre-empt commission of gaming crimes to protect the public from any criminal gaming activities,” the ministry said as a justification.

Any material seized was to be retained by the inspector until the conclusion of any proceedings against the operator.

This was to ensure effective performance of the functions of the authority as happens in Singapore, Nevada, New Jersey and Macau.

But the Makau-led committee said inspectors would have to get warrants to inspect premises after which they can liaise with the police to seize any illegal gaming, betting and lottery machines.

MPs have also rejected the provisions which would have seen all gaming licences expire on every June 30, regardless of when one applied.

“The committee rejected the proposed amendment since the duration of every licence varies,” the report reads.

The government sought to have betting companies surrender to the gaming authority prizes not collected by winners in three months.

Matiang’i said this was to ensure the betting platforms are not used for money laundering and other criminal activities.

The Gaming Bill provided that unclaimed winnings be surrendered to the player or Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority within 30 months.

MPs rejected attempts to prevent media outlets that hold gaming licences from using their broadcast channels to promote gaming products and activities.

Matiang’i sought to have all gaming ads indicate the addictive nature of gaming, notify players to bet reasonably, prohibit children, not feature former winners and that no ads be erected on billboards.

The state wanted the gaming authority to define where, when and how gaming is to be advertised, contraventions for which licence holders risked Sh20 million fine or five years in jail.

 

- mwaniki fm