Betting firms, gamblers face tough rules in new Bill

The licensing conditions are demanding for betting firms operating in Kenya

In Summary
  • Anyone who operates any form of gambling without a licence faces a Sh3m fine or three years in jail; minors banned from gambling.

  • The current Betting, Lotteries and Gambling Act would be repealed and replaced with a stronger regulatory agency.

Football fans place their bets online.
Football fans place their bets online.

An online gambling firm that allows a bet of less than Sh20 could be fined Sh5 million under a Bill before Parliament.

Radios and TV stations would also be banned from airing gambling advertisements between 6am and 10pm.

In addition, a person who operates or conducts any form of gambling without a licence shall face a Sh3 million fine or three years in jail; repeat offenders will face a Sh5 million fine, five years in jail or both.

These are some of the strict tough new rules awaiting betting firms and gamblers in a Bill before Parliament. 

The sweeping Gambling Control Bill, 2023 would repeal the current Betting, Lotteries and Gambling Act, enhance taxes and fines for offences and establish a new authority to regulate the gambling sector.

“A licensee shall not allow any person to participate as a player in an authorised game conducted by the licensee, unless the person is registered as a player and holds an account with the licensee,” the Bill states.

The Bill prohibits registration of children for an online game, lottery or betting.

The licensing conditions are demanding for betting firms operating in Kenya.

“The Bill seeks to regulate betting, casinos and other forms of gambling, including the authorisation of prize competitions, public lotteries and media promotions,” the Bill states.

The state-backed Bill is sponsored by National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah.

The Bill imposes a 15 per cent tax on the gross gambling revenue and a monthly gambling levy that shall be determined by the CS concerned with gambling.

Further, gambling firms shall be required to deposit an insurance security bond or bank grantee with the government to defray the liability that may arise from a licensed gambling activity.

Casinos will deposit Sh20 million, Sh200 million for online gambling and a similar amount for national lottery.

This is besides operating permits that shall be issued by county governments at a fee that shall be determined by the counties.

The firms shall be required to file financial reports – audited statements – to the government within three months after the end of a financial year.

The Bill establishes a powerful Gambling Regulatory Authority – a statutory agency with a chairman and a director general – to replace the current Betting, Control and Licensing Board.

It also creates gambling appeals committee headed by a chairperson and not fewer than 10 or more 12 other members.

The Board shall regulate and control betting activities, issue licenses, set standards and norms for betting, lotteries, casino operations and other forms of gambling.

According to the Bill, an entity shall not be licensed to offer any gambling or betting activity unless it is a corporate body with a minimum of 30 per cent shares held by Kenyan citizens. It must operate a bank account with a Kenyan-registered bank.

“The authority shall vet all applications for a licence under this Act. [Among factors to be considered are] financial status solvency of the applicant, and reputation, character and financial integrity,” the Bill states.

The authority shall also have the power to renew, suspend and revoke a licence.

“The authority may from time to time and on its own motion, or upon receipt of information from any person, investigate the conduct of a licensee,” according to the Bill.

For lotteries, the Bill states the Authority shall issue a licence authorising promotion and conduct of a public lottery intended to raise funds for charitable purposes.

At least 30 per cent of the proceeds of a lottery shall be devoted to the object for which the lottery was promoted.

The Bill provides the CS, in consultation with the Council of Governors, shall make regulations prescribing the number of casinos, amusements machines, slot machines and other forms of gambling that may be operated within the counties.

 “All media companies holding gambling licences shall not use any of their licences on gambling and shall not use any of their broadcast frequencies to advertise or promote their gambling products or activities,” the Bill states.

The Bill states that a person who promotes or proposes an unauthorised lottery in Kenya or elsewhere or prints a ticket to be used in an unauthorised lottery commits an offence with a penalty of a Sh1 million fine, one year in jail or both.

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