By Samuel Ouma |@journalist_27
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has maintained that the government will not change its current stand on the ongoing crackdown on gambling which has caused untold sufferings to youths.
Matiang’i said he is satisfied with the process which began early this early. As a result two betting companies have quit Kenyan market citing unrealistic taxation. Speaking on Monday during a meeting with Muslim leaders in Jamia Mosque in Kenya’s capital, the tough talking minister urged citizens to join hands with the government to eradicate the menace that has plunged youths into unnecessary debts, caused loss of lives and breakdown of families. He further revealed the fight has not been smooth as it was initially thought.
“Data shows since we started a crackdown on gambling, change has been seen. It has not been a bed of roses but I am resolute in stopping it. No country has been built by gambling. This must be fought by every Kenyan,” said Matiang’i.
In July the government through Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) revoked the licenses of 27 betting firms for failure to comply with taxation and gambling laws, causing resistance from a section of political leaders and the companies. The Board went ahead and shutdown their pay bill numbers and SMS codes. Some firms have been cleared and given go ahead to operate whereas others like SportPesa and Betin shut down their operations after long struggle with the government.
The decision of the two dominant companies has led to massive loss of jobs. SportPesa alone sent home 400 workers.
“SportPesa is disappointed with the decision by the Kenyan legislature to impose a 20 per cent excise tax on all betting stakes. The tax is based on a fundamental misunderstanding by Rotich led treasury of how revenue generation works in the bookmaker industry. Until such time that adequate taxation and non-hostile regulatory environment is returned, the SportPesa brand will halt operations in Kenya,” read the firm’s statement.
“As a result of the deterioration of the profitability, the management has had to rethink its operations model and proceed with the exercise of termination on account of redundancy,” read a memo from Betin.
Prior to exit, SportPesa had terminated all the sponsorship deals in the country. The giant was the sponsor of Kenya Premier League, Kenya soccer giants Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards and Football Kenya Federation cup.
In April Matiang’i noted that majority of youths have run themselves into bad credit with many being listed in the Credit Reference Bureau Kenya saying the loans they borrow are consumed by the betting firms.
“We have about 500, 000 of our young people who have been blacklisted by these lending agencies who borrowed and are unable to pay. And they borrowed to bet,” he said.