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Kenya gov’t committee urges parliament to scrap gambling bill

TAGs: Kenya, SportPesa

kenya-sportpesa-google-searchKenya-based online sports betting operator SportPesa topped a recent list of what the country’s residents are looking up on Google.

The Standard reported that six of the top-10 sites on Google’s rising search queries in Kenya over the first two months of 2017 belonged to betting companies. SportPesa’s Kenyan site topped the chart, while its dot-com site and a search for “sportpesa games” also made the cut. The other three betting companies in the top-10 were Betin, Elitebet and Betway, which ranked third, fourth and ninth, respectively.

Meanwhile, a group of Kenya’s parliamentarians is urging the government to reject new legislation seeking greater control over the country’s gambling and betting industries.

This week, the National Assembly Labor Committee issued a report recommending that lower house MPs reject the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming (Amendment) Bill 2016 filed by MP Jakoyo Midiwo last December. The report suggests that Midiwo to “withdraw the Bill or it be rejected” so that a more acceptable bill can be introduced and considered.

The report rubbishes the bill’s proposed changes, which include limiting foreign ownership of Kenya-licensed betting sites, saying they “do not address emerging issues and simply deal with the challenges by outlawing online betting, lotteries and gambling activities.”

The Labor Committee held hearings last month that saw gaming stakeholders denounce Midiwo’s bill, particularly its significant tax increases. Even the head of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) expressed opposition, saying higher tax rates “ultimately lead to reduced demand” and would boost the underground gambling market.

KRA Commissioner General John Njiraini told the committee that the government had collected Sh4.7b (US $46m) in gaming and betting taxes since 2014 and the annual sum is on the rise. Njiraini said the KRA expects the current financial year’s tax take will come it at Sh3.4b.

The hearings also produced some unintentional comedy, courtesy of Cherangany MP Wesley Korir, who informed the committee that he “recently learnt that my [personal assistant] has been paying rent for the last three months with money from SportPesa.” Thanks, Google.

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