Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is making it very clear that he’s against the gambling industry. For months, he’s cracked down on gambling operators in the country, claiming they owe millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. Now, reports are surfacing that gambling in Kenya may soon be completely banned.
It’s extremely disappointing news. Hope is that the gambling companies licensed here can still fight the government’s tax demand in court. Let’s look at why the country’s president is now calling for a ban on the gambling industry.
Gambling is extremely popular in Kenya. For years, the land-based and online gambling industry here has grown and now, millions of dollars are wagered here every single year. Unfortunately, Kenya’s government has taken a hard stance against this industry.
The Kenyan Revenue Authority is claiming that sports betting companies owe millions to the government in unpaid taxes. The KRA has suspended 28 gambling operators’ licenses. In total, the government claims that these companies owe $586 million to the government.
Lawmakers here are also setting extremely high tax rates on these companies. Unlike most countries, Kenya has set a 20% tax on player’s winnings. This forces gambling operators to pay millions in additional fees to the government each year. Companies argue that with this tax structure, gambling operators can no longer operate.
Several companies, including SportPesa, are now fighting these charges in Kenya’s High Court.
President Kenyatta is not budging. He is fiercely against gambling and is now calling for lawmakers to change the constitution to make gambling in Kenya completely banned.
Some gambling analysts predicted that the government and legal gambling companies in Kenya would reach an agreement. Some of these companies help fund major sports teams and are hugely popular with locals. Unfortunately, Uhuru Kenyatta isn’t changing his stance.
This week, Kenyatta told lawmakers that he wants a complete ban on gambling in Kenya. He also claims that any taxes owed to the government will be paid one way or another. At a recent church event in Nairobi, he called on the country’s lawmakers to make changes to the constitution.
“We have this thing called gambling and it’s so bad, I alone can’t finish it—go change the constitution,” he said. Kenyatta also urged the members of Parliament to “introduce and ensure that tougher laws are passed in Parliament.”
It’s a tough break for the legal gambling companies that operate here. It will be almost impossible to pay the massive fees that the government is charging. Based on the way things are going, gambling in Kenya may soon be completely illegal.
It doesn’t make sense for the government to continue pushing legal gambling companies to leave Kenya. This industry brings in valuable revenue to the county and, as we mentioned earlier, some companies help to fund various social projects. SportPesa pays to sponsor several Kenyan football teams, yet they’ve cut off all sports funding in the wake of the government crackdown.
The President of Kenya doesn’t believe these sponsorships benefit the country in any way.
“There is no reason for a few individuals to benefit from gaming companies who are claiming to sponsor athletes and sportsmen,” Kenyatta said. “Why should it go to the pockets of five people?”
Many disagree with this statement. According to numerous reports, SportPesa pays nearly 80% of several teams’ operating costs. Without this money, the teams may be forced to shut down. Hopefully, the public can make this fact known to the government.
These companies are continuing to argue their case in the High Court. They claim that what the government is requesting is illegal and goes against the constitution.
It’s also great to see Kenyan members of Parliament supporting the gambling industry. President Kenyatta needs the MP’s support in order to ban gambling in Kenya. We’ll need to wait and see how the government responds to the president’s call to completely ban the gambling industry.
What do you think will happen here? Let us know in the comments section below!
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