How counties will benefit from radical Gambling Act Amendments

In a move that could reshape the landscape of gambling regulations, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot has tabled amendments to the Gambling Control Bill 2023, advocating for the devolution of licensing authority to county governments.

If adopted, the proposed amendments would empower county administrations to formulate and enforce local legislation governing various forms of gambling, including betting. Cheruiyot’s proposal also includes provisions for licensing prize competitions, amusement machines, betting premises, pool tables, and county lotteries.

Meanwhile, Senator Edwin Sifuna is pushing for changes regarding the commencement and conclusion of betting transactions. Sifuna’s amendment stipulates that an online gambling transaction officially begins when a player deposits funds into their gaming account and concludes upon withdrawal.

The Kenya Gambling Control Bill 2023, presently under parliamentary scrutiny, seeks a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s gambling framework. Central to its objectives is the establishment of the Gambling Regulatory Authority, intended to supplant the current Betting, Control and Licensing Board (BCLB).

At its core, the bill aims to enhance oversight of diverse gambling activities, encompassing sports betting, casinos, lotteries, and media-based gambling, with a primary focus on consumer protection.

Of paramount concern is addressing the pervasive issue of youth involvement in gambling. According to a Geopol study, a staggering 83.9 per cent of Kenyan youth have participated in gambling or betting, underscoring the urgency of regulatory intervention.

To mitigate harm, the proposed legislation introduces stringent measures to combat illicit gambling practices and prohibit underage gambling. Additionally, it mandates a minimum betting threshold to mitigate excessive gambling tendencies.

Recognising the economic significance of the gambling industry, the bill proposes ownership requirements mandating Kenyan citizens to hold at least 30 per cent of shares in gambling entities. Furthermore, it stipulates that these companies conduct their banking activities exclusively with Kenyan financial institutions, thereby fostering domestic economic growth.

In terms of fiscal policy, the bill proposes a significant increase in taxation, raising the levy on gambling proceeds to 15 per cent. This represents a departure from the previous 7.5 per cent tax rate, which had sparked considerable controversy.

The revised tax regime is anticipated to bolster government revenue streams and stimulate national economic development.

Crucially, the bill advocates for restrictions on gambling advertising, particularly on radio and television, during specified time frames to shield vulnerable demographics from excessive exposure.


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