Kenya’s Private Betting Sector Faces Shutdown

In the latest news of Kenya’s tumultuous gambling industry, the private betting sector faces possible shutdown. This, along with several other recommendations about various issues, is what has been suggested by a recent report on possible changes to the country’s constitution.

Kenya’s Gambling Overhaul

Like many African countries, Kenya is currently dealing with a burgeoning casino and sports betting market. The mobile revolution has made it much easier to engage in the activities, while the popularity of sport in general and the nation’s high unemployment rate have made them more attractive than ever. This is especially true for younger individuals, who make up a large portion of the population.

The challenges have been to impose, collect and use taxes correctly, while protecting customers and helping to deal with the growing issues of problem and underage gambling. The 2019 Gaming Bill as introduced with the aim of achieving this as it replaced the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act of 1966.

The Building Bridges Initiative

The report, which was publicly released on 27 November, is from the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which was established in March 2018. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga, who contested his runner-up position in the 2017 presidential election all the way to the Supreme Court, declared that they would release all hostilities.

As part of their proverbial ceasefire, Kenyatta and Odinga announced a study to examine potential constitutional changes that would improve the lives of ordinary Kenyan citizens. The BBI was established to carry the study out, and then to report on its results as is happening now.

Participation forums were held in all 47 of Kenya’s counties, and more than 7000 participant gave their views on what should be included in the BBI’s report. This number included over 400 current or former politicians, as well as 123 individuals who were said to be “representing major institutions”.

Input on political and civil reforms was noted, and among the other suggestions that made it into the report (alongside the gambling changes) was the reintroduction of a Prime Minister. Odinga’s communications director, Dennis Onyango, took to Twitter on 27 November to announced that there will be referendum on the BBI’s recommendations as is required when constitutional amendments are imposed.

The BBI’s Suggestions

The BBI’s specific suggestions, pertaining to the betting sector, would take precedence over the Gaming Bill. The ideas put forward include shutting down the private industry completely, and replacing it with a lottery that is sponsored by the state.

The BBI said that private operators are helping to create “hopelessness and greater poverty” and that the government-run lottery could create funds for sports, cultural and youth upliftment, along with other beneficial civil projects.

Kenya has the fastest-growing gambling industry in Africa right now, and while criminal, underage and problem gambling have all posed serious issues, the sector has also been vital for economic growth. Not only have casinos and sportsbooks employed many people, but payments processing and other auxiliary services have created many jobs. Now, insiders are divided as to whether the proposed changes will help or harm the population. If they do come into effect, only time will be able to tell the answer to this question.

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