Parliament to debate proposed law to control gambling industry

A new Bill containing strict regulations to control the multi-billion-shilling gambling industry, including saving families from the agony of having a breadwinner blow away entire savings, is set to be debated in Parliament.

The Betting, Lotteries and Gaming (Amendment) Bill also seeks to limit the number of gaming premises in a certain location, bans advertising of gambling and imposes heavy fines against companies that allow minors to bet, in a bid to bring some sanity to the largely uncontrolled industry.

In an attempt to monitor the revenues of gaming companies, the Bill provides that all funds made from gambling be deposited in a bank account, apparently for taxation and to curb money laundering.

The Bill by Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, provides for a family member to apply to the Kenya Betting Control and Licensing Authority to have an individual be marked as an “excluded person”, meaning the fellow is barred from gambling to ensure that he does not squander family resources.

The Bill tabled in the National Assembly last week, also states that some of the individuals for whom gambling may be restricted, unless they apply in writing to have the ban reconsidered, include those for whom the applicant has a duty to care, or “whose behaviour manifests symptoms of addictive or compulsive gaming”.

COMPANIES TAKING ADVANTAGE

The Bill comes in the wake of unprecedented growth in sports betting, with some companies taking advantage of fast Internet connection across the country, and popularity of European football leagues, to rake in billions, creating joy for winners and misery for losers.

Online gaming, mostly popular with youth, in which leading companies such as SportPesa, Betin Kenya, Metway, mCheza, among others, offer platforms for users to predict scores of mostly European football leagues, will only be allowed to place a bet of no more than Sh200, should the Bill become law.

The companies, which make millions daily by allowing millions of Kenyans to place a bet in the hope of winning a jackpot running into millions of shillings, will also be prohibited from using mobile money platforms to receive or make payments to winners.

Instead, gamers will be required to open bank accounts and get registered in a national database as participants.

The enormous growth of the sports betting industry became apparent after one of the leading Kenyan firms signed a sponsorship deal with an English Premier League team, Hull City, for Sh6 billion, and gave more in local sponsorship, creating concern over the amount of money by lost by bettors.

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