A new wave of gambling regulatory changes may roll out in Kenya, as a local lawmaker announced plans to introduce a bill for the regulation of coin-operated slot machines, news outlet Nairobi News reports.
Sen. Aaron Cheruiyot told local media earlier this week that his legislation would aim to regulate the gambling devices that are mostly operated in rural areas across the country. The nation’s gambling regulations currently do not contain any specific rules regarding slot machines, and these are often featured at different facilities without owners holding any licenses for them.
Mr. Cheruiyot’s bill will be introduced shortly after certain changes in the way sports betting operators were regulated took effect as part of Kenya’s Betting Lotteries and Gaming Act.
The Kenyan Senator told media that new slot machine regulations are needed as the devices are often targeting women and children in the country’s deprived areas, and that people often find themselves spending too much on them. Proper rules could curb these issues, the lawmaker believes.
News emerged late last month that the Kenyan police together with officials from the country’s gambling regulator, the Betting Control and Licensing Board, raided slot machine facilities across the nation and confiscated equipment as part of a crackdown on unlicensed gambling premises.
A Kenyan national was even arrested for playing on slot machines. However, it later on became known that charges against them would be withdrawn as soon as a High Court order was verified.
Changes in Kenya’s Sports Betting Landscape
Mobile sports betting has increased tremendously in Kenya over the past several years, particularly among young male representatives of the African country’s population. The growth of the mobile sports betting sector was greatly attributed to the rising interest in English Premier League matches in recent years.
To curb the popularization of the activity among Kenyans, the government introduced last year certain changes to the country’s existing gambling regulations, with those being aimed at operators providing betting services. The amendments were approved by lawmakers and were given a final nod by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last summer. The reforms took effect at the beginning of 2018.
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One of the most important changes rolled out included a considerable rise in the tax licensed operators were to pay to the country. Under the new rules, gambling companies were required to contribute 35% of their annual revenue to Kenya’s coffers.
The new rate was deemed too high by operators and was heavily opposed by those. SportPesa, an online sports betting operator hailing from Kenya, threatened to end its sponsorship of local sports clubs, if the tax hike was adopted. The company also contested the issue in court, but Kenya’s High Court sided with lawmakers late last year.
To express its opposition to the newly implemented tax, Kenya’s national lottery Pambazuka halted its operations in the country early in 2018.