The Gambling Control Bill 2023, currently awaiting parliamentary approval in Kenya, is poised to usher in a new era for the country's gambling landscape by establishing the Gambling Regulatory Authority, intended to supplant the existing Betting, Control, and Licensing Board (BCLB). Championed by National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichung’wah, the bill represents a comprehensive effort to redefine and strengthen the regulatory framework governing gambling activities in the nation.
At its core, the proposed legislation seeks to broaden the mandate of the new Gambling Regulatory Authority, conferring upon it the dual responsibilities of licensing and regulation across various gambling domains. These include betting, casinos, as well as other forms of gambling such as prize competitions, public lotteries, and media promotions.
The impetus behind the bill is a response to concerns raised in 2022 regarding a perceived lack of compliance with licensing requirements among the majority of Kenya's gambling operators. The legislation introduces a series of stringent measures aimed at addressing issues of unlicensed and underage gambling. Notably, the bill contemplates escalated taxes and fines for offenses in this realm, coupled with an explicit prohibition on the registration of children for any gambling activities.
To further fortify the regulatory landscape, the proposed bill sets a minimum bet limit of KES20 and imposes a statutory fine of KES5 million for operators found offering stakes below this prescribed limit. This measure is designed to ensure a responsible and controlled gambling environment, discouraging practices that might disproportionately affect vulnerable demographics.
Beyond these pivotal provisions, the Gambling Control Bill tackles the issue of advertising in the gambling sector. It stipulates a ban on the airing of gambling advertisements by radios and TV stations between 6 am and 10 pm. This move is indicative of a broader effort to regulate the visibility and accessibility of gambling content during peak hours when a significant portion of the population, including minors, may be exposed.
In terms of ownership and financial transactions, the bill mandates that licensed operators must have a minimum of 30% of shares held by Kenyan citizens. Additionally, all financial transactions must be routed through a Kenyan-registered bank, fostering a sense of national involvement and oversight.
A notable feature of the proposed legislation is the requirement for licensed entities to furnish deposits in the form of a bank guarantee or insurance security bond. Casinos are obligated to deposit KES20 million, while online sports betting and lottery operators face a higher threshold of KES200 million. These measures are crafted to act as financial safeguards and deter illicit gambling activities.
The Gambling Regulatory Authority, as envisaged in the bill, will also take charge of licensing lotteries organized to raise funds for charitable purposes. Importantly, the bill stipulates that a minimum of 30% of the proceeds from such lotteries must be directed toward the charitable cause being promoted.
To further strengthen regulatory enforcement, the bill prescribes severe penalties for the promotion of unlicensed lotteries, imposing a KES1 million fine or a one-year jail term on individuals or entities found in violation.
From a fiscal perspective, the Gambling Control Bill introduces a 15% tax on gross gambling revenue, reinforcing the government's revenue collection mechanisms. Additionally, the legislation empowers local counties to impose a monthly gambling levy, contributing to localized initiatives and services.
This legislative development follows the enactment of Kenya's finance bill in 2022, which introduced a 7.5% tax on betting stakes. This move had far-reaching consequences, with industry leaders Sportpesa and Betin opting to withdraw their services from the Kenyan market in response to the tax burden.
In essence, the proposed Gambling Control Bill of 2023 represents a comprehensive and far-reaching effort to recalibrate the regulatory landscape for gambling in Kenya. By addressing issues related to licensing compliance, underage gambling, advertising practices, ownership structures, financial transactions, and taxation, the bill aims to create a more controlled, responsible, and financially robust gambling environment in the country.
By fLEXI tEAM