Kenyan legislators deal blow to gambling industry

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The betting industry in Kenya has been dealt a major blow by legislators, who have voted down proposals to reduce the level of tax paid by gambling providers.

The Finance and National Planning Committee brought forward amendments to the Finance Bill that would have seen the tax on gaming cut to 15 percent from its current level of 35 percent. The amendments would also have reduced the share of gambling sales that betting companies are required to hand over to charitable causes from 25 percent to 5 percent.

But the proposed amendments to gambling regulation were heavily defeated by MPs last week, the second time this summer that the Committee has been forced to abandon its pro-gambling proposals, after dropping a previous attempt to include the amendments in an earlier piece of legislation in June.

The opposition to the proposals was led by MP Abdulswamad Nassir, who criticised the government for not providing more information. According to Mr Nassir, MPs were not told how much money the Kenya Revenue Authority had collected in gambling taxes from the industry, nor where they given an assessment of how much would be collected if the tax reduction proposals were to be implemented.

School fees used for gambling

Mr Nassir suggested that the government should be introducing legislation to increase the tax in order to deter gambling, particularly among young people.

Those sentiments were echoed by a number of MPs who opposed the measures, including Sabina Chege, who claimed that gambling had led to suicides and absenteeism, while Kubai Iringo highlighted the fact that Parliament had increased the prices of basic food items at the same time that the Government was proposing to relax the gambling tax.

Another MP, Cicely Mbarire, pointed out that betting firms had twice lobbied Parliament for a reduction in the tax. She also highlighted the social cost of gambling in the country, stating:

As a wife and mother who doesn’t want our family resources to go to gambling, I am surprised that the committee found it fit to reduce tax on gaming from 35 to 15 per cent. We must stop this as our children have been using school fees to gamble.”

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