The Kenya government has announced that licenses for betting and gaming companies will be suspended from July 1.
The announcement by Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i on Monday appeared to target companies that are not tax compliant.
Kenya has witnessed the spread of gambling especially among the youth, with the government now concerned about rogue industry players.
Of concern is that many of the youth are taking loans to feed their betting habit, something the minister said is turning out to be a matter of national security.
“This is a serious issue and a security matter. You’ve heard about the number of suicide cases in the country and if we are not careful, we will end up looking like an irresponsible government because we have let a sector run amok because everyone is advertising what they want. We can’t let our country go like this,” Matiang’i said on Monday.
The minister indicated that 76 percent of young people are actively involved in betting with 54 percent of those actively involved in betting being low-income earners.
The directive comes barely two months after neighboring Uganda banned sports gambling with the religious community insisting it had robbed the society its youth.
The minister said the betting sector is set to undergo radical change as his ministry is drafting a gaming bill to introduce stringent regulations, warning if the bill is passed many of the firms will be driven out of business.
Betting and gaming companies have been targeted over failure to remit their fair share of taxes despite the industry witnessing a boom.
While industry numbers have been hard to come by, it is estimated that the sector generated Sh202 billion ($2 billion) but remitted only a fraction of this.
The sector has been on the country’s revenue collection agency’s radar with plans introduce a raft of taxes to meet its ever-growing targets.
“Consequently, I have asked the board (Betting Control and Licensing Board) this morning, no license will be renewed for anybody who has not paid their taxes. So effective July 1, all licenses stand canceled except for those who will have complied and paid their taxes,” Matiang’i said.
The minister tasked the board to provide a comprehensive status report on the betting situation in the country, complete with a notation profiling the agencies involved, within 30 days.