22 May 2019

Kenya Deports 17 Foreigners in Betting Row

Photo: File photo/The Nation
Fred Matiang'i.

A total of 17 foreigners involved in illegal gambling business in the country were Tuesday deported in renewed efforts by the government to tame the betting craze.

The developments came a day after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i directed the Immigration PS Gordon Kihalangwa to review working permits of foreigners who had applied to conduct other businesses but ended up investing in the betting industry.

Those sent back to their countries include Chinese, Turkish and Spanish nationals.

Kenya currently has more than 30 licensed betting firms and casinos, although only a few are in operation.

On Monday, CS Matiang'i directed PS Kihalangwa to review the working permit of all foreigners who applied to do business in the country.

BETTING CRAZE

"We are not using the guise of revenue to allow a broken sector... Over 90 percent of players in gaming are foreigners, they repatriate a huge amount of money to their countries.

"The ubiquity and craze of gaming in Kenya has caused dire social and economic strain at the behest of a few elite, majority of whom are non-Kenyans and live outside the country," he said at during the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) stakeholders meeting at the Kenya School of Government.

The Kenyan betting industry has in recent times recorded a surge in popularity amid aggressive marketing campaigns by players and projections are that gross gambling revenue in Kenya stands at Sh7 billion monthly and about Sh100 billion annually, according to the betting regulator.

A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that the yearly turnover of the sports betting industry in Kenya is worth $20 million, and will reach $50 million in 2020 as demand grows.

GAMBLING MARKET

The report further said Kenya is the third largest gambling market after South Africa and Nigeria respectively in Africa in terms of revenues. However, in terms of participants, Kenya could be ahead of its peers in the region.

Also, the rise of sports betting in Kenya is fuelled by increased internet penetration and use of smartphones.

CS Matiang'i alluded to the fact that poverty is constant risk factor for problem gambling and mostly affects already vulnerable populations, especially the youth.

"It is the position of Government to support the growth of the private sector as the engine of economic growth but only in a manner that is honest, accountable and socially responsive.

"Going forward, we will introduce a regulatory framework predicated on minimising harm. Our support and action in the sector will be purely driven by the government's "Duty of Care", responsibility and dedication to public interest," he said.

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