MPs form team to probe betting firms' operations

Joseph Onywera displays a dummy cheque after winning a Sh20 million jackpot from Betway Betting Company. [Photo: Kevine Omollo/Standard]

The National Assembly will open investigations into the activities of the multi-billion betting and gambling industry in the country.

MPs Wednesday agreed to form an 11-member committee co-chaired by Leader of Majority Aden Duale and Leader of Minority Jakoyo Midiwo to investigate the industry, which has come under the spotlight for harbouring tax cheats and money launderers.

The team comprises Samuel Chepkonga (Ainabkoi), Thomas Mwadeghu (Wundanyi), Samuel Gichigi (Kipipiri), Benjamin Langat (Ainamoi) and Kanini Kega (Kieni).

Others are Soipan Tuya (Narok), Dorcas Kedogo (Vihiga), Mary Keraa (Kisii) and Daniel Maanzo (Makueni).

Tax compliance

The committee will inquire into the activities of the scores of the betting and gambling firms with special emphasis on tax compliance, disclosure of information and management of proceeds.

“This House resolves to inquire into the activities of the betting and gambling industry with regard to tax compliance and claims of money laundering,” read the motion.

The notice of motion by Mr Midiwo said the committee will also identify the best practices from other jurisdictions on the management of money accrued from betting activities.

This means the committee will seek to know how the betting firms appropriate the billions lost by betting fans, some of whose dreams for a fortune have ended in tears, misery and a trail of broken families.

In recent years, Kenya has seen an exponential growth of betting firms, drawing in new firms and attracting both young and old participants into the craze.

There has, however, been little public information on the real faces behind some of the firms, and the amount of money made by the betting firms.

Multi-million industry

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates that the annual gross turnover of sports betting industry in Kenya is $20 million (Sh2.1 billion).

“Aware that the netting and gambling industry in Kenya has attracted a lot of public interest in the recent past, further aware that the services of betting companies like Sportpesa, Elibet, Betway, Betin Kenya and Mcheza, among many others that are now easily accessible via online and mobile platforms... this House resolves to inquire into the activities of the betting and gambling industry with regards to tax compliance, claims of financial impropriety, regulation and benefits to the society,” reads the notice of motion.

“We are deeply concerned that the industry is facing a myriad of challenges such as weak and insufficient regulatory and institutional frameworks, proliferation of betting and gambling activities and attendant negative societal impacts,” said Midiwo.

In February, two casino managers were killed by a man after he lost Sh30,000 bet in Eastleigh, Nairobi.

In May, another man hanged himself after losing Sh45,000 in a football bet. He had borrowed the money from a bank.