Reverse the decision to withdraw betting firms’ licences, State told

From left: Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura with MPs Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Kuria Kimani (Molo) and Samuel Atandi (Alego Usonga) address the press in Nairobi yesterday. [David Gichuru, Standard]
MPs have asked the Government to resolve the stalemate that has seen over 20 betting companies denied licences in a Sh61 billion tax row.

In a joint statement, members of the National Assembly and Senate yesterday advised the State to allow the firms continue with their operations.

The leaders said suspension of the firms’ licences could cripple the sports sector, which relies heavily on sponsorship by the affected companies.

SportPesa and Betin, which have been sponsoring local tournaments, including the Kenya Premier League, are some of the affected companies.

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The MPs also claimed that Kenyans employed in the affected firms risk losing their jobs.

Speaking in Nairobi, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala accused the Government of criminalising the betting business and threatening the very existence of players in the industry.

“Some individuals are misleading the President and Interior Cabinet Secretary (Fred Matiang’i) on the actual revenue of betting companies,” Mr Malala said.

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Malala claimed there was a deliberate scheme to frustrate top betting firms and cited Dr Matiang’i’s orders to expel 17 directors accused of tax evasion.

“The deportation was a blatant violation of their rights. They were deported unprocedurally and we ask the Government to reconsider and have them back in the country.”

Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura said visually impaired people and those with albinism were being harmed by the stalemate after SportPesa stopped providing them with braille machines and sunscreen.

Molo MP Kimani Kuria wondered why there was no consistency in the application of the law, arguing that SportPesa was recognised as the best tax-compliant company in the recent past yet it now faced tax-evasion charges.

“There is something sinister about the management of sports funds in the country. The Government needs to be accountable on how it utilises the funds,” said nominated MP Geoffrey Osotsi.

Embakasi East MP Babu Owino claimed orders to revoke the firms’ licences were issued by a top Government official who has shares in another betting firm.

“They are frustrating the giant companies so that their own companies can flourish,” Mr Owino said.

The legislators also asked for revision of the formula that taxes staked betting amounts.

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