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SportPesa Leaves Kenya Amidst High Taxes

October 02, 2019

- Grant Whittington

Sports betting firm SportPesa, main sponsor of Everton Football Club, has announced a withdrawal of its operations from Kenya. This follows wide-spread concerns relating to various elements of sports betting in the African country. Sports betting has lived a real revival-style heyday in the country, sparked on by better and faster internet, cheaper mobile phones, and of course, a passionate love for English Premier League football.

Revenue from wagering is at an all-time high and government appears to be really raking it in as a direct result of sky-high bet taxes being imposed. Even so, operators and bookies are laughing all the way to the bank. But all isn’t as rosy as it seems and there are widespread fears that Kenyan nationals are engaging in reckless betting to the extent of being dumped into desperate debt and extreme poverty because of it.

SportPesa Issues Stern Warning

Reckless betting appears to be prevalent especially among the country’s youth and so much so that one minister has referred to putting money on sports as being a curse on the youth. In May of this year, the Kenyan government lay down new laws on gambling, including a complete blanket ban on outside advertising, as well as a ban on the advertisement of gambling games and betting on sports on all social media platforms.

This has led to parliament having now once again voted in favour of a rise in taxes, and this time round by as much as 10%. This will fix the new rate at a sky-high 20%. SportPesa has referred to the new regulations as being the makings of a hostile gambling and betting environment and has expressed its disappointment in the decision made by government. The operator has promised to review its decision and consider returning to Kenya once a “non-hostile regulatory environment” has been reinstated.

SportPesa has furthermore said that parliament seemingly doesn’t realise the dire effects that this will have on the bulk of the country’s gambling operators, and consequently also on the local economy. It has urged government to review its decision, saying that the tax-hike will not only affect local operator income streams but will in all likelihood lead to a situation of all investments in sport in the country being put on hold until such time as the situation lets up.

Taxes Not The Solution

Advertising appears to once again be the main culprit. It is widely recognised that advertising policies are generally completely inadequate and that licensed as well unlicensed operators often find various loopholes and don’t tend to at all hold back when it comes to showing off their products and services during prime-time television hours.

The problem with this is that children and young people aren’t able to differentiate between the operator and the actual team or players. Children especially, generally assume that its all one single entity and as such feel encouraged to engage in betting as a way of interacting with players in their own special way and as a show of “support”.

But operators; and rightly so; are bemoaning the ban on advertising and are continuously calling for better controls on existing policies instead. By putting a blunt object to the head of sports betting in Kenya by way of taxes that simply are not affordable, government is in essence doing nothing for citizens and everything in favour of its own already fat pockets. This is a societal ill prevalent in the UK as well as many African countries and will need to be resolved before the tables will be turned in any which positive way

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