Companies

Betting firms spared 50pc local shareholding plan

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A betting spot in Nairobi. Betting gained prevalence in Kenya, which saw the industry expand on the back of mobile payments and digital applications, creating a multibillion industry. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • The push on the ownership patterns came amid fears of capital flights where large betting firms, majority owned by foreigners move billions of shillings made in Kenya to offshore accounts.
  • A majority of the betting firms in Kenya are foreign-owned with sources naming some of their nationalities as Bulgaria, Italy, Russia and Poland.
  • The directors were however deported last year following a crackdown over non-payment of taxes.

Parliament has rejected State’s bid to compel betting firms to cede at least 50 percent of their shareholding to Kenyans.

The Interior ministry had sought to change the Gaming Bill to ensure that the Betting Licensing and Control Board (BCLB) only grants or renews operating licences for foreign betting firms where Kenyans own at least 50 percent of the shares.

But the National Assembly Committee on Sports, Culture and Tourism rejected the proposal arguing that formulation of licensing requirements in the betting industry remains the role of BCLB, the regulator of the betting industry.

The Interior ministry did not disclose the motive behind the push on the ownership patterns that came amid fears of capital flights where large betting firms, majority owned by foreigners move billions of shillings made in Kenya to offshore accounts.

A majority of the betting firms in Kenya are foreign-owned with sources naming some of their nationalities as Bulgaria, Italy, Russia and Poland.

The directors were however deported last year following a crackdown over non-payment of taxes.

“The board may either grant, renew or vary a license provided that… in case of a foreign company, fifty percent of its shares is owned by Kenyans,” Interior ministry said in submissions to the parliamentary committee.

Last year, Kenya deported 17 foreign directors of betting firms, days after withdrawing the operating licences of a number of companies in the crackdown following presidential orders to tame ‘rogue betting companies.’

Some of the deported directors included those of Betin and Betpawa who have since closed in Kenya.