Eighteen new firms enter booming betting arena

Gamblers placed Sh620.97 billion bets between 2018 and last year. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Eighteen betting firms entered the industry between January and June eyeing a share of the multi-billion-shilling gaming craze that has defied government clampdown in the form of increased taxation and tighter regulation.

Industry regulator Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) said that 118 firms were licensed to operate at end of last month from 100 in January.

The increase came despite the re-introduction of the 7.5 percent tax on betting stakes in a bid to make betting less attractive to gamblers and discourage the youth and jobless Kenyans from sinking deeper into financial woes through defaulted loans.

New entrants included Tickbet, Megabet, Mossbets, Kick Off Sports, 10bet, Poabet, Dakabet, Bet Genius and Melbatech.

Others were Level X Bets, Janta Bets, Bet Kumi, Bustbets, Bet Nare, Dimbabet, Galaxy Betting and Fanbet.

The increase in betting firms highlights the growing craze of a multi-billion shillings industry despite heavy taxes targeting punters and betting firms. Punters spent Sh169.1 billion to bet through Safaricom’s M-Pesa in the year ended March, lifting the lid on the craze that has become a national pastime.

Safaricom’s disclosures show the value of bets jumped 23.8 percent from Sh136 billion a year earlier defying the government clampdown on punters and betting firms.

Disclosures on the amounts spent to bet through the two other mobile money platforms, Airtel Money and T-Kash of Telkom are not in the public domain. The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), betting firms, and telecommunications firms are the biggest winners of the betting craze.

Besides the 7.5 percent tax on betting stakes, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) takes 20 percent for every winning bet that gaming firms are required to withhold and remit to the taxman.

Betting firms are taxed on the gross gaming revenue— turnover minus winnings paid out— at a rate of 15 percent. They also pay corporate tax on profits at a rate of 30 percent.

Gaming is popular among the youth with some funding their betting addiction through digital loans. The jobless have also turned to the craze in the hope of footing their daily bills. But the craze has come at a cost with reports of punters committing suicide after losing huge sums of money.

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