Nairobi to ban betting outside five-star hotels


Gamblers follow their bets at a betting shop in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Nairobi has launched a fresh assault on the multi-billion betting industry with legislative proposals that restrict gambling to five-star hotels with casinos and impose a four-year jail term or a Sh10 million fine for opening outside of operating hours.

The Nairobi City County Betting, Lotteries and Gaming (Amendment) Bill, 2021, currently before the Nairobi County Assembly seeks to restrict the betting and gambling establishments in the city to operating between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

If passed, it will mark a departure from the current situation where gamblers can place bets any time of the day.

South B ward representative Waithera Chege, the sponsor of the amendments, said the Bill is meant to have the youth engage in productive work and prevent gambling addiction.

“All licensed betting, lotteries and gaming premises and online gaming shall only operate within the hours of 8pm and 6am. A person who contravenes this provision will be liable, upon conviction, to a fine of Sh10 million or four years imprisonment, or both,” said Ms Chege.

The Bill also seeks to push telecoms operators to cancel all the USSD codes used by radio stations in their gaming activities.

Ms Chege has raised concern about how Kenyans are spending a lot of their productive time on gambling.

A 2017 Geopoll survey ranked Kenya as the country with the highest number of youths engaging in gambling in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report estimated that 76 percent of Kenyans were taking part in betting, with a majority of them being youth aged between 17 and 35.

The proposed restrictions on operating hours also target mobile betting, with firms running gaming activities required to close their paybills and apps until after working hours.

The Bill seeks to amend the Nairobi City County Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act, 2021 to tighten regulation of gaming in the county.

The Act, which governs the operation and licensing of betting, gaming and totalisator premises in Nairobi, was assented to by Governor Ann Kananu on April 22, 2021, with its enforcement commencing May 6, 2021.

The proposed amendments also seek to limit where gambling premises can be located, stating that such businesses will only be located within five-star hotels as rated by the Tourism Regulatory Authority.

This means City Hall will only issue operating licences to owners of betting, lotteries or gaming premises who have complied with the regulations, spelling an end to gambling premises not within five-star establishments.

Contravening establishment regulations will attract a fine of Sh5 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.

Further, gaming firms will have to adopt cashless transactions for betting within the county so as to protect minors from participating in such activities, a move that will likely hit gaming companies’ revenue hard.

“Going cashless will mean that those still going to school cannot register to have mobile gaming accounts as they don’t have identification cards,” Ms Chege said.

The premises will be expected to go cashless within six months of the enactment of this Act.

The Bill also imposes a ban on broadcasting of video or audio programming that promotes betting, lotteries and gaming adverts before watershed hours.

“A person shall not erect or display a house signage on any betting, lotteries and gaming activities and premises without approval from county minister responsible for urban and physical planning,” it says.

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