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Economy

Betting firms owe Sh26bn tax, Matiang’i says

A betting shop in Nairobi.
A betting shop in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Betting firms owe the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Sh26 billion in unpaid taxes, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said Monday, amid raging legal battles in the industry.

Dr Matiang’i also accused the betting firms of using the court process to frustrate the taxman and other regulatory agencies.

The government recently ordered that all betting firms apply for operating licences afresh starting July 1, in a move to net firms that have been evading in taxes despite reaping billions of shillings in profits.

“My firm instructions is that anyone who applied for a different permit and ended in gambling business, I am ready to sign their deportation papers today,” said Dr Matiang’i.

He issued the order even as the High Court Monday temporarily suspended another directive that had banned celebrities from participating in gambling advertisement.

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The ban had been put in place by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) in a bid to curb addiction on gambling and betting.

Justice James Makau issued the order after an artiste moved to court claiming that his source of livelihood and that of others like him had been interfered with.

“Pending the hearing and determination of this case, a conservatory order is issued staying the implementation of the decision by the BCLB,” said Justice Makau.

But away from the courtroom, Dr Matiang’i noted that over 90 percent of players in gaming industry were foreigners and they repatriate a huge amount of money to their countries.

Data from government shows the annual turnover in the gambling industry rose from Sh2 billion to over Sh200 billion in the last five years alone.

“The cat and mouse game is over. My colleagues from the security agencies are sufficiently briefed so from July 1 we expect that you will have genuine licences in the sector,” Dr Matiang’i told BCLB stakeholders in Nairobi.

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