Slot machine owners face tough rules in Bill

A customer on a slot machine at a casino in Eastleigh, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A customer on a slot machine at a casino in Eastleigh, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government has rolled out a new set of measures to deal with gambling, this time targeting the slot machine investors with punitive fines against those in breach.

Under proposed changes to the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act, county governments will also have the power to object to the issuing of a licence to a gambling company.

The proposals have been sponsored by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale via the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill. The Bill was taken through the First Reading Wednesday.

The changes seek to increase the security deposit for a firm seeking a gambling licence from Sh40,000 to Sh20 million.

To deal with the gaming machines specifically, the government has proposed the increase of the penalty for illegal use of the machines from Sh5,000 to Sh2 million or a maximum two-year jail term.

The penalty for street gaming will also be increased from Sh3,000 to Sh100,000 or imprisonment for one year, or both. The maximum amount one can wager will be increased to Sh50,000 from Sh1.

The changes will require the Betting Control and Licensing Board to send an application for a licence to the county government within which the applicant wants to set up their business.

It states that: “No licence shall be issued under this Act unless the board has sent a copy of the application for the licence to the county government within whose area of jurisdiction the applicant proposes to conduct his business and has given the county government reasonable opportunity to object to, or make recommendations with respect to the application.”

This would effectively give counties a say in the establishment of gambling firms in their areas. Both levels of government have been in a fruitless struggle to curb the setting up of slot machines, some of them on storefronts, even in villages across the country.

The gambling industry has been under siege since last year when then Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo sponsored a Bill whose enactment would have restricted their work by imposing high taxes.

This year, MPs were forced to approve the imposition of a flat tax of 35 per cent on revenue across all categories of gambling firms after President Uhuru Kenyatta rejected their decision to reduce it.