Punters had discovered a betting site that did not charge them withholding tax but the government busted their little discovery. www.businesstoday.co.ke
Punters had discovered a betting site that did not charge them withholding tax but the government busted their little discovery. Photo/ FILE- Business Today

The government has directed telecommunication companies Safaricom, Telkom and Airtel to withdraw pay bill numbers and SMS codes of 27 betting companies among them SportPesa, Betin and Betway.

The affected companies are required to prove to the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) that they have been complioant with tax laws  before they are allowed to acquire their pay bill numbers.

In a letter sent to the telcos, BCLB Director Liti Wambua, said the licenses of the 27 firms remain withdrawn, hence, their payment platforms should also be suspended.

“We wish to inform you that the licenses for the following betting firms were not renewed until they meet the outstanding renewal requirements as well as outcome of ongoing due diligence to determine if they are fit and proper to hold a license from this board. Consequently, we request you to suspend their pay bills and short codes until otherwise advised,” the letter reads in part.

[Read: Gambling increasing in Kenya despite measures to curb it]

The government had halted the licenses of these betting firms and required each and every one of them to re-apply for their licenses. So far, none of the betting firms has acquired its licenses back. The government has been trying to curb the gambling craze in the country with increases in tax but nothing seemed to work.

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All betting licenses in the country stood suspended and fresh application sought by July 1, 2019 following a stakeholders meeting between Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and representatives of the firms in April.

BCLB claims that these betting companies made a cumulative amount of Ksh. 204 billion in profits last year but paid only Ksh. 4 billion in taxes.

According to Nation,  the government is mulling deporting the bosses of betting firms whose licences were not renewed as it widens its crackdown on rogue operators in the multi billion-shilling gambling industry.

The government is taking the matter so seriously that it is now being handled by the country’s top security organ, the National Security Advisory Committee.

The committee was at the weekend analyzing all the companies with a view to advising the Attorney-General and Interior ministry on the way forward. This is happening as the Department of Immigration finalizes the list of firms whose directors would be deported.

The firms whose licenses have since been canceled include, SportPesa, Betin, Betway, Betpawa, Elitebet, PremierBet, Lucky2u, 1xBet, MozzartBet, Dafabet, World Sports Betting, Atari Gaming, Palms Bet, Betboss, Kick-Off, Atari, Millionaire Sports Bet, Palmsbet, Chezacash, Betyetu, Bungabet, Cysabet, Saharabet, Easibet, Easleighbet, Sportybet and AGB Lottery & Gaming.

The companies are also expected to prove they are sufficiently liquid, and have performed well, financially, in the last four years.

[See also: A betting addict responds to new tax on bets]

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Kevin Namunwa is a senior reporter for Business Today. Email at [email protected]

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