Who said Matiangi is interested in ending betting? Betting firms are still operational

Last week Thursday the CS for interior Dr. Fred Matiangi ordered the closure of all betting firms in Kenya. According to the interior CS most of the betting companies were not licensed to operate or had not renewed their licenses to operate in Kenya. Interior CS went ahead and stated that the betting firms owed the taxman more than shs 26 billion shillings thus the action. The CS gave 48 hours for every person having gaming wallets with these firms to withdraw all their cash by midnight of Friday 12th, after which all pay bills under Safaricom, Telkom and Airtel used by the betting firms were to be closed.

The betting firms were frustrated with move which they termed as a way to disrupt their businesses. The CEO for Sportpesa Mr Karauri Ronald said that the company is a loyal corporate firm that complies with all its tax obligations. This was echoed by the Betin firm claiming that they don’t have any issues with the KRA concerning any tax evasion schemes.  Sportpesa and Betin who are the leading betting firms in the country went ahead and said that they contribute a lot to the tax man. Together their contribution amounts to nearly shs 8 billion in taxes. Though other firms obliged with the CS directive, Sportpesa and betin said that the move to close their Pay Bill numbers was against the law. To defend their case Sportpesa said that they had a pending case with KRA concerning its tax obligations and the court had given it the green light to continue operating.

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The closure of Pay Bill Numbers operated by Sportpesa and Betin and 21 other betting firms made many Kenyans conclude that CS Matiangi’s interest is to end betting in Kenya. These people reason that the CS has seen the negative effects betting addiction has on the youth, hence the proper way to end the menace is by shutting down all betting firms. One of the well known Kenyans who hold to this opinion is Sam Gichuru of Nailab who over the weekend put up a thread on Twitter explaining just how CS Matiangi will win the war he has waged against the betting firms.

What Sam Gichuru and many Kenyans who think like him fail to realize is that the betting firms were shut down (actually just their mobile money Pay Bill numbers) on allegation that they had not complied with all betting regulations, including but not limited to renewing their licenses and/or remitting full taxes due to the tax man. Also, the betting firms that are said to have complied with the regulations are still operational and these include Betika, Mcheza, Kwikbet and Betpalace among several others. We should therefore stop propagating this propaganda that CS Matiangi’s interest is ending the betting menace in the country – far from it, his interest seems to be something totally different; probably his interest is to allow particular betting companies to thrive at the expense of others.

Adrian Opiyo

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