Kenya Finance Bill carries tax rescind waiting on Kenyatta approval 

Kenya’s National Assembly has approved the nation’s new Finance Bill, which will terminate Kenyan betting’s controversial 20% excise tax on all gambling wagers. 

First introduced during the 2019/2020 fiscal year, the 20% excise tax saw all Kenya Betting Control Board (BCLB) licence holders protest its enforcement as a market killer.

The events of a tumultuous 2019 saw several Kenyan licensees depart the market, citing the enforcement of the blanket tax and the Kenya Revenue Authority’s (KRA) aggressive demand that bookmakers pay retrospective taxes on player winnings.

SportPesa and Betin led the industry’s charge against the KRA’s sanctions, with both operators eventually black-listed from the market, which subsequently forced the withdrawal of their betting services.

The Finance Bill amendment is reported to have been propositioned by an entity named Shade.co.ke, which has pleaded for the government to drop the controversial tax in order to help cash-strapped local sports clubs.

The amendment’s prospects are further strengthened by support from the National Assembly’s ‘Finance & Planning Committee’, which has advised the government to ‘reverse the negative effects’ of its existing policy.

Backing the amendment, the Committee underscored that KRA gambling taxes had been drained by consumers turning to unlicensed operators to place their wagers.

Kenya’s Finance Bill has been forwarded to President Uhuru Kenyatta for an executive review and approval, in which no guarantee can be certain.

Supporting the KRA, last August President Kenyatta ordered all Kenyan registered banks and telecom services to immediately suspend all payment processing services and freeze all accounts attached to licensed operators.

Enforcing a blackout on all gambling services, President Kenyatta further informed customs to detain gambling executive passports, stating that betting CEOs could not leave the country until they settled their tax accounts.

Of further note, President Kenyatta’s cabinet has previously tabled constitutional changes which advise the National Assembly to support the wholesale privatisation of Kenya’s gambling sector. 

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