Some 27 betting and gaming companies are living on borrowed time after their licences were deferred or cancelled following findings by a multi-agency board.
The Nation has seen the list of the affected firms that had been kept secret since the government announced last week that it would not renew the licences of 19 companies and had deferred the renewal of permits for eight others, 13 casinos and six lotteries.
All betting firms were supposed to have had their licences renewed by July 1.
One of the big companies on the list, Betin, whose licence the Betting Control and Licensing Board refused to renew, has gone to court seeking to reverse the decision.
The Nation has also learnt that 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 multibillion-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 analysing 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 finalises the list of firms whose directors would be deported.
“The exercise is highly sensitive and divulging any information may result in the whole exercise crumbling. For now, all I can tell you is that the Presidency has given us the green light to deal with the industry of gambling that is now turning into rogue outfits,” a highly placed source told the Nation.
Firms whose licences have not been renewed or which have been told to fulfil certain conditions in order to be allowed to operate are betting giant SportPesa, Betin, Betway, Betpawa, Premierbet, Lucky 2 U, 1X Bet, Mozzartbet, Dafa bet, World Sport Bet, Atari Gaming, Palmsbet and Betboss.
Also on the list are Betyetu, Elitebet, Bungabet, Cysabet, Nestbet, Easybet, Kick Off, Millionaire Sports Bet, Kenya Sports Bet and Eastleighbet.
SportPesa, Betin and Betway control at least 85 per cent of the market.
We reached out to the management of some of the firms for comment, but none was forthcoming. “I have no comment about that,” said Mr Leon Kiptum, the Betway country manager.
When contacted for comment, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said all these companies ought to cease operations, a tough decision that could throw the entire industry into a spin.
A spot check, however, showed that the websites of all the firms were operational by the time of going to press.
Among the conditions that all companies had to meet before having their licences renewed is to be tax-compliant. They were also expected to prove that they had been operating within the law, and prove that they are sufficiently liquid and have performed financially well for the past four years.
For the 19 whose licences have not been renewed, the National Security Advisory Committee is reviewing their cases individually and will advise the Interior ministry in the coming days.
“There is no law that compels a government to issue a licence to any investor,” Dr Matiangi said. “Our decision is going to shake the sector for sure, but we have reached a point where we have to save our country.”
“Our country has to learn how to live truthfully. Otherwise are we going to tell our children that there is no reason to work hard because you can just spend Sh20 and become a millionaire?” he asked.
What shocked the Betting Control and Licencing Board (BCLB) during the vetting is that the companies made a cumulative Sh204 billion last year but paid only Sh4 billion in taxes.
It also emerged that up to 500,000 of the young people blacklisted by credit reference bureaus took mobile money loans to bet.
Most of the companies also failed to remit the 20 per cent withholding tax on payouts. Additionally, a good chunk of the revenue made was wired to accounts abroad, courtesy of the ownership structure of the industry, which is 90 per cent owned by foreigners or companies registered in tax havens.
A search by the Nation at the Registrar of Companies shows that the Kenyans who are directors of most of the betting companies blacklisted by the Interior ministry mostly own zero shares.
Asian Betting Ltd, which operates as Dafabet, has three directors — Louis Watts, Cary Underwood and Lina Kantaria. But Mr Watts and Mr Underwood, who are foreigners, own a cumulative 100,000 shares while Ms Kantaria, a Kenyan, owns zero.
Gamcode Ltd, which operates as Betin, has four shareholders — Domenico Geovando (Italian), Leandro Giovando (Italian), Jophece Yogo (Kenyan) and Mauritius-based Samson Capital Investments Ltd. Jophese Yogo, the only Kenyan director in the company, owns zero shares.
Premier Betting Kenya Ltd, which operates as Premier Bet, has Editel Sarl Ltd (a foreign company) plus Francis Galleri and Alan Galleri as directors.
The ownership structure of these three companies is replicated in the entire industry, whose Sh200 billion annual revenue is more than twice the Sh82 billion the government is spending this year on universal health.
A 2017-2021 gambling outlook report by PwC shows that the yearly turnover of the sports betting industry in Kenya will reach Sh500 billion by 2020. As it stands, Kenya has the third-largest betting market in Africa after South Africa and Nigeria.
But a Geopol survey released in December last year noted that 40 per cent of the low-income gambling consumers are unemployed while 29 per cent are students. To many, it has turned from an obsession or a mere game to an income-generating activity.
“Once you try and win or if you know of someone who has won, you get a psychological impetus that if you try even after losing so much money, there is a chance that you will still win,” says Dr Philomena Ndambuki, a psychologist and director of mentorship at Kenyatta University.
On Tuesday last week, Betin went to court seeking orders to suspend a decision by the Interior ministry not to renew its licence. High Court Judge Weldon Korir suspended BCLB’s decision of July 1 to deny Gamcode Ltd a chance to renew its license.
“A conservatory order be and is hereby issued staying or suspending the effect of the betting board’s decision of rejecting the applicant’s application for the renewal of its 2019/2020 Bookmaker’s license, until July 16,” ruled the judge.
Additional reporting by Maureen Kakah
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
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Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.