Expedite passage of gaming bill, stakeholders urge MPs

Friday, September 17th, 2021 11:26 |
Parliament buildings.

The Gaming Bill, 2019 currently before the National Assembly seeks to overhaul the regulatory framework for gambling imposing higher costs on licensed operators and establishing the first national lottery, a parliamentary committee heard yesterday.

Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) management while appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation said the Gaming Bill 2019, aims to update the country’s regulations to reflect the prominence of online operators in the market.

Sector stakeholders appeared before the committee yesterday to present their views on the bill especially on gambling in broadcast media.

BCLB chief executive Peter Mbugi said the passage of the Gaming Bill would not only address the various administrative, structural and budgetary challenges that face the board but will also place the regulator alongside similar gaming regulators in other jurisdictions.

“We urge Parliament to fasttrack this piece of legislation otherwise, it will be like sending an army in the 21st Century battle while armed with bows and arrows,” he said.

Mbugi said the Board has suspended issuance of licences and permits to betting and gaming companies engaging in broadcast media betting adding that all gaming licences have an interaction with the media in one form or another in their day to day operations.

“The category that is of concern to us in relation to the matter at hand is prize com- petitions promotions and public lottery,” Mbugi told the committee which is chaired by William Kisang (Marakwet West).

Kisang said Parliament is committed to fast tracking the Gaming Bill to address the gaps in law which had allowed the illegal business to thrive.

Mbugi said the Board has also directed operators that all gaming advertisements be carried out within the stipulated water- shed period as prescribed by the Communication Act.

“They should do so as they await for of- ficial classification of gambling content by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB),” he explained.

Serious gaps

Media Council of Kenya chief executive David Omwoyo urged Parliament to pass the Gaming Bill urgently to address the online betting menace.

He said there were serious gaps in law which should be addressed by the committee which include nonalignment of standards of gaming advertisements among regulators.

“To address the shortcomings, we pro- pose alignment of advertising standards in the media. We are also calling for a joint monitoring approach to be adopted by the various regulators to ensure compliance with the established standards,” Omwoyo said.

According to Omwoyo, the laws governing media should be aligned to avoid du- plicity and forum shopping.

“We propose the establishment of a media diversity fund exclusive from the constrained government funding and professionalism challenges and gaps affecting the media sector currently,” added the MCK boss.

He told the committee that the media business is a very expensive investment and the operating environment must be made conducive to allow the sector not only play its central role in the democratic process, but a business that can make returns.

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