Kenyan Treasury Secretary signals U-turn on betting tax

3 July 2020

Kenyan Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani has claimed the government will look to reintroduce the controversial 20% excise tax on betting stakes within six months, after it was removed from the country’s 2020 budget.

Earlier this week, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Finance Bill that sets out Kenya’s budget for the coming year, confirming that the tax would be removed.

Having been raised to 20% of stakes from its original 10% in 2019 - a decision that prompted local operators Sportpesa and Betin to withdraw from the market - the tax was due to be included in the 2020 budget.

However, at the bill’s committee stage, lawmakers removed the tax on the basis that it had significantly reduced tax revenue from the sector, and pushed players to offshore sites.

Yatani has now confirmed that the government will propose its reintroduction in the country’s National Assembly “within the next six months”.

In a statement, he denied local media claims that the government had reneged on its commitment to tax and regulate the industry.

“Betting activities in the country have adversely affected the social fabric of our society, particularly the youth,” Yatani explained. “In this regard, we wish to reiterate the commitment of the Government on taxation of this industry so as to contain such vices.”

He pointed out that as well as introducing the 20% levy on stakes, the government had also introduced a 15% revenue tax for operators in 2018, alongside a 20% withholding tax on winnings.

This withholding tax was also the subject of controversy, after it was initially unclear whether it was to be paid by players, or by operators. A court in November 2019 ruled that it applied to the players, however.