September 28, 2019 / 9:55 AM / 2 months ago

Kenyan betting firm SportPesa halts operations due to tax hike

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan online betting firm SportPesa said on Saturday it was halting operations due to a drastic hike in taxes on betting stakes.

Online sports betting companies such as SportPesa have grown rapidly in the East African nation in recent years, riding a wave of enthusiasm for sports, with the government saying the gaming industry achieved a combined revenue of 204 billion shillings (£1.63 billion) last year.

That sparked government concern about the social impact of betting, and in May Kenya introduced new gambling regulations, including a ban on advertising outdoors and on social media.

This week, parliament voted an amended proposal raising the excise duty proposed in the 2019/20 (July-June) budget on the amount wagered at the time a bet is placed on all betting platforms to 20% from an initial 10%.

SportPesa said it was “disappointed” by the move and that it would stop its operations until a “non-hostile regulatory environment” returned.

Newspapers Daily Nation and Standard reported that a second firm, Betin Kenya, had also ended its operations, citing the heavy taxation as the main reason. The company could not be immediately reached for comment.

Last month, SportPesa cancelled its sports sponsorships in Kenya.

Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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