Innovative ways needed to deal with gambling vice

A man gambling. (Courtesy/iStockphoto)

Since 2014, the government has been pushing for taxation of the gambling industry both to generate revenue and as a way of discouraging punters following concerns that it was becoming addictive.

Indeed, there has been concern worldwide that gambling now ranks alongside drugs or alcohol, with many people, especially the youth either using it compulsively or feeling out of control.

Experts say gambling can affect the part of our brain that releases dopamine. It results in low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression.

Among students, it results in missing classes, failing grades, sleep deprivation, and financial debt.

This has sometimes seen distraught punters taking their lives.

In the Finance Bill 2024, among other revenue raising measures, the National Treasury proposes to delete the VAT exemption for betting, gaming and lotteries services.

If approved by Parliament, these services would be subject to VAT at the standard rate, currently at 16 per cent;

The latest move could be purely intended for collecting more taxes from the multi-billion industry.

However, it provides opportunity for us to reflect on how best to deal with the gambling vice.

According to experts, excessively taxing the industry will not work since gambling is a social problem that requires social solutions.

As Toddy Thairu, a Tax Manager with KPMG Kenya, once opined, Kenya should borrow a leaf from other developed jurisdictions, which have employed other measures, including forming agencies that run responsible
gambling campaigns such as annual awareness weeks as is the case in the UK.

Such campaigns focus on early intervention and prevention, consumer protection, help and counselling services for people experiencing problems with gambling, advice on risks of gambling and how to stay in control.

Strict marketing and advertising restrictions such as not to advertise new customer sign-up offers on TV before 9pm will also go a long way in curbing the vice. 


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