Kenya: Gor and Leopard impose excise tax on betting firms

Kenya’s largest soccer clubs Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards have spoken out against the reintroduction of 20 percent excise tax in the 2021/22 budget, as this will negatively affect the betting companies that support local teams and lead to their sponsorship being withdrawn.

In his speech in front of the parliament building during the reading of the budget on Thursday, Finance Minister Ukur Yattani reintroduced the tax, which was abolished by President Uhuru Kenyatta in July 2020.

“An excise tax of 20% of the amount is put on bets,” said Yattani, which means the amount will be charged and passed on to someone who wins a bet.

In a strongly worded joint statement, Gor Mahia chairman Ambrose Rachier and his AFC Leopard colleague Dan Shikanda said the tax refund will further oust current league sponsor BetKing from among other betting companies that have consistently supported the game.

They argued that the excise tax was one of the reasons SportPesa left the Kenyan market in 2018, saying that betting firms supported football with a cumulative amount of Sh1.6 billion from 2016 to 2020 and should not be punished with penalty taxes .

The duo said the betting firms continued to support both the top league and the National Super League, even during the coronavirus pandemic that has denied the two clubs a massive fan base, as games are played behind closed doors and in strict compliance with Covid- 19 logs.

“The passage of the 20% excise tax will clearly rule out continued sponsorship of football clubs across all divisions (National Super League, Division 1 and County Leagues), with the net effect of making most league teams unsustainable.” continued the testimony.

Rachier and Shikanda have now called on the government to abolish the tax in order to save the game that faces unprecedented times as a result of measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.

“The tax proposal is at an inopportune time and urges the government and MPs to give special consideration to this difficult matter and to give the Sports Brotherhood a chance to fight during these difficult times.”