Tanzania clerics push for sports betting ban

Saturday January 26 2019

Unlicensed gambling machines

Unlicensed gambling machines that were impounded in Nairobi on June 18, 2018. The betting craze has caught on in the East African region. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

DOROTHY NDALU
By DOROTHY NDALU
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Religious leaders in Tanzania are pushing for a ban on betting, saying the practice is harmful to the economy.

At a meeting with President John Magufuli, the deputy chairman of the Dawoodi Bohra community, Zainuddin Adamjee, said they were worried about the rising gambling addiction among the youth and asked for the president’s intervention.

Mr Adamjee said a majority of the youth, “who make up the biggest workforce for the nation, are now taking part in sports betting instead of in productive work, while traditional and social media are used to encourage gambling through advertisements.”

He said government administrators were being used by betting firms to hand over prizes to the winners.

Freezing licences

The latest push comes hot on the heels of Uganda’s move to freeze licensing for betting firms. According to Minister of State for Finance David Bahati, President Yoweri Museveni directed that betting be banned as it was diverting the attention of the youth from work.

“We have received a directive from President Museveni to stop licensing sports betting, gaming and gambling companies. From now on, no new companies are going to be licensed. For those that are already registered, there will be no renewal of their licences when they expire,” Mr Bahati was quoted by local media as saying during a church service in Rugarama Hill in western Kabale town.

However, spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance Jim Mugunga said he was not aware of the president's directive but added that he did not doubt it.

Responding to the cleric’s request, President Magufuli instructed Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa to work on the matter and take the necessary action.

“I have noted the youth are convinced that if you play you can win big and this has promoted laziness, although the government collects taxes (from the betting companies),” the president said.

Statistics from Tanzania Revenue Authority show that sports betting companies are taxed 25 percent; SMS are taxed 25 percent; each slot machines is charged $43.1102; the national lottery is taxed 20 percent and machines sites 25 percent.

Physical casinos are taxed 18 percent while digital casinos are taxed 25 percent of revenue after winnings.

Over the past few years, Tanzania has recorded massive growth in tax collections from gaming activities, due to increasing numbers of players and tighter controls.

During the last parliamentary budget meeting, Minister of Finance and Planning Philip Mpango announced proposals to increase rental tax on sports betting, SMSs and digital casinos from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Dr Mpango said the proposals would allow the government to earn an estimated $11,510,400 in profits.

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