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Gamble at your own risk, Matiang’i tells foreigners

Robin Obino @obinorobin

Foreigners who run illegal gambling dens and other contraband will be prosecuted and deported, Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i has warned.

Speaking in Dagoretti South yesterday when led locals in setting ablaze illegal betting machines that were recently impounded, the CS said the government had seized the machines in a countrywide swoop but were on the lookout for persons operating the machines from their residential houses.

“This (gambling) is not a genuine business. It is crime. It explains why the Chinese manufacturers don’t allow the business in their country,” said the CS.

More than 1,000 gambling machines commonly known as mchina  were burnt as part of a countrywide crackdown on illegal gambling dens and machines.The exercise follows a presidential order to ban gambling machines and illicit brew.

“We were able to burn more than 1,000 gambling machines and there are other machines which are still hidden…” he said.

Matiang’i blamed the machines on increase in crime and increased wrangles among families.

“The gaming machines are not only fueling crime but are also a leading cause of family break-ups as most irresponsible husbands spend their hard earned cash on them.”

He warned chiefs who are entertaining operation of the gambling machines in their areas of jurisdiction saying that they would be fired.

The team heads to Nyamira on Friday for a similar exercise. According to the CS, the government took the decision to protect school children who are the bulk of those targeted by cheap and unregulated betting games.

“We have had instances where students drop out of school due to addictions. Some of these machines are operated by foreigners who are in the country illegally. We will not accept resurgence of illegal gambling machines and illicit brews anywhere in the country. Chiefs and assistance chiefs must take personal responsibility to eradicate these vices,” he said.

Betting is a multi-billion shilling  industry currently in the centre of a storm over a 35 percent income tax recently imposed by the government, a figure the gaming companies have protested as too high. The crackdown on the illicit alcohol and gaming began in 2016, after a public outcry on their effects on adults and children. The alcoholic drinkshave been blamed for causing health complications, breakdown of families and decline in economic productivity of addicted individuals.

In the past, the Betting Control and Licensing Board accused counties of allowing installation of illegal gaming machines. With the help of the police, national government officials raided some of the gambling dens in bars in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Nakuru, among other towns.

In many of the cases handled by police, youths were found interacting with criminals at gambling dens as they looked for money to engage in betting.

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