Ruto turns to Devki billionaire as he eyes share of betting billions

President William Ruto with Devki Group boss Narendra Raval

President William Ruto with Devki Group boss Narendra Raval. Dr Raval has been appointed to head a steering committee set to establish a National Lottery.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has appointed a 25-member presidential taskforce to establish a National Lottery led by billionaire Narendra Raval.

In a gazette notice dated February 16, 2022, the Head of State said the taskforce will espouse the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) and harness the collective synergies among the public in being part of the solution through participating in a national lottery whose proceeds will contribute towards good causes and the amelioration of the plight of persons in need.

By creating a National Lottery, the government will now be jostling for a share of the cake with other existing public lotteries and gaming firms.

In the financial year ended June 2022, Treasury grossed Sh3.294 billion as gaming revenues while the exchequer hopes to net Sh15 billion from the industry this year.

Kenyans spent Sh169.1 billion to place bets through Safaricom’s M-Pesa in the year to March, underlining the gambling craze that has become a national pastime.

The telecoms operator’s disclosures showed that the value of bets jumped 23.8 per cent from Sh136 billion a year earlier, defying a government clampdown on gambling through the imposition of higher taxes both on the companies and punters.

Safaricom, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and betting firms are the biggest beneficiaries of the growth and intensity of betting activities, pocketing billions.

The telco’s revenue from betting rose 40 per cent to Sh5.98 billion in 2021, beating sales of more than a third of firms listed at the Nairobi bourse.

Mobilise resources

President Ruto said the taskforce will posit a national lottery as part of the institutional framework to mobilise resources to supplement the Government’s efforts towards addressing various social causes and needs.

“Whereas there have been varied attempts to establish this National Lottery, such as the Gaming Bill, 2019, which would have repealed the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act (Cap. 131) Laws of Kenya enacted in 1966, the envisaged repeal of the 1966 law would have heralded a new era in the licensing of public lotteries, betting, and gaming, thereby addressing the contemporary societal challenges arising from the current framework,” the gazette notice says.

It adds that the proposed reforms in the governance of betting and gaming are in furtherance of the solemn duty of the State to nurture and protect the well-being of all persons by promoting a national culture and psyche of “responsible betting and gaming”.

“It is notified that His Excellency Hon. William Samoei Ruto, PhD, President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, has appointed a Presidential Taskforce on establishment of a National Lottery which shall be structured in two tiers, namely; the Steering Committee and the Technical Committee.”

The steering committee will be chaired Mr Raval who will be deputised by Gideon Thuranira while its members will include the Principal Secretary, National Treasury or his Representative, Principal Secretary, Interior or his representative, Principal Secretary, Social Protection or his representative, Principal Secretary, Culture and Heritage or her representative, Solicitor-General or his representative and Representative of the Council of Governors. They include Paul Russo, Judith Karigu Kiragu, Anne Wakathiru Njenga, Grace Kamau, Abdillahi K. Mutwafy and Jackline Chelangat Tonui.

The technical committee will comprise Dr Linda Musumba as the Chairperson and the members will be Wanjiku Wakogi, Dr Eric Aligula, Collins Kiprono, Peter Mbugi, Fred Mbasi, Geoffrey Malombe, Eric Korir, Wilson Njenga, Catherine Ochanda and Murimi Murage two joint secretaries.

The taskforce will undertake a comprehensive review of the best practices on the establishment of national lotteries in other jurisdictions and develop a policy and implementation plan that will guide the establishment and operationalization of the National Lottery in Kenya.

They will also facilitate the necessary consultations with all key stakeholders in the country on the establishment of a National Lottery and examine the existing administrative, institutional, policy, and legislative structures and systems in the betting and gaming industry

Also, the team will recommend comprehensive reforms that will support and facilitate a sustainable framework for the implementation and operation of the National Lottery.

They will also develop a prioritized implementation matrix that clearly states the immediate, medium, and long-term sectoral reforms and the attendant budgetary requirements necessary for the efficient operation of the National Lottery among other duties.

The Secretariat of the Taskforce shall be domiciled at the Office of the President.

Despite the existence of public lotteries such as the Kenya Charity Sweepstake and Win Lotto, Kenya does not have a National Lottery.

A National Lottery is a State franchised lottery raising money for the arts, sports and charities by selling numbered tickets and giving prizes to holders of numbers drawn at random.

In countries such as the US, National Lotteries are central to revenue mobilization by States who run popular lotteries such as Mega Millions and Powerball as designated National Lotteries.

In the United Kingdom, the Gambling Commission runs the National Lottery which was established in 1994.

Kenya made a previous attempt to establish a National Lottery through the proposed 2019, Gaming Bill which would have seen the first such entity established in Kenya.

The Gaming Bill had been envisioned to replace the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act.