Betting Agencies put brakes on radio games

‘Send money and win’ radio games may soon cease to exist

The end is near for the numerous “send money and win” messages listeners hear on some radio stations following action by watchdog agencies over the past few days.

The Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) on Monday sent a letter to all media houses ordering radio stations without a gaming licence to stop any prize competitions they were running. As for those permitted, it added, all draws must be done in the presence of BCLB officials.

“In the recent past, the operations of prize competitions and short-term lotteries has experienced some levels of abuse where permit/licence holders instead of carrying out the lotteries or prize competitions themselves, they enter into agreements with media stations, especially radio, to undertake the same, including conducting draws on their behalf,” read part of the letter signed by BCLB director Peter Mbugi.

BCLB is a government department under the Interior ministry that is responsible for regulating all forms of lottery.

And on Wednesday, the Media Council of Kenya — an independent body mandated with accrediting and setting standards for journalists and ensuring compliance — announced the formation of a seven-member taskforce chaired by Emmanuel Juma to review betting and related activities in media houses.

“The council has noted that the content in advertisements and talk shows often does not meet the standards established in law,” said a statement from the council signed by its CEO David Omwoyo.

The taskforce, which has Mr Wangethi Mwangi, Mr Ken Bosire, Ms Ruth Nesoba, Ms Julie Masiga, Mr Tole Nyatta and Dr Lydia Radoli as members, will be expected to submit is report in the first week of August.

This is even as the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), a government agency that licences media stations, told the Saturday Nation recently that it would be factoring in the issue of runaway betting competitions in a code of conduct it will be developing from July 1 to replace one that has been in place since 2019.

Unauthorised gaming activities

“The programming code is due for review in the next fiscal year as from July 1, where we expect to address aspects of the betting/gaming during the watershed period amongst other concerns in liaison with the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB),” said Peter Ikumilu, a director at CA.

A number of Kenyans have been raising concerns over the frequency and duration of competitions where listeners are encouraged to send money, usually via Mpesa, to stand a chance to win a mouth-watering amount every hour.

BCLB said in its letter that the scenario had “provided a fertile ground for unauthorised gaming activities”.

“(It) has also affected the general messaging of prize competitions and lotteries to a menial ‘send this and win that’ without informing the public what competition or lottery they are engaging in. In a nutshell, this situation has turned some radio stations into betting shops while totally disregarding the watershed hours and the gaming advertisement guidelines,” it said.

“In order to address this abuse, radio stations will not be allowed to carry out any lottery or prize competition draw unless the said radio station has a gaming permit to do so,” BCLB added.

The letter was copied to CA, MCK and the Media Owners’ Association.

It also added that pay bill and account numbers being announced for competitions should be in the names of the permit holders and not the radio stations.

“Any licence permit holder who fails to adhere to this directive shall have their licence or permit withdrawn,” BCLB said, adding that radio stations that will defy the directive will be treated as having defied the Gaming Act that requires any lottery organiser to be registered.

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