Irrational and unreasonable
There have been many recent changes involving the advertising of gambling companies in Kenya. Most recently, an attempt by the Betting Control and Licensing Board to ban all outdoor advertising of gambling has been quashed.
The judge who set aside the directive, Justice John Mativo, was criticized by the Board, who declared it “illegal, irrational and unreasonable.”
The Control Board’s acting director, Liti Wambua, agreed in April to new sanctions on gambling advertising, which led to an outright ban on any type of advertising, whether on an outdoor billboard or through social media. This was coupled with a ban on the use of celebrity endorsements, meaning that many operators found their hands tied when it came to any advertising at all.
Appealing the judgment
The recent appeal stemmed from a petition by Outdoor Advertising of Kenya, which opposed the recent rule changes. Justice Mativo ruled that the regulations were adopted in a manner inconsistent with the country’s constitution.
New gambling advertisement laws that were to come into effect by May 30 are now under scrutiny. This includes a law giving the Control Board veto power over advertising.
The board was to release new standards prohibiting online ads, especially if they targeted people based on their consumer interests and browsing behavior. The board was particularly worried that too many minors can be co-opted through online advertisements. It is unsure whether any new rules will be watered down after this court ruling.
The prohibitive guidelines were said to include long lists of unacceptable types of content that were to be banned from adverts, such as the use of animated or licensed characters that would especially appeal to children. Celebrity endorsements and youth culture were also not to be celebrated. Recently foreign gambling workers in Kenya were deported as the board cracked down on the pastime.
Objecting to the rules, lawyer Nelson Havi explained that operators would suffer irreparable loss from existing contracts and obligations already in place. It was also argued that the implementation of the order had no legal authority under the Gaming Act.
In his finding, Justice Mativo agreed. He said: “I find that the impugned decision was adopted in a manner that was procedurally unfair. I find no difficulty in concluding that the applicant has demonstrated the existence of procedural impropriety in the manner in which the decision was arrived at.”
Operators in Kenya find themselves with a small reprieve when it comes to their advertising, for now.