Government eyes Rw1b from sluggish gaming industry

The gaming sector has contributed Rwf1.2b in indirect taxes to the economy since its establishment in 2008.
A sports betting winner receives a dummy cheque from New Africa Gaming officials last week. The New Times/J. Mbanda
A sports betting winner receives a dummy cheque from New Africa Gaming officials last week. The New Times/J. Mbanda

The gaming sector has contributed Rwf1.2b in indirect taxes to the economy since its establishment in 2008.

Gaming activities, including casino activities, slot machines and sports betting were initially tax-free, but contributed to revenues indirectly in form of income and corporate taxes.

This fiscal year, the government introduced the gaming tax law through which it expects to collect direct taxes worth Rwf1b from the virgin industry.

As of September last year, gaming activities are charged a specific tax of 13 per cent on the companies and a withholding tax of 15 per cent on all wins by players.

According to Phillip Brizoua, the Rwanda Gaming Corporation CEO, the industry is steadily gaining momentum and will reach the level expected of it once its restructuring phase is complete.

“The industry was not directly taxed until last year, but it does not mean that it was not significant to Rwanda’s economy. We still paid income tax, pay as you earn and benefits to the social security board,” Brizoua told Business Times in an interview.

“It was still a young industry and most of the money made was reinvested to ensure sustainability.

“However, it has come of age and will surely benefit the government and community. There is a law, but we are yet to operationalise it.”

The gaming corporation oversees the industry, monitors activities at Kigali Casino, as well as the hundreds of slot machines and sports betting centres in Kigali City.

“The industry is sensitive and, if not well monitored and regulated, it could be a channel for illegal activities like money laundering or match-fixing,” Brizoua warned.

“We must know the new entrants and get a profile of all the investors to improve transparency in the industry. Gaming is good for the economy, thanks to the taxes and jobs in the sector,” Brizoua noted.

“If we get bad elements who don’t care about the age or status of the players or those that do not adhere to taxation rules, then the industry will not serve its purpose.”

The industry currently employs 450 people, but targets to create extra 1,500 by 2015 jobs by expanding gaming activities from Kigali to other provinces. The gaming corporation also targets to generate Rwf19b in taxes over the same period.

The Rwanda Revenue Authority requires a gaming taxpayer to declare the tax on gaming activities, according to the form and procedure specified by the Commissioner General, and pay the tax in a period not exceeding 15 days following the end of each month.

 

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