SportPesa return put on hold

Sportpesa CEO Ronald Karauri during a past press conference.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) Saturday suspended the license of Milestone Gaming Limited which was to operate as Sportpesa
  • This comes just a day after SportPesa had announced its return to the Kenyan market after 16 months in the cold

Online gaming company SportPesa will have to wait longer to resume operations in the country. 

Less than 24 hours after SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri announced that the company was back in business via Twitter, the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) Saturday suspended the license of Mile Stone Gaming Limited which was to operate as Sportpesa.

BCLB chairman Cyrus Maina claimed that the betting firm went behind their back to get the go-ahead.

“The Board has been brought to attention of information circulating in the media to the effect that “Sportpesa” has resumed operations in the gaming industry. According to the records in our possession the trade name “Sportpesa” belongs to M/S Pevans E.A Ltd, a company that has filed an appeal in Nairobi case no.471 of 2019.

"The matter before the Court of Appeal contests the issuance of the gaming license to M/S Pevans E.A Ltd t/a “Sportpesa”. The matter is scheduled to be heard on November 16, 2020. As at now, M/S Pevans E.A Ltd, the known owners of the trade name “Sportpesa” is not licensed to operate any gaming business in Kenya,” said BCLB Chairman Cyrus Kibera Maina.

SportPesa has been at loggerheads with the government since early 2018 due to tax issues. Its operational permits were cancelled in August 2019.

The company, which sponsored many sporting activities including Kenyan Premier League and clubs like Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, halted its operations in Kenya over 16 months ago. It cited “an unfriendly environment and frustrations from the government” as reasons for exiting the Kenyan market.

On Saturday, BCLB revealed that M/S Mile Stone Games Limited, which is a licensed operator with a trading name “Mile Stone Bet,” wrote to the Board on Friday informing them that it had acquired a new trading name “Sportpesa”.

In the letter, BCLB says Mile Stone Bet indicated that they had received authorization to use the trade name from M/S Sportpesa Global Holdings Ltd for a period of five years.

In addition to use the trade name “Sportpesa”, the gaming operator informed the Board that the company will also utilize the various domains, paybills and shortcodes earlier used by M/S Pevans E.A Ltd “Sportpesa”.

The Board responded to their letter on October 30, 2020 prohibiting them from using the said name “Sportpesa”, the various domains, Pay bills and shortcodes previously used by M/S Pevans E.A Ltd “Sportpesa”.

Cyrus Maina

Betting Control and Licensing Board Chairman Cyrus Maina when he announced that the board had revoked the license of Mile Stones Games Limited for using SportPesa as its trade name on October 31, 2020 at  KCS House, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Kanyiri Wahito | Nation Media Group

Despite this prohibition, BCLB says, Mile Stone Games Ltd went ahead to publicize their new operating name, domains, pay bills and shortcodes.

“This is a serious regulatory matter with dire consequences. In this regard, BCLB has suspended the operating license of Mile Stone Games Ltd and asked the Communications Authority of Kenya to shut down the said domains,” said Maina as he directed mobile service providers Safaricom Plc Ltd and Airtel Kenya to shut down the paybills and shortcodes currently being used by Mile Stone Games Ltd.

He added that the Board has asked the Inspector General of Police, Director of National Intelligence Service, the Governor of Central Bank, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Financial Reporting Centre and Kenya Revenue Authority to “investigate any evasive acts within their respective mandate and conduct financial trading to prevent further violation”.