SportPesa blow as Nairobi High Court denies licence renewal

SportPesa has lost its Nairobi High Court appeal in relation to the bookmaker overturning its licence restrictions sanctioned by Kenya’s Betting Control & Licensing Board’s (BCLB) this July.

The bookmaker at the forefront of the Kenyan government’s betting industry dispute related to unpaid taxes on player winnings had moved to challenge the BCLB’s decision not to renew its operator licence, stating that the authority had acted unfairly in the interest of the Kenyan government pursuing its mandate against Kenyan betting incumbents.

Furthermore, SportPesa governance was seeking compensation for the abrupt closure of its business operations across Kenya, stating that the BCLB had abused its power as a government agency.

Presiding over the court case, Nairobi Justice John Mativo overruled SportPesa’s demands, stating that the betting group had failed to demonstrate that the BCLB had acted in an arbitrary manner with regards to its licence renewal.

In his judgement, Mativo underlined that SportPesa had not demonstrated a clear partisan action against its business, such as ‘an express refusal, or an implied refusal through an unreasonable delay to grant the license’.

The Justice detailed that the BCLB had therefore acted within its remit as a governing body, by simply not renewing SportPesa’s licence, regardless of its ongoing tax dispute with the Kenyan government.

“The circumstances of this case are that the petitioner’s licence has expired,” said Mativo. “Even if the court quashes the decision there is no basis the petitioner can operate on an expired licence.”

The Nairobi judgement represents a blow for a further 26 Kenyan betting operators, whose licenses have not been renewed by the BCLB.

Despite pursuing a KSH 14 billion (€125 million) tax charge from SportPesa, the Kenyan government has detailed that it will allow the bookmaker to reapply for a new licence in accordance with meeting BCLB mandatory conditions – SportPesa governance has yet to confirm whether it will take this option.

In further news related to the Kenyan betting market, the BCLB renewed the operator licence of  Betway’s Kenyan market franchise, as its management company agreed that it would commit to operating a 20% withholding tax from customer winnings in accordance with BCLB laws.

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