SportPesa’s return to its home market of Kenya has been impeded following a licence suspension authorised by Kenya’s Betting Control & Licensing Board (BCLB).
Following a year-long hiatus from Kenya’s sports betting market, SportPesa intended to relaunch its betting services this weekend under a licence held by new operating firm ‘Milestone Bet’.
Prior to its planned re-launch, SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri had confirmed to national media that Milestone had acquired a five-year agreement to operate the SportPesa brand within Kenya.
Karauri maintained that all assets and operational teams had been transferred to Milestone as operating company, in which the firm had chosen to maintain the SportPesa brand as a means to re-establish its position as Kenyan betting’s market leader.
However, hours following its relaunch SportPesa was forced to suspend activities, as the BCLB Chairman Cyrus Maina ordered an immediate suspension of Milestone’s new licence.
The BCLB enforcement stated that Milestone could not operate the SportPesa brand as the trading name was registered to the former holding company of ‘Pevans East Africa’.
Despite Milestone taking ownership of SportPesa operations, Maina stated that a relaunch of the brand would be impermissible as Pevans was engaged in an ongoing tax dispute with the BCLB and Kenya’s Treasury with regards to unpaid taxes on player winnings.
Ordering Milestone’s suspension, the BCLB had instructed Kenyan banks and mobile carriers not to process any payment transactions related to SportPesa.
This summer, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta approved the nation’s new Finance Bill, which removed a blanket 20% gross excise tax which had been imposed across all gambling verticals.
Kenyatta’s decision had been earmarked as a new chapter for Kenya sports betting following the 2019 market fallout in relation to high taxes and the BCLB suspending 26 bookmakers with regards to unpaid taxes.
Despite the Kenyatta government dropping its blanket taxes on gambling, Maina has maintained that the BCLB will pursue its legacy infringements in the interest of the Treasury.
Under suspension, a number of Kenyan operators have moved to restructure their operations and licensing arrangements with a view to re-entering the market under new conditions.
This summer, Stockholm-listed Betsson AB confirmed its intentions to join the new marketplace having formed a new strategic joint-venture with domestic incumbent Bet High Ltd to launch ‘BetSafe Kenya’.