Sports betting

Sportpesa’s Kenyan return blocked by BCLB

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Kenyan betting operator Sportpesa has had its return to activity in its home country blocked, after regulator the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) ruled that its new licence holder did not have permission to use the Sportpesa brand.
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In a letter to Sportpesa, BCLB chairman Cyrus Maina revealed that Milestone Games Limited, which held a license to use the trading name Milestone Bet, had informed the BCLB on 30 October that it had acquired rights to use the Sportpesa brand for five years and would use this brand in its Kenyan operations

That day, Sportpesa returned to the Kenyan market under Milestone’s licence, more than a year after withdrawing because of an “unfair operating environment”.

However, Maina said this return was not permissible as Sportpesa was still engaged in an appeal over its own licence. This, he explained, prevented another licensee from using the brand.

“According to information in our possession, the trading name Sportpesa belongs to Pevans East Africa, a company which has filed an appeal in court over its gaming licence and the matter, case number 471 of 2019, will be heard on November 16, 2020,” he said.

As a result, he said the Board had suspended Milestone’s operating license and asked payment providers such as Safaricom, which owns the popular M-Pesa mobile payment service, to stop processing transactions for the site.

In addition, he said that “the known owners of the trading name Sportpesa are not licensed to operate in the gaming business in Kenya,” which may raise questions of Sportpesa’s future in the market even after the appeal concludes.

Sportpesa’s new Kenyan site is currently still accessible in the country, but players may not withdraw, deposit or bet.

Maina said that Milestone may continue to trade using the Milestone Bet brand.

The operator had initially withdrawn from Kenya in October 2019 after the a controversial excise tax on betting stakes was increased from 10% to 20%. This tax was later removed entirely in June with the passage of Kenya’s budget bill.

That dispute followed a separate one over a tax on winnings, which authorities argued included original stakes as well, which would have left Sportpesa with significant back taxes. An appeals court ultimately ruled in Sportpesa’s favour on this matter.