SportPesa gamble flops as comeback is blocked
Lewis Njoka @LewisNjoka
A bid by betting firm SportPesa to return to the Kenyan market has flopped after the betting regulator suspended the licence of the firm it was to operate under.
On Saturday, the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) announced it had suspended the licence of Milestone Gaming Ltd, which was to operate the SportPesa brand.
Additionally, the till number used by SportPesa fans to place bets were suspended, effectively locking the firm out of the market for now.
The move came only hours after SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri on Friday announced the return of the betting giant, which pulled out of the Kenyan market last year following a protracted disagreement with the government, under a new licence.
Announcing the decision, BCLB Chairman Cyrus Maina said Milestone violated regulatory protocols as it lacks the right to utilise the various domains, paybills and short codes used by SportPesa.
He said the trade name SportPesa belonged to Pevans East Africa Ltd hence Milestone could not use it to trade as one of its brand names.
“According to information in our possession, the trade name ‘SportPesa’ belongs to M/s Pevans East Africa Ltd.
The said company has filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal in Nairobi no. 471 of 2019. The matter before the Court of Appeal contests the issuance of the gaming license to Pevans East Africa trading as SportPesa,” Maina wrote to Milestone on Friday.
“We note that Milestone Games Ltd has been authorised to use the trademark ‘SportPesa’ by M/S SportPesa Global Holdings Ltd where else during the 2020/21 financial year renewal application the board authorised the use of trading name ‘Milestone Bets’ to yourselves,” he added.
He warned Milestone against using paybill numbers and domains owned by SportPesa until the case is determined and BCLB has considered Milestone’s request to use the copyrighted materials.
On October 30, Milestone had written to the betting regulator, saying SportPesa Global Holdings Ltd had authorised it to use the brand name, SportPesa, for a period of five years. BCLB, however, termed the move a serious regulatory matter, warning it attracted dire consequences.
The announcement by Karauri on Friday had created excitement across the country owing to the fact that SportPesa was a key sponsor of sporting events before its collapse. It sponsored clubs such as AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia.
“We are pleased to once again offer gaming services to our customers. Over the coming months, we are excited to explore a wide range of new partnerships in the country,” SportPesa said in a statement.
Last year, SportPesa parent company, Pevans, filed a case in court challenging the closure of their operations after it failed to adhere to the punitive tax measures introduced by the government in 2019. The case will be heard on November 16.