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Blow for Karauri as betting board halts SportPesa’s grand return

 Ronald Karauri [Photo: Courtesy]

Barely a day after SportPesa announced its comeback into the Kenyan market, the industry regulator has stepped in to block the move. Hours after SportPesa chief executive Ronald Karauri took to social media to announce their return, the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) contradicted him saying the company was still unauthorised to operate.

The industry regulator says it is against the new move because Sportpesa was set to return to business under a licence held by Milestone Games, a business licensed only two weeks ago. Milestone Games had been licensed to run a betting platform known as Milestone Bet but after a deal with SportPesa Global Holdings Ltd, were authorised to use the SportPesa brand name.

Read Also: Who owns SportPesa? Here is the full list of its shareholders

But that suspect move has prompted the industry regulator to suspend Milestone Games Ltd operating licence. BCLB is accusing the company of engaging in underhand deals to return SportPesa back to business. “... the Board has requested the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, the Director National Intelligence Service (NIS) the Governor Central Bank of Kenya, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and Kenya Revenue Authority to investigate any evasive acts within their respective mandate and conduct financial tracing to prevent further violation,” BCLB chair Cyrus Maina said.

BCLB is also arguing that Pevans East Africa Ltd, the company that operates SportPesa in Kenya has an active court case challenging the revocation of their operating licence and therefore the brand name was not transferrable until the case was concluded. 

“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,” BCLB said yesterday. It’s more than a year since SportPesa’s operating license was revoked and the company announced that it was shutting down operations in Kenya.

Prior to its exit, SportPesa, then the biggest betting firm, was sponsoring the Kenya Premier League, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards football clubs as well as Premier League club Everton. Both deals ended with now the company only sponsoring Tanzanian clubs Yanga SC and Simba SC. Meanwhile, the news of SportPesa’s resuming operations was received with excitement and caution.

“SportPesa is back! I’m happy to announce that the SportPesa brand is back under a new BCLB license holder,” Karauri tweeted on Friday. But BCLB said they had suspended the operating license of Milestone Games Ltd for a breach of the terms of their licence and non-disclosure of their intention to acquire the SportPesa brand.

Read Also: Why I quit my job as a KQ pilot - SportPesa CEO

M/S Milestone Games Ltd wrote a letter on October 30 informing the Board that it had acquired a new trading name “SportPesa” and had received authorisation to use the trade name from M/S SportPesa Global Holdings Ltd for five years. Shortly afterwards things took a new turn.

“You (Milestone Games Ltd) are therefore prohibited from using the trade name SportPesa,” Maina wrote to the company’s Operations Manager Bernard Chauro. BCLB also addressed the letter to Safaricom PLC’s legal officer and Acting Director-General of Communication Authority of Kenya. The prohibition extends to the use of SportPesa’s web domain and short codes.





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