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Betting board defends reason to cancel new SportPesa owner's license

By Kamau Muthoni | February 20th 2021

Betting regulator has defended its decision to cancel the new SportPesa owner's licence despite a court order.

The Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) says that court orders issued barring it from taking action against Milestone, the new SportPesa owners, had lapsed.

In the case, Milestone wanted BCLB members jailed for defying court orders.

In an affidavit filed before court, BCLB chairman Cyrus Maina says that at the time the board was cracking the whip, the 14-day suspension which Milestone is contesting had already lapsed.

“By the time the court issued the order on November 16, 2020 staying the impugned suspension, the said suspension had taken its full effect and lapsed by operation of the law since its lifespan was 14 days,” Mr Maina replied.

Milestone accuses BCLB of defying court orders as it issued a show-cause letter on November 16 last year while there was an order by Justice Pauline Nyamweya barring BCLB from taking any action as per the letter.

According to the Pevans Limited successor, the board had a pre-determined decision and its actions showed bias. In its papers, Milestone cited Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i's sentiments on betting saying there was reasonable doubt that the board would act impartially.

Milestone went back to court complaining that although there were orders barring BCLB from taking any action, it withdrew the initial letters and replaced them with the November 24 one.

The betting firm argued that BCLB’s actions were meant to defeat the purpose of court orders and frustrate its businesses in the country.

Mr Maina said Dr Matiang’i was acting for the good of the country and not out of personal interest.

“It is true that Interior Cabinet Secretary has made a public pronouncement to the effect that no one shall operate a gaming business without a requisite permit issued by the respondent,” said Maina.

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He continued: “The actions of the Cabinet Secretary....mentioned herein have always been in the public interest and not personal or sectarian interests."

Meanwhile, telecommunications firm Airtel says it did not sign any deal with Milestone over its messaging services and playbill numbers. According to the telco, Pevans went against their agreement that it would not transfer or assign any rights to any other party without its consent.

Airtel’s legal manager Lilian Mugo said the Central Bank of Kenya, Communications Authority of Kenya, and BCLB in 2019 directed it to suspend its services with Pevans. That decision, she said, still stands.

“Milestone has to date never approached Airtel for partnership in regard to Airtel’s money service and/or telecommunication service and/or issuance of shortcodes, USSD codes, or paybill numbers and its assertions in this matter are misplaced,” Ms Mugo said in her response.

Airtel said Milestone ought to have got all requisite authorisation and licences before it could get into the gaming business.

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