SportPesa responds to Government directive to suspend its Pay Bill number

By Waweru Titus and Charles Odero: Thursday, July 11th 2019 at 17:17 GMT +3 | Sports
[Courtesy]

Kenyan sports betting firm SportPesa has stated its position after the Government suspended operations on Wednesday.

In an exclusive response to Game Yetu, SportPesa stressed that it upholds all tax and regulatory requirements as required in law.

“SportPesa is a law-abiding corporate citizen that upholds all tax and regulatory requirements. We continue to address the licensing matter with industry regulators and stakeholders,” spokesperson  Ms Lola Okulo, Senior Content Editor at SportPesa said.

Ms Okulo further pointed out that an order from the High Court of Kenya allowed the firm to continue with its operations uninterrupted.

Went on the statement: “In the meantime, the High Court has issued an order that allows SportPesa to continue operations uninterrupted until the matter is resolved and therefore all our pay bills and other services remain operational.”

Another betting firm, MozzartBet, also defended its activities saying it has fully complied with all legal and tax obligations.

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MozzartBet said it is not aware of any complaint of non-compliance whatsoever and therefore took great exception to the “purported suspension” of its operating licence as it engaged with relevant authorities over the issue.

The gaming firm is currently working closely with Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) and revealed that it does not have any pending issue with the regulator, it said.

For the avoidance of doubt, the betting firm attached its Kenya’s valid Tax Compliance Certificate.

On Wednesday the Ministry of Interior suspended licenses of 27 betting firms from operating in Kenya saying they had not met outstanding renewal requirements and therefore their licences had not been renewed.

In a statement sent to newsrooms on Wednesday, the BCLB also directed all mobile money transfer service providers Safaricom, Telkom and Airtel to suspend the PayBill numbers and short codes allocated to the affected companies.

“We wish to inform you that the licenses for the following betting firms were not renewed until they meet the outstanding renewal requirements as well as the outcome of ongoing due diligence to determine if they are fit and proper to hold a license from this board.

“Consequently, we request you to suspend their pay bills and short codes until otherwise advised,” read a letter signed by Acting Director Liti Wambua.

The companies whose licences have since been canceled include Betin, Betway, Betpawa, PremierBet, Lucky2u, 1xBet, MozzartBet, Dafabet, World Sports Betting, Atari Gaming, Palms Bet and Betboss among others.

New data shows that the betting and gambling industry has over the past five years grown to be the biggest advertiser in the country.

According to a new report by Reelforge - a media research firm - and TIFA Research, the industry has edged out the telecommunications sector and the fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers as the leading advertisers.

Betting firms last year accounted for 22 per cent of the Sh95 billion that media houses earned in advertising revenues, a far cry from 0.3 per cent in 2014.

The financial services sector came in second, accounting for 14 per cent, followed by food processing firms (nine per cent), the communications industry (eight per cent) and beverages (eight per cent).

The report showed that half of the top 10 advertisers in the country all come from the betting industry. The key players are Shabiki, SportPesa, Tatua, Lotto and Supa 5.

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