SportPesa, Kenya’s leading bookmaker before having its license suspended and being forced to abandon operations, has reportedly generated nearly $200 million from bets in May 2019, a recently leaked regulatory paper revealed.
An official revenue spreadsheet acquired from an insider from the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB), the gaming regulatory body in Kenya, by the UK-based investigative journalism and training project Finance Uncovered, showed betting operators generated nearly $300 million in May 2019, with SportPesa accounting for almost two-thirds of it and topping the list. As numbers in the leaked spreadsheet are voluntarily reported by sports betting operators, the generated revenues could be even higher.
Despite being only a one-month snapshot, the leaked numbers revealed an overall picture of the magnitude of gambling in Kenya. Considering there is no seasonal component to the betting pattern, an extrapolation from that one month figure shows an annual market of $3.5 billion, a staggering figure for a country marred by gambling addictions.
Mental Health Issues
According to Gaming Awareness Society of Kenya, data on mental health indicates gambling as the main cause for mental health problems, with devastating effects such as family breakups, addiction, depression, unmanageable debt, increased crime and suicides.
SportPesa was the country’s leading betting operator until the government decided to place an excise tax of 20% on gross receipts, and the company initiated legal action in the Tax Appeals Tribunal in Nairobi. Despite winning the lawsuit as the Tribunal sided with SportPesa and fellow Betin operator that tax should be applied to operators’ winnings after players’ winnings are paid out, the Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR), the final outcome was not in SportPesa’s favour.
The company lost its betting license after the gambling regulator stepped in, following claims from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for unpaid disputed taxes relating back to one year before the new tax was introduced, forcing SportPesa to close shop and layoff hundreds of employees.
The firm became famous internationally after it announced a sponsorship deal with Everton FC, the biggest deal in the club’s sponsorship history. SportPesa also set up global headquarters in Everton’s home, Liverpool. Before that, the betting company made several smaller attempts with other Premier League clubs, as well as some top Italian and La Liga teams.
Recently, some punters observed SportPesa’s website was back on, after it had been inactive since the company had lost its license and suspended operations, fuelling rumours the betting operator was angling towards a comeback to the country.