Regulators in Kenya have shut down SportPesa once again only hours after the sportsbook came back online.
SportPesa Caught in Legal Battle over Trade Mark Name Again
SportPesa is dead, long live SportPesa. The emotional roller-coaster for Kenyan sports bettors continues as their favorite sportsbook returned on Friday, but was blocked by the country’s Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) shortly after.
Effectively, Milestone Games Limited has been stopped by the BCLB to operate under the Sportpesa brand. According to the regulator, the trade name had been appropriated from Pevans East Africa Limited, which the BCLB considered to be the rightful owner of the ‘SportPesa’ trademark.
According to Africa Business Daily, though, the regulator confirmed that Milestone was authorized to operate the Sportpesa trademark by Sportpesa Global Holdings whose directors are also executives at Pevans East Africa. The BCLB itself had this to say for Goal, another media outlet interested in the current predicament:
“We note that Milestone Games Limited has been authorized to use the trademark ‘SportPesa’ by M/s SportPesa Global Holdings Limited whereas, during the 2020/21 financial year renewal application, the board authorized the use of the trading name ‘Milestone Bet’ to yourselves.”–BCLB
This is unfortunate news and hopefully a temporary setback for Sportpesa CEO Ronald Karauri. Mr. Karauri confirmed earlier on Friday that the brand was opening a new chapter and it had become a “BCLB license holder.”
Apparently not, as BCLB chairman Cyrus Maina had to write to Milestone operations manager Bernard Chauro and inform him about the change of plans. The exact content of the message stated:
“According to information in our possession, the trade name ‘Sportpesa’ belongs to M/s Pevans East Africa Limited. 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 t/a Sportpesa. The matter is scheduled to be heard on November 16, 2020.”-BCLB Chairman Cyrus Maina
The letter ended by arguing that Milestone was effectively prohibited to use the ‘Sportpesa’ name until such a time that the Court of Appeal had made a decision on a pending appeal and until the Board, that is the BCLB, had reached a decision whether Milestone can continue trading under ‘Sportpesa’ and the associated ke.sportpesa.com and sportpesa.co.ke domains.
Milestone May Continue to Operate Under Its Own Name
According to regulators, Milestone may still continue trading under ‘Milestone Bet,’ but not with any of the aforementioned domains. According to Maina, the prohibition was necessary to avoid confusion among the general public.
Sportpesa is the most popular sports betting site and gaming brand in Kenya with an estimated customer base of 12 million people. When Karauri announced the return of the sportsbook, the news was well-received among the community.
As GamblingNews understands these developments properly, BCLB is aware that Pevans allowed Milestone to operate under the ‘SportPesa’ brand name, but the Board prohibits it lest it creates confusion.
All of this could mean that SportPesa fans could potentially need to wait until November 1 for a resolution of the present situation.