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Stoyan Todorov October 30, 2020 3 min read
SportPesa Officially Back in Kenya, Resumes Sportsbook
Leading sports betting operator SportPesa has made an official return in Kenya after a year since it left the country in October, 2019.
Update (31/10/20): The Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) has suspended Milestone Games Limited’s right to use the ‘SportPesa’ trademark – read more details here.
SportPesa Is officially Back in Kenya
Sports bettors in Kenya have much to be happy about as SportPesa has just announced that it is resuming operations in the country following a 12-month beef with the government and a tax ruling that forced it to suspend operations in the first place.
The last time we heard about SportPesa was when a rumor swirled that the Liverpool-headquartered sports betting operator might be considering a return, but nothing in the legal landscape suggested as much.
In an official message shared on Twitter less than an hour ago, Sportpesa said that it was delighted to resume operations in Kenya, and thanked fans for their continuous support:
“We are pleased to once again offer gaming services to our customers. Over the coming months, we are excited to explore a wide range of new partnerships in the country. Thank you for your support.”
Sportpesa has long been touted as the best betting sites in the country and has built a loyal following in Kenya.
Why the Breakup?
The bad break-up with the Kenyan government started when SportPesa, a company that has shareholders from Kenya, Bulgaria, and the USA, decided to withdraw from the market because of a stringent new tax that wanted to tax gambling gross receipts by 20% instead of taxing operators’ winnings.
SportPesa finally discontinued operations in October 2019 and released 453 employees. Prior to this event, the sportsbook had taken its case to the Tax Appeals Tribunal in Nairobi, and hoped to obtain a favorable ruling alongside other disgruntled operators, including competitor Betin.
Shortly after, the Tribunal ruled in favor of the operators, deciding that any taxation should only apply to winnings rather than the overall gross revenue. Winning the Tax Appeals Tribunal was an important step forward for SportPesa, but the company faced a new challenge.
Litigation Cuts Both Ways
The Betting Control and Licensing Board, the national gambling regulator in Kenya, had suspended SportPesa’s license back on July 1, 2019, claiming that SportPesa owed millions in unpaid tax. Payment options were also suspended.
SportPesa lost an appeal against the Nairobi High Court arguing against the BCLB’s decision.
It seemed incredible that SportPesa had managed to defeat the government on the most controversial law the sports betting industry had seen but failed to successfully argue its case against the back taxes.
As to the present return of the company, there have been no official details on why, how, and what SportPesa has negotiated with the government and the regulator.
Commenting on the return, SportPesa CEO Captain Ronald Karauri said that the company was excited to be back in Kenya and was looking forward to working with the regulator.
He specifically had this to say: “As market leaders, SportPesa will focus on upholding the highest standards of service and responsible gaming. We look forward to working closely with BCLB and all other stakeholders,”cited by Nairobi News, a media outlet.
Regardless, Kenyan sports bettors are thrilled to have it back.
Sports September 25, 2023