Online betting operator SportPesa is set to face further delays in its plans to return to the Kenyan betting market, following a legal setback at the weekend.

Less than a day after the CEO of SportPesa, Ronald Karauri claimed on social media that the company was back in business, Kenya’s Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) suspended the licence belonging to Mile Stone Gaming Limited, the company that was to operate as Sportpesa.

In explaining the decision, the chairman of the BCLB, Cyrus Maina, said that the betting firm had gone behind their back in announcing their return to Kenya. Maina referred to the fact that their current records showed the company that currently owned the name Sportspesa, was involved in a court case in Nairobi. He added that the case, which involved the issue of a gaming licence to the company was due to be heard on November 16, but until then, the company concerned, Pevans E.A.Ltd, was not licensed for operating any gaming business in the country.

SportPesa has been in dispute with the government since the beginning of 2018 due to tax issues, a dispute that led to its permits being cancelled in August 2019.

The company, which has sponsored many sports tournaments in the country, including the Kenyan Premier League along with clubs including Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, ended its operations in the country more than 16 months ago, citing what it described as an ‘unfriendly environment’.

On Saturday, the BCLB revealed that the company Mile Stone Games Limited, which currently operates under licence with the trading name Mile Stone Bet, wrote to them saying that they had acquired the trading name Sportpesa. The company claimed that they had gained permission from Sportpesa Global Holdings Ltd to use the name for five years. They also claimed to have permission to use the various domains previously used by Pevans E.A Ltd. The BCLB also said that Mile Stone Games went on to publicise their new operating name, and, according to Maina, they were forced to take immediate action:

“This is a serious regulatory matter with dire consequences. In this regard, BCLB has suspended the operating license of Mile Stone Games Ltd and asked the Communications Authority of Kenya to shut down the said domains.”

The BCLB have also ordered mobile service providers Safaricom Plc Ltd and Airtel Kenya to close down the communications platforms currently being used by Mile Stone Games, and have asked a variety of bodies, including the Governor of the Central Bank, the Inspector General of Police, the Kenya Revenue Authority and the Financial Reporting Centre to investigate.

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