SportPesa takes its license as BCLB backs down



SportPesa takes its license as BCLB backs off

Betting and Licensing Control Board Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Mbugi. PICTURES | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

SportPesa has been granted a license to operate in the current fiscal year ending June 2023, ending years of regulatory and court battles pitting the company against the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB).

A list of betting companies licensed to operate in the 2022/23 financial year shows that Milestone Games Limited – which operates under the SportPesa brand – has obtained license number 0000448.

The regulator has published the updated list of authorized betting companies on its website. For the past two years, Milestone has relied on a temporary court order to operate amid battles over ownership of the SportPesa brand.

Pevans East Africa pioneered sports betting in the country in November 2013 with the SportPesa brand and operated until July 2019 when its license was revoked for what BCLB said was non-payment of taxes amounting to 95 billion shillings.

Milestone then entered the betting industry on October 30, 2020, using the trade name SportPesa and it was issued a directive by BCLB on the same day to cease using the brand.

The regulator at the time said the mark belonged to Pevans. It later emerged that two Pevans shareholders – Paul Wanderi Ndung’u and Asenath Wacera Maina – were barred from Milestone ownership.

The duo sued the Registrar of Trademarks and Milestone, arguing that the mark had been improperly transferred from Pevans.

It was not immediately clear what prompted BCLB’s change of position which saw the regulator issue a permit to Milestone.

Mr Ndung’u had, however, recently issued a public statement, predicting that the regulator would soon wipe out Milestone due to pressure from powerful figures close to the outgoing administration.

“The same Cabinet Secretary (Fred Matiang’i) ensured that all relevant government institutions and several agencies authorized Milestone Games Limited to obtain a license in June/July with all necessary means that state power confers on institutions,” Mr. Ndungu wrote in a letter dated July 30, 2022.

The letter was addressed to President Uhuru Kenyatta whom he asked to cancel the acquisition of the SportPesa brand and assets.

Milestone is one of 46 companies authorized by BCLB to operate during the current fiscal year.

The majority of companies were cleared by the tax authorities between the beginning of last month and August 5, paving the way for their licenses to be issued by the BCLB.

“Between July 1 and August 5, 2022, a total of one hundred and five (105) companies were authorized by KRA for issuance of BCLB license,” KRA said in a response to business daily.

SportPesa is the most popular gaming brand in Kenya, enjoying a customer base of around 12 million players.

Punters placed bets worth Sh447.33 billion through SportPesa during the 68 months it operated in Kenya under Pevans, underscoring the betting firm’s dominance in the country.

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