SportPesa, the sports news technology and bookmaking brand with operations in Ireland, the Isle of Man, Italy, South Africa, Tanzania, and the United Kingdom, is resuming its return to its native Kenya. This is thanks to a court ruling cancelling an effort by the Betting Control and Licensing Board to block the business’ reboot.
On the 18th of November 2020, High Court Justice Pauline Nyamweya decreed that the BCLB decision to prohibit SportPesa from relaunching in Kenya be struck down.
The Tax Arrears Dispute
The bookmaker closed shop in 2019 after a prolonged dispute with the Kenya Revenue Authority regarding a reported tax deficit. In October 2020, SportPesa authorised Milestone Gaming Ltd, a new BCLB license-holder, to use its well-known brand, pay bill numbers, and shortcodes when handling Kenyan bettors’ wagers.
The BCLB disrupted these efforts in a matter of hours after the new ke.SportPesa.com domain Went live. This was because the regulator deemed that local ownership of the brand was the subject of a sanctioned debate. But Nyamweya’s order directed the Communication Authority of Kenya to lift the block.
This ruling doesn’t mean the matter has been resolved. It simply indicates that Milestone and Sportpesa have not been given enough of a chance to challenge the BCLB’s findings. Both parties have been charged to direct the filing of their respective legal briefs ahead of the hearing scheduled on the matter on the 25th of January 2021.
More Good News for SportPesa
In a separate decision issued on Wednesday the 18th of November, Justice David Majanja lifted orders stopping Pevans East Africa, SportPesa’s Kenyan parent company, from retrieving access to bank accounts frozen by the KRA. This is while the issue of back-taxes being owed remains unresolved. Majanja decreed that the KRA had not disclosed material facts in the application it made on the 5th of October 2020 to extend the banking freeze.
But this issue is also a long way from resolution.
SportPesa recently found out that the Capital Markets Authority, Kenya’s financial watchdog, is investigating financial transfers worth hundreds of millions of dollars for evidence of misconduct. Some of the biggest shareholders in Pevans East Africa have charged senior SportPesa executives of fraud and tax evasion, saying that these directors illegally transferred Kenyan revenue into international accounts. The sportsbook hotly denies these claims.