After leaving the Kenyan market in 2019 due to the introduction of new tax laws, sports betting brand SportPesa may be preparing to make a comeback. The speculation by local media was fuelled by new activity on the brand’s website.

sportpesa license
Source: Bill Oxford on Unsplash

According to reports, a message on the website that appears when accessed from within the country states that, while bettors can access the site, they cannot make deposits or place bets. The message goes on to say that the operator is working to resolve the issue.

CEO Seeks Kenyan Return

Two months ago, SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri made it clear that he supported the idea of the company returning to the Kenyan market. He explained that such a return would be motivated partly by the decrease in revenue experienced by the brand since its departure from Kenya.

Since the brand’s withdrawal from the country, it has focused on its operations in Tanzania, other African countries, and Europe.

New Laws Based On Misunderstanding

SportPesa was not the only bookmaker to withdraw from the Kenyan market of the introduction of the new tax laws. At the time, several other brands slammed the government’s heavy-handed approach, which slapped operators with a 20% excise tax on all stakes.

According to the bookmaker, the new laws were likely to have an effect opposite to what the government intended. Whereas the government possibly thought to use the gambling industry as a cash cow, the steep tax will ultimately discourage licensed brands from operating in the country. That, coupled with bettors who would likely turn to illegal betting sites, would result in a decrease in tax revenues for the government. 

When the laws were introduced, SportPesa stated that they reflected the government’s misunderstanding of the sports betting industry and how its revenues are generated.

A Closer Look At SportPesa

Established in 2014, SportPesa is headquartered in Liverpool, UK. The sports betting brand operates in Tanzania, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, the UK, and the Isle of Man, and it employs approximately 500 people.

When it still operated in Kenya, it invested significantly in local leagues and tournaments. Among its sponsorships were the Kenyan Premier League, as well as the national men’s and women’s football teams, namely the Harambee Stars and the Harambee Starlets.

In addition to sponsoring the highest level of the sport in the country, SportPesa also worked to expose skilled Kenyan players to the international stage. Furthermore, it facilitated tournaments for the Kenyan Premier League’s under-20 sides.

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