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Sportpesa operations in Kenya suspended

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The Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) on Saturday, October 31, suspended the license of Milestone Games Limited, which entered the Kenyan market as Sportpesa despite seeking approval from the betting control agency as Milestone Bet.

The BCLB announced Saturday that Sportpesa will have to wait until a court decision is made after the betting company in 2019 filed an appeal against the Kenyan Government for withdrawing its operating license over tax conflict.

In a letter addressed to Milestone Games Limited on Friday, the BCLB barred betting company Sportpesa from using that tradename pending the court case.

The revelation came a day after Sportpesa announced on its Twitter pages that it was making a comeback in the Kenyan market after more than one year of being in the cold due to a tussle with the Government over taxes.

The Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) said in the letter that it approved the betting company Milestone Games Limited, which, upon receiving the greenlight to operate in Kenya, chose by itself, to rebrand to Sportpesa without getting consent from the betting control agency.

“We note that Milestone Games Limited has been authorised to use the trademark Sportpesa by Sportpesa Global Holdings Limited, whereas during the 2020/2021 Financial Year renewal application, the Board authorised the use of trading name Milestone Bet to yourselves,” BCLB chairperson, Cyrus Maina, told the operations manager of Milestone Games Limited, Bernard Chauro, in a letter dated Friday, October 30.

According to the betting licensing agency, the tradename Sportpesa belongs to Pevans East Africa Limited, and therefore that name is not transferrable since Pevans East Africa Limited had filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal in Nairobi seeking to have Sportpesa’s license renewed, with the company arguing it had met all its tax obligations.

“The matter is scheduled to be heard on November 16, 2020,” said Maina in the letter to Chauro.

“In the light of the aforegoing, the Board is of the opinion that Milestone Games Limited will create confusion to the general public to which tradename the company wishes to adopt. The reason being there is a variance in the tradename the Board approved vis-à-vis the name Milestone Games Limited currently wishes to adopt.

“You (Milestone Games Limited) are therefore prohibited from using the tradename Sportpesa, the domains www.ke.sportpesa.com, www.sportpesa.co.ke, short codes 29050 and 79079, Pay Bill numbers 521521, 9555700 and 955700 until such a time when the Court of Appeal shall make a determination on the pending appeal and until the Board considers your request to use them. However, you are authorised to continue trading as Milestone Bet, through the domains www.milestonebet.co.ke, www.milestonegames.co.ke, and www.milestonegames.com,” said Maina in his letter to Milestone Games Limited C.O.O Bernard Chauro.

The BCLB also addressed the letter to Safaricom PLC’s legal officer, Daniel Ndaba, and the Acting Director-General of the Communication Authority of Kenya, Mercy Wanjau.

On Friday, Sportpesa CEO Ronald Karauri announced that the company was back in operation after one year of being locked out over wrangles with the Government.

“SportPesa is back! I’m happy to announce that the SportPesa brand is back under a new BCLB license holder. https://ke.SportPesa.com,” said Karauri on Twitter. It now emerges that the company has not been allowed to use the domain name www.sportpesa.com.

A Kenyan Twitter user, Ibrahim Mokaya, told the company he had forgotten the password to his Sportpesa account, and wanted to be guided on how to recover it.

In response, Sportpesa said: “@IbrahimMokaya2 Hi, to activate your account, read our updated terms and conditions then send the word Accept to 29050. After, visit our website http://ke.sportpesa.com to reset your password. From here, click “Forgot your password?” and follow the instructions.” Remember, 29050 is one of the short codes the BCLB has barred Sportpesa from using.

The taxman, KRA, said the betting firm, as of July 2019, owed Kenya at least Ksh14.9 billion in unpaid taxes, allegations Sportpesa denied, resulting in the firm heading to court to protest against Kenya’s refusal to renew its operating license.

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