Gambling and betting enthusiasts in the country will have been thrown a curve ball after a directive by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) commanding telco giant Safaricom to suspend M-Pesa pay bills and SMS short codes for 27 betting firms for failing to have their annual operating licenses renewed.
This will hinder the operations of the local betting fanatics who rely on mobile money platforms such as M-Pesa to conduct gambling transactions such as placing bets and withdrawing winnings.
According to a news report by the Business Daily, the 27 firms constitute major players such as Sportpesa and Betin and the regulator insists that the agencies have failed to meet unnamed licensing requirements that would have seen their annual permits renewed on July 1.
Safaricom has however challenged BCLB’s decree citing that some betting firms such as Sportpesa and Betin already have court orders that allow them to continue conducting transactions and opposing the earlier order by the judiciary would be violating the country’s legal system.
The move by the regulator comes days after it denied 19 gambling firms new operating licenses in a move that could lead to the retrenching of hundreds of workers in the sector.
BCBL similarly postponed the issuance of renewed licenses to eight other betting firms as well as 13 casinos and six lotteries as a result of an April decree by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i which dictated that all betting firms whose annual licenses are renewed at the end of June undergo fresh vetting to ensure that their operations and management comply to set governmental regulations more so the paying of taxes.
According to the Interior CS, the Ksh. 200 billion betting and gambling industry owes the government approximately Ksh. 26 billion in unpaid taxes.