SportPesa sues government for freezing operations


By Edna Mwende

Sportpesa is seeking compensation from the government for the days it has not been in operation following a decree by the regime to freeze its operations over failure to get new operating licenses.

This comes after the Betting Controls and Licensing Board (BCLB) denied 19 gambling firms including Sportpesa new annual operating licenses over failure to meet set regulations such as paying taxes.

This was followed by a later decree by the body that ordered telco giant Safaricom to suspend M-Pesa pay bills and SMS short codes for the betting firms for failing to acquire the licenses as such Sportpesa has not been in operation since customers have not been able to make deposits on its platform for placing bets.

This was done despite the fact that Sportpesa was in possession of a court order that gave it permission to carry out betting and gambling transactions with the firm maintaining that it has always remitted taxes to the taxman without fail as stipulated by law ever since it set up shop in the country.

“Honourable court be pleased to award the petitioner damages for the lost business and breach of fundamental rights,” SportPesa petitioned the High Court in official court documents.

The firm also called for the suspension on its payment system lifted as gaming companies largely rely on Safaricom’s SMS short codes and M-Pesa paybills to take bets, communicate with users and process payments. It similarly advocated for legal action to be taken against the heads of BCLB for failing to adhere to the initial court order.  

High Court judge Weldon Korir however declined the betting firms’ plea for bosses at BCLB to be  punished for contempt of court and instead ordered the betting board together with mobile communication operators Safaricom and Airtel to be allowed time to respond to the case before giving any punishment.

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