SportPesa to challenge govt decision to block its mobile payment systems

July 12, 2019 5:54 pm
In a statement dispatched to newsrooms on Friday afternoon, SportPesa said the decision to suspend customer deposits and withdrawals from midnight will only serve to discourage and disrupt business in the gaming sector/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 12 – Sports betting firm SportPesa has vowed to challenge the government decision to block their payments systems in court.

They protested the blockage by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB), terming it as malicious, ill-intended and one that violates an existing court order.

In a statement dispatched to newsrooms on Friday afternoon, SportPesa said the decision to suspend customer deposits and withdrawals from midnight will only serve to discourage and disrupt business in the gaming sector.

The firm insisted that it had complied with all statutory requirements adding that its Corporate Social Responsibility programs will be negatively impacted following the new directive.

“SportPesa has been fully compliant with all tax and legal requirements in Kenya. Our business has uniquely and consistently boosted sports development in the country, and we have not minced our support in community investment. This as witnessed by our widespread impact in areas such as football, boxing, rugby and social projects involving water access, environment and skills uplift in the country. These are now at severe risk following the measures taken by BCLB,” reads a section of the statement.

Betting Control and Licensing Board domiciled in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government cited failure by betting companies to comply with regulations meant to encourage responsible gambling.

They are part of 27 firms targeted by the regulator for failing to meet some standards, with their customers already given until Friday midnight to withdraw their money deposited in their respective accounts, or risk losing it.   

“We wish to assure our customers and stakeholders that we are challenging these actions and remain in contact with key stakeholders with the aim of resolving this matter very soon,” they asserted.

SportPesa said it was reaching out to stakeholders to resolve the current impasse.

On Thursday, the Interior Ministry wrote to the mobile telecommunication companies, giving them 48 hours to implement the directive before the text message short codes used by the betting firms are closed.

“This is to permit you to allow gamers of the subject firms to withdraw any funds they may have deposited in the material period within Forty-Eight (48) hours from the date hereof, and duly notify them of the same,” a letter dated July 11 and addressed to Safaricom, states in part.

The letter signed by Liti Wambua, an acting director at the Interior Ministry was copied to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho who had issued warnings to betting firms to comply or risk losing their licenses.

“The licenses of operators were not renewed for the period 1st July 2019 to June 30th, 2020,” the letter adds.

Other firms affected include Pevans E.A Ltd that trades as Sportpesa, Lucky 2 U, Asian Betting and Gaming Ltd, Kick Off Sports Bar Ltd, Mozzarbet Kenya Ltd, Atari Gaming Ltd, Millionnaire Sports Bet Ltd, Premier Betting Ltd, Advanced Innovation Ltd, Sekunde Technologies among others.

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