Betting operator SportPesa has failed in its attempt to overturn a licence ruling that effectively ended its right to operate in the east African state of Kenya.
The company had appealed to the Nairobi High Court after Kenya’s betting regulator, the Betting Control and Licencing Board (BCLB) had refused to renew its operating licence in July.
The decision by the BCLB was part of the ongoing dispute between the Kenyan government and the betting industry relating to the taxation of player winnings, but SportPesa had argued that the BCLB had been acting unfairly and was furthering the interests of the Kenyan government.
In its appeal, SportPesa was also attempting to claim compensation for lost revenue caused by the sudden shutting down of its Kenyan operations, alleging that the BCLB was abusing its power.
But in deciding the appeal, Nairobi Justice John Mativo found against SportPesa, ruling that the company had not demonstrated that the BCLB had acted arbitrarily in not renewing its licence. Justice Mativo ruled that the BCLB had been acting in accordance with its remit when not renewing the licence, and that this was unrelated to the tax dispute involving the Kenyan government. He also pointed out that regardless of what the court had decided, SportPesa cannot now operate in Kenya:
The circumstances of this case are that the petitioner’s licence has expired. Even if the court quashes the decision there is no basis the petitioner can operate on an expired licence.”
The decision of the court will be a major blow, not just for SportPesa, but for 26 other companies who had previously operated in the Kenyan betting sector, whose licenses have expired.
But although they are still seeking a payment of KSH 14 billion (£113.5 million) in tax revenue from SportPesa, the government of Kenya has said that it will permit bookmaker to make a new betting licence application. SportPesa has yet to indicate whether it will do so.