Following the Kenyan Judiciary’s denial of an appeal by ‘Pevans East Africa’ to reinstate its gambling licence, SportPesa continues to run without legal clarity in its home market of Kenya.
Pevans’ injunction against the Betting Control and Licensing Board’s (BCLB) licence suspension imposed in July 2019 was dismissed by Kenya’s Court of Appeal on Friday.
High profile tax dispute
Pevans, SportPesa’s former operating firm, said that BCLB had unlawfully revoked its licence in connection with the company’s continuing high-profile tax dispute with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) – an action that Pevans considers to be unconstitutional because Pevans continues to legitimately appeal KRA’s tax demand of KSH 15 billion (€100 million) on player winnings for the years 2015-2018.
Kenya’s Supreme Court upheld a 2019 decision by Justice John Mativo, which declared that BCLB had the right to suspend Pevans because the firm had refused to uphold its tax discipline – a key market demand that would necessitate interference by any industry regulator.
Sports operating deal withdrawal
Pevans had withdrawn from its SportPesa operating deal in July 2019 due to a tax disagreement with the KRA.
SportPesa returned to the Kenyan betting industry in October 2019 after existing owners purchased Milestone Games Limited’s licence to relaunch the brand after a year of suspension.
The BCLB, on the other hand, would quickly revoke Milestone’s licence, claiming that company owners under scrutiny had broken its laws in order to obtain a new licence.
New legal dispute
Milestone and BCLB will face off in a new legal dispute after Nairobi courts granted SportPesa a provisional licence to run its online gaming services.
Furthermore, Kenyan news outlets report on a disagreement over the SportPesa brand between Pevans shareholders and Milestone, with former shareholders claiming that the relaunch of the SportPesa brand was not approved by the Pevans board.
Meanwhile, the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) is said to have updated its tax demand against SportPesa, claiming that the corporation, regardless of ownership, must now agree to paying KSH 95 billion (€700 million) to clear its unpaid tax liability in order to re-enter the market.