Justice Anthony Ndung’u of the High court has temporarily suspended the license granted to Milestone Games by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) last month to use the SportPesa brand for the calendar year ending in June 2023.
This follows shareholder disputes, which is a major setback for Milestone Games Ltd, which had been given permission to manage the well-known brand. Businesswoman Asenath Wachera Maina, who owns a 21 percent ownership in Pevans East Africa, which launched the SportPesa brand and launched the country’s first sports gaming operation, petitioned for the freeze.
After losing its license in 2019, Pevans East Africa discontinued business, in part because of claims of unpaid taxes, which the Kenya Revenue Authority recently estimated at Ksh95 billion. Despite objections from the regulator, the SportPesa brand made a comeback on October 30, 2020, through Milestone Games, which is owned by several of the Pevans stockholders, including Ronald Karauri.
Sportpesa brand received its initial nod from the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) last month, setting off a legal battle for the gaming company’s essential assets, including its trademark and web domains. Ms Maina and business tycoon Paul Wanderi Ndung’u, who owns a 17 percent stake in Pevans East Africa, have charged Milestone Games of obtaining the license under mysterious circumstances as the country was preoccupied with the elections on August 9.
Milestone Games, which operates the SportPesa brand, had been given license number 0000448, according to a list of betting companies allowed to operate in the 2022/2023 fiscal year. The regulator revised the list of authorized betting companies and posted it online.
In the past two years, Milestone Games has depended on a temporary court order to continue operations despite legal disputes around ownership of the SportPesa trademark. In a similar case, High Court Judge Dorah Chepkwony directed that Milestone Games Limited and SportPesa Global Holdings Limited be restrained from using the trademark until the matter before the court was determined.
In December 2020, the Board cancelled the firm’s operating license for having altered its shareholding structure after being granted the license in a bid to stop the Board from conducting due diligence on the shareholding of the firm. The SportPesa trademark, related websites, shortcode 79079, and paybill numbers 9555700 and 955100 are mentioned as the significant assets.
Kenya has remained with only three licensed online betting companies, following Betting Control and Licensing Board’s (BCLB) move to axe at least 97 players.The three remaining companies include Betika, owned by Shop and Deliver Ltd, Pesa Bets Ltd’s Betafriq and Silicon Solutions Ltd’s Spotika.
SportPesa, one of Kenya’s biggest firms has been bedeviled with wrangles including tax fights with the government and disagreements among its original owners. MozzartBet and OdiBets have also been axed in the 2022/2023 licensing, leaving them out of the multi-billion industry.
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