Two of Kenya’s big sports betting companies shut down operations

Two of Kenya's big sports betting companies shut down operations

Betin and SportPesa, arguably two of Kenya‘s largest betting companies, have both shut down their operations in the East African country following several months of battles with Kenya’s policy makers. Both companies stated that they could not continue operating in Kenya as a result of the new regulations for betting that are being introduced as well as a the introduction of a 20% excise tax on all betting stakes.

The introduction of the new regulations and excise tax doesn’t seem to have scared off all betting companies in Kenya as companies such as 22bet are still operating in the country.

“The tax is based on a fundamental misunderstanding by the Rotich led treasury of how revenue generation works in the bookmaker industry. This decision will have a damaging impact on both customers and treasury. Further compounded by the currently in-effect 20% Withholding Tax on Winnings, the economic incentive to place bets will be completely removed as the taxes will deprive consumers of their total winnings. This will have severe consequences for licensed betting companies, which dutifully pay their taxes and ultimately will lead to a decline in government tax revenue to near zero and will halt all investments in sports in Kenya,” reads part of a SportPesa statement announcing that they are halting operations in Kenya.

Two of Kenya's big sports betting companies shut down operations
A letter sent by Betin to its staff in Kenya. Source: Betin Kenya

Two of Kenya's big sports betting companies shut down operations
SportPesa statement announcing it is halting operations in Kenya. Source: SportPesa

The clash of betting companies and policy makers in Kenya have been brewing for a while. Earlier in July 2019, Kenyan authorities issued an order to telecommunications company, Safaricom, not to process any betting related M-PESA mobile money transactions. This came  after Liti Wambua, Acting Director of the regulator, Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) in Kenya wrote to Safaricom that licences for all of the 27 betting companies that operate in Kenya had not been renewed.

A few months after this, SportPesa announced that it was stopping all sports related donations in Kenya while Betin’s sorts betting website was taken offline by Kenyan authorities.


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Despite no more operating in Kenya, Sportpesa is also suing Kenya’s BCLB “for damages resulting from loss of business and a breach of fundamental rights.” This is directly related to BCLB’s July 2019 order and decision to suspend all betting companies’ M-PESA paybill numbers and betting shortcodes.

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