SportPesa asks court to jail Kenya gambling regulators


Sports betting operator SportPesa wants to put Kenya’s gambling regulators behind bars for continuing to take action against the company despite a court order. 

This weekend, Kenyan media reported that Milestone Games Ltd had filed legal papers seeking the six-month imprisonment of seven members of the Betting Control & Licensing Board (BCLB). The seven are accused of violating a Nairobi High Court order requiring the regulator to temporarily cease enforcement actions against Milestone. 

The seven individuals targeted in the court filing include BCLB chair Cyrus Maina and board members Peter Kanaiya, Sabrina Kanini, Daniel Koech, Joy Masinde, Peter Mbugi and Paul Njaga. Milestone claims the seven are displaying “utter disdain for court orders and the judicial process” and seeks to bar all seven from holding public office until the matter is resolved. 

Milestone received a BCLB license in October, after which it launched an online betting site bearing the SportPesa brand. The site was shut down the same day it launched after the BCLB raised questions over ownership of the SportPesa brand.

The BCLB subsequently revoked Milestone’s license after learning that the company had revised its ownership structure shortly after receiving said license without informing the regulator. The changes included transferring majority control to a company controlled by SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri

SportPesa was forced to exit the Kenyan market in October 2019 due to the suspension of its license that summer. SportPesa was one of 19 betting operators whose licenses were suspended due to a back-tax dispute with the Kenya Revenue Authority, a situation SportPesa has yet to resolve.

Earlier this month, Milestone/SportPesa succeeded in convincing a court to prohibit the BCLB from taking further action against its operations until a January hearing to discuss the ownership question. But the BCLB has refused to let the issue lie, resulting in last week’s raids on Milestone/SportPesa offices and the deportation of 14 foreign nationals tied to its operations.  

While the BCLB denied any connection to last week’s raids, Milestone’s legal filing says the regulator’s willingness to “belittle and disregard court orders at will cannot be taken lightly.” The actions by the BCLB higher-ups are of “utter utmost contempt of court” and “should not go unpunished.” 

Milestone/SportPesa reportedly also plan to sue Interior Minister Fred Matiangi, a vocal opponent of gambling who has claimed authority for the raids and deportations.