Three Kenyan Gambling Operators Appeal against Paybill and Short Codes Suspension in Court

The beginning of the week saw three gambling operators go to the High Court of Kenya to legally make the Government lift the ban on their paybill numbers. Yesterday, the three affected companies repeated their claims that the payment disruption was not legal, and insisted their SMS codes and paybill numbers are restored with immediate effect.

The three companies which appeared before Justice John Mativo were SportPesa, 1xBet and Betin Kenya. All of them argued that the forcible suspension of their paybill numbers and shore codes came as a serious obstacle to their businesses, although they had met all the requirements imposed by the authorities.

During the court hearing, SportPesa, through Senior Counsel Paul Muite, claimed that the country’s Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) ordered local telecom providers such as Safaricom and Airtel to effectively ban their short codes and paybill numbers despite the company had previously obtained a court order allowing it to continue offering its services in Kenya. According to SportPesa, the actions of the gambling regulatory body caused injustice to the gambling firm and put hundreds of jobs in danger. The representative of the largest Kenyan gambling operator shared that the above-mentioned actions were taken in violation of a court order.

A representative of the second-biggest gambling company, Betin Kenya, also claims that BCLB cannot be allowed to take actions in a manner which contradicts to the law. Professor Githy Muigai also reminded that the board is obliged to observe the law.

The third company which took legal action against the regulator’s actions also said that it has made large investments in its services and if not lifted, the ban on its paybill numbers and short codes will force it to close its operations.

Mobile Network OperatorSafaricom Claims It Acted to Protect Public Interest

The Betting Control and Licensing Board responded to the accusations, saying that by the court order for a certain status quo was aimed at effectively taking over its mandate, seeking a renewal of the three companies’ operating licenses.

As explained by Safaricom, which spoke as an interested party in the case, it acted to protect the public interest. The company also said that it should not be forced to violate the law by allowing unlicensed operators to continue offering their services without holding valid licenses. Safaricom explained that it was addressed by the BCLB that wrote to them to inform them that the operating licenses of several companies had expired and were not to be renewed until those companies met certain requirements.

SportPesa has also urged the President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, to establish a special committee to investigate and research the best practices within the local gambling industry to guide regulation and taxation. The company has also addressed the BCLB, urging it to process and issue its license for 2019/20.

Apart from that, SportPesa confirmed that it intends to maintain its sports sponsorships. At the time when the Kenyan Government attacked the betting sector over certain tax issues, the operator ended most of its high-profile sports sponsorship deals. They were renewed at a later stage, albeit at a lower value.