Kenya Gambling Regulator Orders Safaricom to Cut Mobile Payments to 27 Betting Operators Whose Operating Licenses Were Not Renewed

Things start looking not so good for Kenyan betting operators who got a rejection for license renewal. The country’s gambling regulator, the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) has addressed the largest Kenyan mobile network operator, Safaricom, and ordered it to suspend SMS short codes and M-Pesa pay bills for a total of 27 betting companies, including SportPesa and Betin, because these companies did not get their operating licenses renewed for the year starting July 1st, 2019.

The Kenya gambling regulatory body said that the betting firms in question are yet to meet certain licensing requirements, which have not been disclosed, and further explained that the companies would have to prove they are good enough to hold gambling permits.

Here are some of the betting companies which have been affected by the Kenya gambling regulator’s order to Safaricom: SportPesa, Betin, Dafabet, Betway, Elitebet, Betboss, Premierbet, Palmsbet, Betpawa, Eastleighbet, Kenya Sports Bet, 1X Bet, Atari Gaming, Lucky 2 U, Betyetu, Mozzartbet, World Sport Bet, Cysabet, Bungabet, Easybet, Nestbet, Millionaire Sports Bet and Kick Off. For the time being, SportPesa, Betin and Betway are the three biggest betting operators in the country, with them currently holding more than 85% of the local betting market under their control.

As revealed by Safaricom, the order will affect about 12 million betting accounts. Apart from the gambling companies, this would not be an easy task for the mobile network operator, too, because there is money in some of the accounts and some betting companies have already managed to secure orders to continue offering their services on the territory of Kenya.

Companies That Do Not Have Retail Betting Services Will Be Mostly Affected by the Measure

The order will make the betting firms who accept payments through SMS or services like M-Pesa unable to do that anymore. However, Safaricom has shared its concern that it would violate the law to disable operations of companies such as Betin and SportPesa which have already received court orders providing them with official permission to continue offering their services in the country.

The BCLB’s decision to withdraw the operating license of Betin Kenya has been suspended by the High Court.

The order of the Betting Control and Licensing Board comes less than two weeks after the authority revealed that it had refused to renew the operating licenses of 19 betting companies and postponed the license renewal for 27 other gambling operators, including 13 casinos, 6 lotteries and 8 betting firms. The regulator’s decision has already caused turmoil in the local gambling sector which generates sales of over KES200 billion on an annual basis.

The regulatory body shared that the renewal of the gambling licenses depends on operations and directors of the companies getting competent authority’s approval in an ongoing security vetting process.

For the time being, mobile payment channels, such as the M-Pesa of Safaricom are predominantly used when it comes to digital commerce in Kenya. In fact, the betting industry is currently one of the leading sectors in mobile transaction volume, so the loss of such payment channels would be a hard blow for all betting operators in Kenya, and particularly for the ones which do not offer retail betting services.

As previously revealed by the Kenyan Government, there has been an ongoing dispute related to the belief that many gambling operators have significant tax obligations. That is one of the main reasons why the competent authorities have been trying to impose stricter regulation on the local gambling sector.