On 10th July 2019, the taxman, KRA, and the government went on a crackdown scouring for betting companies that were not tax-compliant. At the end of the crackdown, 27 betting operators had their licenses withheld, and their codes and Paybill numbers closed down.
In the meantime, international betting sites like 22Bet are filling the gap left by local betting site Sportpesa.
A lot has happened since then, and it has been a struggle for the giant betting company, Sportpesa who had to lay off their staff and close down operations in Kenya citing a hostile tax environment. The move, however, did not only affect the betting operators but the sports industry, Kenyan bettors and the economy at large.
No doubt, betting companies in Kenya contribute significantly to the economy. In an interview with Radio Jambo, Betting Control and Licensing Board chairman Kimani Kung’u confirmed that KRA earned between Shs 20 billion to Shs 25 billion from betting operators by the end of 2018. This is such a significant amount for the KRA who seem to want more still.
In November 2019, the Kenyan Tax Appeals Tribunal ruled in favour of Sportpesa, Betin and the other betting operators who had moved to court to challenge KRA and the government for levying gambling tax on operators and not on player winnings.
The ruling stated that KRA could only collect tax from the player’s winnings at the end of the month and not directly from the betting operators.
This ruling may have paved the way for discussions among the key players; betting operators, KRA, and the government into reinstating the cancelled licenses. According to SportPesa chief executive Ronald Karauri, Sportpesa is highly considering its come back.
Is Sportpesa back after the ruling?
Well, the answer is NO.
However, there have been highly positive discussions, and the company has even taken to social media to update their fans on the ongoings. One of their updates read:
“There has been notable progress in these sessions, and we are pleased to announce that Kenya Revenue Authority has now cleared us to have our license renewed. SportPesa is confident that these processes will be completed soon allowing the company to resume full operations.”
There is finally a ray of light at the end of the tunnel for their anxious and seemingly impatient fans. Sportpesa revolutionized online betting in Kenya, and there is no doubt that their return will be more than welcome.
For now, it is a matter of wait-and-see. But with the renewal of their license, their comeback shouldn’t take long.