SportPesa ponders Kenyan return

SportPesa Kenya

Popular Kenyan sportsbook SportPesa is considering a relaunch in the country’s sports betting market, after winning a recent tax tribunal.

A court ruling last week had sided with both this operator and Betin, another major company which was penalised. The judge ruled that the 20% withholding tax didn’t apply to overall stakes, and was only necessary for net winnings. 

A possible return

The dispute with the Kenyan Revenue Authority (KRA), which had continued for months, forced both SportPesa and Betin to withdraw from this market. As a result, affiliates using their respective programs had to do likewise. 

But for at least one of these sportsbooks, that departure might not be permanent. SportPesa Chief Executive, Ronald Karauri, commented after the hearing. 

“Today’s ruling is significant for both SportPesa and the wider betting sector in Kenya. It reverses a previous government policy that had rendered the sector commercially and economically unviable. 

“It had a major, negative impact on jobs, local economies and sports in Kenya. We have long advocated a fair and level playing field, and a regulatory and taxation environment that supports business and inward investment. This is in the interests of Kenyan customers.”

He added: “SportPesa will now reconsider the future of its operations in Kenya. We encourage the authorities to take the tribunal’s ruling on board, and to apply a reasonable approach to gambling regulation and taxation.”

Betin made no comments. 

Problems 

The duo were just two of 27 operators that had their licences suspended in July, because of this fiasco. There were wider consequences for the industry, as SportPesa had to make its Kenya-based employees redundant. 

The popular brand had argued that the KRA’s winnings tax discouraged players from placing bets. Kenyan authorities have become stricter on gambling in other areas, too, and banned outdoor and social media sports betting ads earlier this year.