SportPesa fights to reinstate pay bill number

It says suspension of its pay bill numbers has halted its business even though it has met all requirements

In Summary

• Firm terms move discriminatory 'because other betting companies licences have been renewed'.

• Safaricom backs state's decision, says betting firms should demonstrate which rights have been breached. 

Ronald Karauri, CEO of Sportpesa on February 2, during the fifth anniversary celebrations held at Nairobi's Trademark Hotel in Gigiri.
Ronald Karauri, CEO of Sportpesa on February 2, during the fifth anniversary celebrations held at Nairobi's Trademark Hotel in Gigiri.

Leading betting firm SportPesa has accused the state of discrimination by refusing to renew its licence. 

Lawyer Paul Muite on Monday asked the court to give them conservatory orders directing Safaricom and Airtel to reinstate their pay bill numbers.

Muite claimed the betting firm was being treated in a discriminatory manner because some other betting companies' licences have been renewed. 

Justice John Mativo heard that the suspension of the pay bill numbers has adversely affected their business despite having met all the requirements.

Muite accused the Licensing Control Board of acting arbitrarily, causing injustice to the companies and threatening hundreds of jobs.

He also faulted the decision by the board to write to the telecommunication companies to suspend their pay bill numbers.

“Any action done in violation of a court order is a nullity. The letters (to Safaricom and Airtel) is a complete nullity because it was made in defiance of a court order,” he said.

Prof Githu Muigai, representing Betin, told the court that the act by the board should not be allowed to stand.

1XBet also pleaded with the court to suspend the board's decision saying it has invested heavily and if not lifted, the suspension will lead to the closure of their business.

The state, through counsel Maurice Ogosso, maintained that the suspension of the pay bill numbers was done because the companies failed to meet all the requirements needed to renew their licences. 

The court heard that all the companies whose licences were not renewed were informed prior to the suspension to comply with all the set provisions.

The board also said the companies affected were given the reasons for the suspension of their licenses. 

Ogosso said the licences expired and the firms were supposed to apply afresh.

He said allowing the firms to operate after June 30 does not promote the rule of law since the order was issued without considering all the applicable principles and the law.

The betting companies insist they have complied with all the directives including providing proof that they paid taxes. 

SportPesa argues that the suspension of pay bill numbers was meant to cause public panic.

Meanwhile, Safaricom has supported the state's move not to renew licences of betting firms.

In an affidavit filed in court, Safaricom has asked the court to dismiss the petitions filed by the betting firms.

Legal counsel for Financial Services Isaac Kibere said the firms have not demonstrated which of their rights and fundamental freedoms have been breached to warrant intervention by the court.

Edited by R.Wamochie