Is Sportpesa Set to Return to Kenya?


The gambling sector in Kenya has been on the receiving end of critique since July 2019. This is after 27 betting companies had their licenses suspended in what the government termed as a failure for the companies to renew their licenses in good time and non- compliance on tax returns.

In the middle of this crackdown, Sportpesa was one of the companies largely affected to the point of halting operations and pulling out in all its sponsorship and advertising deals. Sportpesa moved to court and sued the Kenyan government demanding compensation for the period they have been out of business.

In the meantime, a number of other betting companies in Kenya are working hard to capture the sports betting players that were left without a betting site after Sportpesa closed their doors.

After the government refused to renew the operating license of Sportpesa, there have been rumors circulating that the gambling giant is on the verge of closing down. However, the giant gambling company has come out strongly through a press release sent out on 3rd September 2019 to reassure its customers of the contrary. 

It stated the company’s optimism that it would be back in full operation soon. The company reiterated to its fans that any updates concerning the court proceeding and the current impasse would be communicated only via the company’s official channels.

Following the suspension of Sportpesa operations in Kenya, local footballers and football fans are a worried lot. This is because the giant gambling company is the only company sponsoring Kenya’s top-flight football league dubbed Sportpesa Premier League at an estimated cost of Ksh.150 million every year. 

These funds cater to all administrative costs including running the competitions, facilitating and reimbursing referees and match commissioners. Besides, Sportpesa also supports 18 coaches, 18 teams, 300 support staff and close to 800 players under the age of 36.

Back to the elephant in the room, is Sportpesa back to business? And the answer is currently NO. Fans have been eagerly waiting for the restoration of the normal operation of the giant gambling company, taking to social media to express that they are not interested in the updates rather they only want to hear that Sportpesa is back in Kenya, and its site back to regular operation. 

However, the company told its fans that there were ongoing discussions with the government, regulators, as well as the company’s stakeholders and thus urged them to wait patiently for the outcome. 

Sportpesa has laid off more than 400 of its staff members when it exited the Kenyan market, but now, the company has recalled the termination letters of all the affected employees. The Chief Executive Officer a one Mr. Ronald Karauri said that they have withdrawn the letters sent earlier to his employees as the company plans to issue proper and legal redundancy notices to the affected group even as he waits for the discussions over the statement to be resolved.

However, Sportpesa announced that it would only return to the Kenyan online betting market if the Kenya Revenue Authority recalls its high taxation on the betting sites and a favorable working environment is restored for sporting businesses. Sportpesa’s return would be a sigh of relief for those who it sponsored and some of the laid-off staff might even secure their jobs back again.