Betting board split over new SportPesa licence

Betting Control and Licensing Board Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Mbugi. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

Details of a fallout among board members of the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) have emerged after two officials disowned a consent that was to be adopted by a judge allowing Milestone Games to renew its licence and use the SportPesa brand in betting activities.

The licence has since been suspended temporarily after Asenath Wachera Maina and Paul Wanderi Ndung’u, shareholders of Pevans East Africa which formerly operated the SportPesa brand, challenged the move in Court.

Two BCLB board members Sabrina Kanini and Joy Masinde told the court that they were not part of the decision that reached the consent, which was filed in court on May 22. Two others— Peter Kanaiya and Paul Njaga—had also contested the consent but later withdrew from the application.

Justice Anthony Ndung’u yesterday declined to adopt the consent saying the manner in which it was achieved left questions that needed to be interrogated to confirm whether it was reached through a procedural and regular resolution of the board.

“It is worthy of note that the respondent is a public body. Its interest in this litigation is not private but of public interest. The need for utmost circumspection when considering a consent entered into a public body cannot be gainsaid,” he said.

The judge also noted that the consent was drafted in a manner that directs the board in a particular direction.

“Whereas the primary parties have the right to terminate the proceedings through withdrawal of the suit or a settlement, the court cannot shut its eyes to facts on record that bring to the fore discordant voices among members of the board over the propriety of the consent,” he said.

Mr Kanini had asked the court to review a ruling that found its board members in contempt of court over claims of interfering with the affairs of the betting firm. She said that lawyers representing Milestone Games and a state counsel later reached an agreement on the matter but the board was never informed of the deal for approval.

“There are various errors apparent on the face of the record and sufficient reasons as detailed in the grounds above to warrant the review and setting aside of the ruling,” Mr Kanini said in a sworn statement.

In a ruling in February this year, the court found that the BCLB board members were in contempt of court for allegedly disobeying orders given in December 2020, not to interfere with activities of Milestone.

Justice Pauline Nyamweya (now court of appeal judge) issued an order restraining BCLB from interfering with the affairs of Milestone Games Ltd.

The dispute started in 2020 when Milestone, which operates the SportPesa betting platform locally, obtained a court order restraining the regulator from interfering with its business.

The firm’s CEO, Ronald Karauri, tried to bring back SportPesa through Milestone but the regulator struck within hours, saying the SportPesa trade name belongs to Pevans.

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