Telecommunication companies in Kenya have appealed to the government to withdraw the order that requires telcos to shut down the pay bill numbers and short codes of betting companies whose licenses have not been renewed by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB).
According to the communication companies, closure of these codes would lock up millions of betting money in gaming wallets overseen by these telcos, arguing that gamers will not be in a position to withdraw money deposited in the various gaming wallets. The institutions continue to plead that depositors should not be denied access to their money despite any regulatory action against the entities.
In their defense, telcos have said that lack of public announcements and notification through the media on the same might invite legal action against telco clients in this case betting companies.
With 27 companies facing suspension and only 7 acquiring new licenses, SportPesa and Betin are among big shots facing closure. SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri has come out to dispel the order by the government saying Sportpesa will continue its operations uninterrupted until the matter is resolved. He says this is according to a Highcourt order that has instructed that the codes and pay bill numbers remain open.
In one accord, the betting companies have expressed their concerns on the impact the move will have on the economy as many Kenyans stand to lose their jobs and taxes will be lost in the process of these crackdown.
The government however, insists that despite the betting firms evading taxes, the platforms are fertile grounds for money laundering and acquisition of illicit currency that has rocked the financial sector in recent days.
Among requirements required for license renewal by the BCLB are tax compliancy, operation within the law, sufficient liquidity, and proof that a firm has performed financially well for the past four years. The only betting firms that have been given a nod by the licensing board are; Odibets, Betpalace, Mcheza, Kwikbet, Betika and Gamemania.
“We wish to inform you that the licences for the affected betting firms will not be renewed until they meet the outstanding renewal requirements, as well as outcome of ongoing due diligence to determine if they are fit to hold a license from this board,” a notice by BCLB Acting Director Liti Wambua states.