Storm as Safaricom ordered to suspend SportPesa, Betin pay bills

Gambling regulator has ordered Safaricom to suspend M-Pesa pay bills and SMS short codes for 27 betting firms including SportPesa and Betin because the operating licence for the year starting July 1 were not renewed.

Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) say the 27 firms are yet to meet undisclosed licensing requirements and are being vetted to establish if they are fit to hold gambling permits.

The order comes weeks after the State said it had refused to renew operating permits for 19 gambling firms and deferred eight others in a shake-up of an industry that generates more than Sh200 billion in annual sales.

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Safaricom says the orders, which will affect 12 million betting accounts, has left it at a crossroads because some of the accounts have money and some firms like SportPesa and Betin have secured orders to continue operating.

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The board said the renewal of the licences is dependent on operations and directors of the firms getting a clean bill of health in an ongoing security vetting process.

The switch-off will disable the betting firms given that the bulk of gambling takes place online and through phone and services like M-Pesa allow users to place bets, pay off losses and get winnings on their phone

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“Consequently, we request you to suspend pay bills and short codes until otherwise advised,” said the BCLB to Safaricom in a July 10 letter.

Safaricom reckon that it will be in breach of the law to disable operations of firms like SportPesa and Betin given they have court orders allowing them to continue operating.
The High Court suspended the decision by BCLB to withdraw Betin Kenya’s licence.

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