SportPesa and BCLB in clash over licence

Ronald Karauri, one of Milestone Gaming Limited directors, and Betting Control and Licensing Board Chairman Cyrus Maina. [Boniface Okendo and Stafford Ondego, Standard]

A fresh storm looms over whether or not the court halted the cancellation of Milestone Gaming Ltd’s licence by the betting industry regulator BCLB.

Milestone Gaming Ltd, the new owners of Sportpesa brand, insists that High Court judge Pauline Nyamweya had last Friday barred the Betting Control and Licensing Board from revoking its licence. 

However, BCLB had a day before the court order, cancelled the licence after Milestone directors Ronald Karauri, Ngatia Karungaru and lawyer Robert Macharia appeared before it to show cause why the permit should not be cancelled.

“The board was not satisfied with the explanations proferred by your company and accordingly arrived at the decision to cancel your company’s bookmakers off-the-course licence number 0000205 dated October 6, 2020,” BCLB said in a December 4 letter.

When Milestone appeared before court on Friday, they obtained orders barring BCLB from taking action on its demand letters dated October 30, 31 and November 24, that required its directors to explain why its licence should not be revoked.

“The leave granted herein shall operate as stay of any other action by the respondent (BCLB) and the interested parties that will interfere with the ex-parte applicant’s business, operations, pending the hearing and determination of the ex-parte applicant’s amended notice of motion application or until further orders by this court,” Justice Nyamweya ruled.

The dilemma now is whether the orders affected BCLB’s cancellation as it did not expressly address itself to the document.

BCLB had required Milestone bosses to appear before it on December 3 after it emerged that some directors of Pevans East Africa Ltd, Sportpesa’s initial owner, were part of Milestone yet this had not been disclosed to the board.

Milestone had then moved to court to stop the BCLB summons and any action thereof, claiming the board had circumvented earlier orders.

Milestone lawyers now say that on account of the Friday court order, the BCLB summons, meeting and subsequent cancellation of its licence are illegal and defiance of court orders.

Otieno Ogola and Company Advocates say BCLB had initially circumvented the November 16, 2020 court orders by issuing new letters. The lawyers said the court was clear that BCLB cannot take any other actions that affect their client’s business and operations.

“Look at order three. Their attempt to cancel the licence is based on November 24, 2020 letter, and that letter has been specifically stopped. You cannot cancel when the notice has been stopped. It is like the root. They can decide to ignore, but there are consequences and we intend to file contempt against board members. They have never gone back to that court to challenge the orders or appeal the same,” they said.

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