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High court gives greenlight to Sportpesa to resume operations

Sportpesa, who faced shut down several weeks ago by the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) Kenya after announcing their return to the Kenyan market, have been granted a court order for the continuity of their operations in the betting market. 

Pauline NyamweyaHigh Court Judge Pauline Nyamweya gave the order earlier this week for the lift on the ban, allowing betting operations to be carried out by punters and sports enthusiasts under the brand name Sportpesa by Milestone Games Limited in Kenya.

Betting Control and Licencing Board Chairman, Cryus Maina, who suspended the ban on Milestone Games Limited representing the Sportpesa brand ruled that the direction of BCLB's decision should not be of any importance until the case filled by Milestone Games Limited is heard and determined by the High Court. 

Just a week ago, Sportpesa was granted access to its bank account by the High Court.

Maina ruled that:

the leave granted herein shall operate as a stay of execution and implementation by the respondent and the interested parties of the respondent decision communicated in the letters dated October 20th 2020, and October 31st 2020, of the substantive judicial review application or until further orders by the court.

Pevans East Africa Limited, the first representative of Sportpesa brand in Kenya, kicked off the popularity of the brand amongst punters in the country but had their licence cancelled by the BCLB and faded out of the market.

In October 2020, Milestone got approval from the BCLB to carry out operations in the country and tried to begin under the Sportpesa brand. However, the approval was retracted and explained to be a mistake and it was revealed that Sportpesa was a brand under Pevans and no other company.

Counsellor Otieno Ogola and company advocates representing Milestone Games Limited said that the BCLB took a pre-emptive decision that had drastic effects before giving a chance for an explanation on how the brand name was gotten by the company. According to court documents:

gavel_4-1the expunge decision was arrived at in an opaque and arbitrary manner, and there is no explanation for the adverse measures that were chosen and what criteria guided the Process.

An initial ban was placed on Milestone Games Limited preventing them from utilizing the Sportpesa name or paybill numbers allocated to the brand from Airtel or Safaricom to Pevans. However, Milestone argued that Pevans did not own the Sportpesa trademark, it also claimed that Sportpesa was owned by the company Sportpesa Global Holdings Limited which gave the authorization for the use of the brand name. 

Court papers explained:

SportPesa-Returns-to-KenyaIt is not true that the trademark Sportpesa belongs to M/S Pevans East Africa Limited and this information was communicated to the respondent (BCLB). The applications have further received confirmation the M.S Pevans East Africa Limited does not own the said trademark as alleged by the respondent from the letter.

It was also further pointed out to the court that the only reason the BCLB banned Milestone was because of the use of the contested name. Bernard Chauro, Operating Manager of Milestones, in his replying affidavit said the board issued the license on October 6th 2020, expiring June 30th 2021.

He further explained that Milestone was required to provide the BCLB with documents like short codes, paybill numbers, and a different mode of payments including the link for all their betting website for assessment. It was pointed out to the Judge that regardless of Milestone compliance with the orders, the board still went ahead to take steps that were considered unlawful and drastic. 

He said:

the act of the respondent and the interested parties is unconstitutional, not supported by any statute, and the ex parte applicant continues to suffer a violation of its rights and fundamental freedom. The process leading to the making of the decision was in contravention of the principles of good governance and tainted with illegality.

Justice Nyamweya gave BCLB fourteen days to respond, she scheduled a chance for a hearing to be set for January 25th 2021. 

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