As the push-and-pull between Harambee House, through little known Betting Control and Licensing Board, and the giants Sportpesa, Betin and Betway continues over non renewal of licenses progresses - it is apparent not only will the betting companies will lose - but the telecommunications firms Safaricom PLC and Airtel Kenya as well as media houses will lose big.

Other losers will be sports clubs including Everton FC and other local football and rugby teams sponsored by Sportpesa 

At the heart of the dispute is the government crackdown on the firms it says are paying paltry taxes of Sh4 billion on the over Sh200 billion they make annually.

The gainers will not only be the public that have had issues about morals and their youth stealing school fees and or selling their property to gamble. Other big winners will be the lawyers and law firms that will reap big.

Triple OK, led by Mr John Ohaga, for instance has been retained by Safaricom PLC to plead with BCLB to allow time for gamblers to withdraw their cash from paybills that must now be closed.

BCLB allowed 48 hours for gamblers to withdraw their deposits or lose when the paybills are suspended.

But Sportpesa has already obtained orders barring government from action until their petition is heard and determined.

Sportpesa CEO Ronald Karauri has been in many public places with senior officers in government and opposition chief Raila Odinga. It is not clear if he has already flexed his muscles - just as he did with the Finance Bill, 2018 which reduced gambling tax from 35% to a paltry 15%. 

What emerges, therefore, will be Harambee House and BCLB on one hand and Safaricom PLC and Airtel on the other. Regardless of the court orders, will Harambee House invoke the security amendment laws to compel Safaricom and Airtel to shut down the paybills of Sportpesa, Betway, Betin and others? 

The BCLB has weak regulatory capacity, legally speaking, especially when it comes to public money on paybills - which ought to be regulated by Central Bank.

Cofek will seek to be enjoined in the many cases - to seek to have consumer rights articulated. For instance, betting firms will need to compensate affected subscribers should they fail to meet regulatory threshold.

At the same time, BCLB and Attorney will need to be compelled to seek parliamentary approval for enhanced regulatory powers - they assume they have - but which do not exist - for instance on directing Mobile Network Operators to cease paybills without express approval and or concurrence of CBK and Communications Authority.

There exists serious lacuna in betting and gambling laws - which remains inconsistent with the regulatory landscape it ought to be policing 

 

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