Local gaming platform SportPesa is among ninety-seven firms that will be blocked by the Communication Authority of Kenya from using mobile money platforms.
This follows a government directive to suspend paying bills for companies that do not have an operating license.
CA Director-General Ezra Chiloba ordered Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya to suspend the payment channels of the betting firms amid an ongoing review of applications for licenses.
“The Mobile Network Operators are therefore required to discontinue immediate effect the issuance of licensed ICT platforms and services including USSD, short codes and pay bill numbers to betting, lotteries and gaming entities whose BCLB licenses for 2022-23 have not been renewed,” Chiloba said in a notice dated July 1.
According to the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB), only Betika, Spotika, and Betafrique had been cleared to operate in the 2022/23 financial year.
Kenya had 100 betting firms licensed to operate in the year ended June 2022 up from 76 in a similar period in 2021 —reflecting a 31.5 per cent growth and the fresh licensing could trim this number.
The government is currently reviewing licenses of all betting firms for the 2022/23 financial year and has only cleared three out of the 100 that were operating in the year ended June.
Safaricom’s M-Pesa remains the most dominant mobile money platform used to send money for betting.
The recent move by CA underlines the impact that cancellation of the pay bill will have on the gaming firms.
Gamblers spent Sh169.1 billion to bet through M-Pesa in the year ended March, up from Sh136 billion a year earlier.
The CA order adds to the government crackdown on the betting industry which has featured increased taxation and deregistration of non-compliant companies.
SportPesa is currently run by Milestone Games Limited whose license was suspended by the regulator for, among other reasons, changing its ownership and using the popular brand which is also claimed by Pevans East Africa.