Sportpesa pulls out of Kenyan market frustrated with government actions

Kenya’s largest sports gaming firm, SportPesa, has announced a move to halt its operations in Kenya.

The firm said it would resume operations when Kenya puts in place “adequate taxation and non-hostile regulatory environment.”

The announcement just comes hours after the second-largest firm, Betin, announced that it was declaring its staff redundant.

The move comes after the government’s decision to impose a 20 per cent tax on all betting stakes, a move that the firms have cited as damaging on both their customers and treasury.

“Sportpesa is disappointed with the decision by the Kenyan legislature to impose a 20% excise tax on all betting stakes. The tax is based on a fundamental misunderstanding by the Rotich led treasury of how revenue generation works in the bookmaker industry,” read the statement in part.

List of betting companies with renewed licenses in Kenya

It added; “Until such time that adequate taxation and non-hostile regulatory environment is returned, the SportPesa brand will halt operations in Kenya.”

The firm said compounded by the currently in-effect 20 per cent Withholding Tax on Winnings, the economic incentive to place bets will be completely removed as the taxes will deprive consumers of their total winnings.

“This will have severe consequences for licensed betting companies, which dutifully pay their taxes and ultimately will lead to a decline in government tax revenue to near zero and will halt all investments in sports in Kenya,” the firm said.

Betin, which operates as Gamcode Limited, told staff on Friday that the firm had been left with no option but to let them go.

“This has been occasioned by the fact that we have not been operational since July 2019 a fact we are all aware of. Management has had several extensive meeting with relevant government entities regarding the company’s license renewal without much success,” the memo dated September 27 stated.

The two firms were among a number of betting firms whose licenses were revoked by the government over a taxation row that found its way to the corridors of justice.

It is not clear how many staff members are affected by the move by Betin but it is expected to affect about 2,500 including those at Betin Shops scattered in various locations.

The Star

Celebrating east African football: How the SportPesa Cup has evolved

The 2019 SportPesa Cup kicked off on Tuesday in Dar-es-Salaam and it’s the biggest version of the tournament yet. Eight teams battling for supremacy at the National Main Stadium in Tanzania have made the city light up with life.

Both Tanzania Football Federation and Football Kenya Federation burned the mid night oil to ensure the third edition of the regional knockout showpiece happens without a hitch on January 22.

The Kenyan teams include Gor Mahia FC, AFC Leopards SC, Kariobangi Sharks FC, Bandari FC. The teams from Tanzania include Simba SC, Yanga SC, Singida United FC and Mbao FC.

At stake for the winners is the cherished opportunity of hosting English Premier League side Everton FC on their second tour of East Africa following their successful trip in 2017 when they played Gor in Dar.

A hefty cheque of USD30,000 also comes with lifting the trophy in further motivation for the participating teams to gun for glory.

Here is a recap of how the two previous editions held in Dar and the Kenyan lakeside of Nakuru panned out ahead of the third showdown of the tournament christened ‘Kenya vs Tanzania battle’.

2017- Peerless Gor make history with first win

It took only three weeks for the first edition of the competition- then known as SportPesa Super Cup- to evolve from an idea into reality.

A stellar cast featuring Gor, Leopards, Simba, Yanga and Singida who proudly carry the SportPesa logo across their shirts got direct tickets with 2016 SPL champions, Tusker FC and second division side Nakuru All Stars FC rounding off the Kenyan corner.

Jang’ombe Boys FC, the then Zanzibar league champions fought from the Tanzania side at the tournament held at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar from June 5 to 11.

Singida and Leopards got the tournament underway in the first quarterfinal where Tafadzwa Kutinyu (10′) and Vincent Oburu (63’) traded goals in a 1-1 draw in regulation time, taking the first SP Cup game in history into penalties where the Kenyans edged a nerve-shredding marathon shootout 5-4 to enter the semis.

Tanzania level matters at 1-1 in the second match of the day (June 5) when Yanga SC prevailed over Tusker 4-2 on post match spot kicks after the two giants battled to a 0-0 draw in the 90.

The biggest upset in the tournament’s short history came on Day 2 (June 6) when All Stars stunned Simba 4-5 on penalties after the second division side fought to force a 0-0 with the Dar titans.

Gor raced off the blocks in the last quarterfinal later in the day and made short work of Jang’ombe, dismissing them 2-0 with a Meddie Kagere double in the 64th and 86th minute to make a statement of intent.

A tasty first semi final between Leopards and Yanga failed to produce goals in regulation, with the encounter going into penalties with the Kenyans once again squeezing through 4-2 to book the first ticket to the final on June 8.

After shocking Simba, the quality of Gor proved to be a bridge too far for All Stars who surrendered to a 2-0 defeat with Kagere opening the scoring on the stroke of half time before winger George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo ended their resistance with a second in the 82nd to set a dream Mashemeji Derby final.

What was billed as a decider that was too close to call on June 11 ended up being a lopsided victory for Gor who stormed to a devastating 3-0 victory in a second-half blitz that saw Timothy Otieno (60′), Oliver Maloba (78’) and John Ndirangu in time added on add the gloss to an emphatic display.

Individual honours went to Kagere (Golden Boot) and Fredrick Onyango (Best Keeper) as Gor lifted the crown and got to play Everton at the National Stadium on July 13, going down 1-2 in a brave performance.

2018- Gor repeat success leaves rivals reeling

Gor were competing for honours on five fronts in a chocking fixture list that gave their SP Cup rivals hope of unseating the champions when the second edition came around in Nakuru from June 3 to 10.

The holders and Leopards were joined by first timers Kariobangi Sharks FC and Kakamega Homeboyz FC who finished third and fourth in the 2017 SPL to vie in the Kenyan corner.

Simba, Yanga and Singida got another bite of the SP Cup cherry with Jeshi La Kujenga Uchumi ZCZ FC who toppled Jang’ombe as the Zanzibar champions completing the tournament entry list.

Heavy showers did not dampen the mood of the tournament in Nakuru, the town that was hosting its biggest football competition ever when Homeboyz and Yanga took to the field for the first semi on June 3.

Yet another upset was served when a quick fire first half brace from seasoned striker and former Kenya international, Allan Wanga in the 28th and 31st minutes set Homeboyz up for a 3-1 victory.

Simon Matheo (38’) had given Yanga brief hope of mounting a comeback at 1-2 but substitute forward Wycliffe Opondo killed the contest with a third for the Kenyans in the 85th.

Up next came Gor and any idea of another shock when they entertained Jeshi La Kujenga Uchumi was quickly banished when the holders put together another 3-0 hammering.

Odhiambo (30’) and Uganda international Godfrey Walusimbi (36’) gave Gor a comfortable 2-0 cushion at the break before that man Kagere (81’) finished the Zanzibar side off with a late third.

The third and fourth semis on June 4 first witnessed Yanga survive a huge scare before caging Sharks 3-2 in a tense penalty shootout after they shared a 0-0 stalemate.

Leopards and Singida closed the last eight programme in a repeat of their 2017 quarter and once again, the two could not produce a winner in regulation but unlike in Dar, the Tanzanians enjoyed a 4-2 victory on penalties.

Homeboyz faced the might of Simba in the first semi and almost made a name for themselves when they battled to a 0-0 draw in normal time before the Dar giants eked out a nervy 5-4 victory in the ensuing shootout.

Another Kagere double in the 30th and 90th took care of Singida in a 2-0 success as Gor advanced to their second successive final to set up another mouth-watering clash with Simba.

The holders yet again humbled another regional giant when Kagere took only six minutes to shake the Simba net with fellow Rwanda international Jacques Tuyisenge ensuring the trophy remained with the Kenyans when he extended the lead in the 55th in yet another 2-0 triumph.

Kegere went home with Golden Boot for a second successive edition, Philemon Otieno was named the man of the match in the final as Shaban Odhoji took home the Golden Glove.

Everton hosted Gor at Goodison Park on November 6 and unlike in Dar, the English side swatted the Kenyan champions 4-0.

In the aftermath of the 2018 SP Cup, Simba snapped Kagere from Gor.

Gor Mahia FC, the undisputed kings of the historical SportPesa Cup

As if there are not enough regional football tournaments to speak of in this modern era of the beautiful game, the recent birth of the SportPesa Super Cup, now known as the SportPesa Cup, could not have come at a more pristine time.

The eight-team knockout tournament was launched in 2017 in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and featured four teams from the Kenyan top flight – the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) and four from the host nation.

The SportPesa Cup was founded by the global gaming giants SportPesa, with a majority of the teams that feature in the tournament are the bookmakers East African partners.

Not only does the SportPesa Cup offer exposure for players from region and increase competition among clubs, but it comes with a prize that is unmatched and unseen in the current strides of African football.

The ultimate winner gets the portentous opportunity to play a once in a lifetime match against nine-time English League champions, Everton FC.

Kenya’s record league champions, Gor Mahia FC, are the undisputed kings of the tournament having emerged victorious in both editions, without conceding a single goal.

Gor’s stellar performance in the competition has gifted them the chance to play against EPL side Everton both on African and English soil, going down 1-2 in Dar before a 4-0 loss at Goodison Park in November 2018.

The 2018 edition was the last to be referred to as the SportPesa Super Cup and it was held at the Afraha Stadium in Nakuru, with the Kenyan sides this time round getting the opportunity to boast the home advantage that they never experienced in Dar.

Tusker FC and Nakuru All Stars FC who featured in the first edition were replaced by Kariobangi Sharks FC and Kakamega Homeboyz FC who joined Gor and AFC Leopards SC as the Kenyan forces.

Record Tanzanian league champions Simba SC, Yanga SC, Singida United FC and Zanzibar kings Jeshi la Kujenga Uchumi (JKU) were the visitors.
How it happened

The week-long tournament began with plenty of pomp and colour in the streets of Nakuru, with the first whistle of the tournament bringing with it lots of flare, underlining that the masses were in for a captivating week of football.

Yanga were first to be sent packing as seasoned forward Allan Wanga bagged a brace for Homeboyz before substitute Wycliffe Opondo got a late goal to seal a comfortable 3-1 victory and a place in the semis.

The champions took to the pitch next and their intent to defend the title was made clear from the onset as JKU found it very difficult to contain the Dylan Kerr-coached side.

George ‘Blackberry’ Odhiambo and now Kaizer Chief’s player Godfrey Walusimbi both scored to give Gor a 2-0 half-time lead before Meddie Kagere put the icing on the cake with a superb diving header.
Close-cut chances

An emphatic 3-0 victory for Gor as they stamped their authority and stated their desire to lift the coveted trophy once more.

The other two Kenyan sides were not as fortunate as their counterparts, both being knocked out of the tournament via penalty shoot-outs.

Sharks lost 2-3 to Simba courtesy of a brilliant performance by three-time TPL Golden Glove winner Aishi Manyula, who saved two spot kicks to ensure his side set up a semi-final clash against Homeboyz.

In the other quarter, 13-time domestic league winners AFC Leopards, who lost the previous tournament’s final were beaten 4-2 by Singida.

After a two-day rest period, the stakes were definitely higher, the stands were more packed as Homeboyz, and Simba took to the pitch for the first semi-final encounter.

It was a game filled with close-cut chances, horrid misses and fantastic saves from both sets of custodians as the referee blew for full time with the score still barren, meaning it was to be yet another shoot-out for Simba.

Midfielder Jonas Mkude was the hero for the Tanzanians as he kept his cool to score the decisive penalty after Wycliffe Opondo’s shock miss, sending them into their first ever SportPesa Cup final, much to the elation of the travelling fans.

The other semi did not prove to be as hotly-contested as the first with Gor making light work of Singida, a final 2-0 score courtesy of a goal in either half by the tournament’s top scorer Kagere.

There was yet another two-day rest period for all teams to prepare for the final day, with this bringing an opportunity to give back to the society.

Former Nigeria captain Yakubu Ayiegbeni together with some coaches from Everton FC, participated in a coaching clinic with Nakuru All Stars FC, who play in the second tier of Kenyan football- the National Super League (NSL).

Afterwards, they donated football jerseys and balls to local teams as part of SportPesa’s Kits For Africa initiative.
Brilliant passes

Just as was expected, the mood in and around the Afraha Stadium on June 10 told a story of it’s own.

The streets were filled with different colours, with fans from all walks of life streaming into the stadium to show their undying support for their individual teams on display.

Afraha was already registering record numbers from the day’s first kick-off, a third/fourth place play-off between both the losing finalists.

Opondo, the villain from the shootout, opened the scoring in the third minute and offered a sense of hope for the Paul Nkata-coached side, but Danny Lyanga had other plans as he blasted Singida level early in the second half.

The match ended in a stalemate and as the gods would have it, another dramatic penalty shoot-out would determine the bronze medalists and winners of the $7,500 cash prize.

The Tanzanians yet again proved their might from the spot as Singida emerged 4-1 winners.

With less than a half hour left until the final pitting the Kenyan and Tanzanian champions, the stadium was packed to capacity with many fans climbing trees and rooftops in the surrounding area just to catch a glimpse of the riveting action.

As the two sides walked out of the tunnel and onto the pitch, the noise from the K’Ogalo faithful could not be ignored, though the Simba fans in the stands made quite the noise as well.

Everton FC legend and second highest African goal-scorer of all time in the EPL, Yakubu Ayiegbeni, was in the stands for the mouth-watering final and would even later join former Harambee Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee in the commentary box.

The game got off to a flying start as top scorer Kagere found the back of the net yet again in the sixth minute, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Chances were not as many as expected and a rather cagey first half ended with Gor a goal to the good.

The second half was more enticing as both teams created more chances on goal and it paid off for the home side as prolific forward Jacques Tuyisenge got on the end of a brilliant pass from Humphrey Mieno to score.

Gor continued to dominate the match and held on for the 2-0 victory ensuring that they were once again to be crowned the champions, this time with a ticket to fly to the United Kingdom, becoming the first African club to play a match on English soil.

Having not conceded a single goal, Gor custodian Shaban Odhoji received the Golden Glove Award as Kagere was awarded the Golden Boot.

Gor received a handsome $30,000 for their efforts while runners-up Simba were recipients of a $10,000 cash prize for their respectable performance.

Lenga usaliti yao! Khalwale urges Uhuru to ignore betting companies blackmail!

Boni Khalwale has been agreeing more and more with what the Jubilee government has been doing, if you take his recent comments. One even wonders if they are living in a parallel universe? How can the former Kakamega senator be so enthusiastic about the new government’s measures, when he nary agreed with them when he was still a legislator. Wonders never cease is all we can say.

Boni Khalwale
Boni Khalwale. photo credit: the star

But this story is not about the man’s allegiances but what he is co-signing to. The government instituted a 35% tax on betting companies, that the companies say would make both sponsoring sports teams and making a profit difficult. So in a quick rejoinder to the courts upholding the government’s decree, the betting firm, Sportpesa immediately cancelled all sponsorship deals with teams within the country.

SportPesa Logo
SportPesa Logo. photo credit:bettingsites

The Bulgarian-owned company has, however, issued a notice to appeal against the High Court’s judgment, saying that the increased tax rate is in breach of Article 201 of the Constitution which demands the public finance system promotes an equitable society where the tax burden shall be shared fairly.

Boni Khalwale
Boni Khalwale. photo credit: nairobiwire

But the bullfighter as he is affectionately referred to by some has come out to defend the government’s actions. He said what Sportpesa was doing was tantamount to blackmail and that Uhuru Kenyatta should not be taken hostage. He made his point in a couple of tweets. He wrote:

He reaffirmed his position later in another tweet writing:

Whatever your opinion on betting and betting companies, this is a delicate matter that should be dealt with sensitively. I believe that there is a middle ground that can be reached if a compromise was to be had.

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