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Kenya freezes licences of 27 betting firms including SportPesa

Kenya has not renewed the licences of 27 betting companies including Everton sponsors SportPesa, and ordered telecom firms to suspend accounts used by customers to place wagers.

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Kenyan court

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The interior ministry, in a letter seen by AFP Thursday, said the companies had “outstanding renewal requirements” and were being reviewed to determine if they were “fit and proper”.

In a letter to Kenyan telecom Safaricom, the ministry asked for the suspension of these betting companies. Government officials said similar letters were sent to other firms.

Placing bets through mobile phones is hugely popular in East Africa, where the industry is fast growing and lucrative.

Its runaway popularity has been driven by  satellite and digital television and smartphones.

SportPesa ranks as Kenya’s 11th most popular website, according to the website ranking site Alexa.

But the industry has locked horns with the government.

In May, Kenya’s betting watchdog announced sweeping restrictions on gambling advertisements, including outright bans on celebrity endorsements and social media promotions.

The new regulations introduced by Kenya’s Betting Control and Licence Board also prohibited gambling ads being aired between 6am and 10pm or outdoors.

In April, the government threatened to revoke betting licenses for companies that did show they paid tax by July 1.

SportPesa terminated its sponsorship of Kenyan sports teams in January 2018 during a row over government plans to hike gambling taxes from 7.5 percent to 35 percent.

The Kenyan treasury backed down the following April, announcing a new taxation level of 15 percent. A week later SportPesa said it would restart sponsorship of Kenyan football, but on a reduced budget.

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