BCLB forces Safaricom to stop processing betting payments

Kenya’s betting control and licensing board (BCLB), has ordered telecommunications firm Safaricom to cease all sports betting payment transactions.

The move will come as a blow to a significant number of gaming companies that depend on Safaricom’s network in order to facilitate bets, create interaction between operator and consumer and to process payments on the company’s M-Pesa mobile cash platform.

Liti Wambua, acting director of BCLB, informed Safaricom in a letter that licences for all 27 betting firms had not been renewed by the July 1 deadline.

The letter reads: “We wish to inform you that the licences for the following betting firms were not renewed until they meet the outstanding renewal requirements as well as outcome of ongoing due diligence to determine if they are fit and proper to hold a license from this board.

“Consequently, we request you to suspend their pay bills and short codes until otherwise advised.”

Firms whose licenses have been cancelled include: SportPesa, Betin, Betway, Betpawa, Elitebet, PremierBet, Lucky2u, 1xBet, MozzartBet, Dafabet, World Sports Betting, Atari Gaming, Palms Bet and Betboss.

BCLB’s veto follows an ongoing inquiry about Safaricom’s suitability to operate in the country; already Kenya has banned outdoor advertising and social media adverts in an attempt to curve problem gambling.

Safaricom responded by explaining, due to the sudden request, it will take time to implement such actions. It added that a predicted “12 million customers” are set to be affected. 

Furthermore, Safaricom also noted that two of the gaming companies had in fact  obtained court orders allowing them to continue their operations without a renewed licence.

Safaricom’s solution works by assigning each betting firm a unique number – known as a pay-bill – which is then used to process payments from users who place bets on their mobile phones and to pay off those who win. Customers using basic feature mobile phones rely on short codes assigned to each betting company to partake in betting.