SportPesa’s CEO Ronald Karauri has confirmed an interest in the Kasarani parliamentary seat. Karauri confirmed his intentions via a text message to a prominent newspaper. He said that his plan was to unseat Mercy Gakuya in the general elections, with voters set to head for the polls on August 9, 2022.
The 44-year-old reportedly said he would only decide which party to join and represent at a later stage.
Navigating Challenges & Change
For Karauri, his time at the helm of SportPesa, one of the most reputable betting sites, has been a tempestuous two years. It all reached boiling point when the government suspended SportPesa’s operating license. The sticking point was a massive S14.9 billion tax dispute in October 2020.
The operator’s holding company, Pevans East Africa Limited, has put all operations in the country on hold. While SportPesa has made several attempts to bounce back, court processes have stopped them. As a result, Karauri and his fellow shareholders have been looking for alternative ways to re-enter Kenya’s betting market.
In December 2020, SportPesa eventually approached the newly established Milestone Games Limited, a recently registered betting company. SportPesa was then incorporated under Milestone Games Limited’s operating license.
Any attempts by the Kenyan government to revoke Milestone Games Limited’s license have been met with enormous opposition. SportPesa, too, has fired back with several legal countersuits.
At the height of its success, SportPesa had been pocketing tens of millions of shillings daily. However, this enormous success prompted the government to investigate the operator for tax compliance.
Concerns Over More Than Money
Concerns have been expressed over more than just unpaid money due to the government in taxes.
According to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, many in government are concerned about the massive number of people negatively affected by betting losses. Unhealthy gambling and betting behaviour is also an issue.
Karauri, who addressed the topic during an interview four years ago, said he firmly believed the number of people affected was far fewer. Especially when compared to those who benefited from betting.
Karauri said at the time that the problem had been blown completely out of proportion. People were imagining a problem on a scale that simply did not exist. He added that while he acknowledged that one or two such cases might exist, most of the stories about broken homes and careers resulting from gambling and betting are mere speculation.