By Aggrey Omboki
The fate of 400 SportPesa staff remains uncertain amid speculation that they have been summarily dismissed.
Media reports indicate that the employees were on Wednesday told that their services were no longer required because the betting business was not viable.
SportPesa Partnerships Executive Tom Bwana on Wednesday said that the staff had been told of their dismissal in a staff meeting on Wednesday
“So today SportPesa management had to tell its staff what has been the inevitable for the last 3 months – the centre can’t hold any longer,” Mr Bwana tweeted.
“Massive grief seeing this entire team rendered jobless by ridiculous policies of our beloved government.”
But when contacted by the Nation over the alleged mass sackings, SportPesa CEO Ronald Kaurauri declined to comment and disconnected the call.
“I am sorry, I will not make a comment,” said Mr Karauri before hanging up.
In a brief video recorded by a phone camera and widely circulated online, the firm’s employees are seen being addressed by an unidentified staff member.
“In the past few days, the most common question I have been asked is where to find a cheaper house,” the man says in the clip that has since gone viral.
The rumoured mass dismissals have elicited mixed reactions on social media with some condemning the government for adopting a hostile attitude towards betting businesses.
However, some social commentator attempted to justify the job losses as a consequence of SportPesa’s exit from the Kenyan market due to heavy taxation.
“There is serious need for government to audit its activities and see the fall-over effects on the masses,” tweeted Noble Harry.
“Hundreds continue to lose their sources of income because of government restrictions on business.”
The latest development comes days after the betting giant announced the closure of its operations due to what it termed “a hostile operating environment”.
“It is not possible to operate under the new tax rules. This has become a hostile business environment,” the company said in a statement.
For the last three months, SportPesa has been the battling the taxman through its lawyers in a move to contest the government’s decision to government to withdraw licences of 15 betting firms it accused of tax avoidance.
Mozzart and Betway, which were also affected by the government’s move, have since been allowed to conduct business.
Sportpesa and Betin, regarded as market leaders, were however not so lucky.
The company’s exit has spelt doom for the multimillion sponsorship deals it had signed with a number of organisations and local soccer clubs including Football Kenya, the Kenyan Premier League, AFC Leopards and defending champions Gor Mahia.
Across the borders, the firm has also signed partnerships with English Premier League teams Hull City and Everton, where it is the club’s main sponsor.
According to the government, betting companies, most of which are foreign-owned, earned more than Sh204 billion in 2018 alone.
SportPesa and Betin said they had resorted to take the action after the taxes slapped on the industry made the business no longer viable.
SportPesa said it was disappointed with the decision by the Kenyan MPs to impose a 20 percent excise tax on all betting stakes.
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