- Religious groups in Uganda are speaking out about young people having gambling problems
- President Museveni has directed the government to stop renewing existing gambling licenses
- New license applications will be rejected
History of gambling in Uganda
Uganda previously had a gambling structure in place with proper regulations. Three of its cities had gambling facilities.
There were 13 physical gambling facilities in the country, along with many online operators. The main city for gambling was Kampala, which had facilities that cumulatively offered 95 table games, as well as over 360 slot machines and video poker terminals. The biggest of Uganda’s casinos was Casino Simba in Kampala.
The National Lotteries Act and the Gaming and Pool Betting Act made gambling legal in the nation. The main areas of coverage were casinos, pool betting, gaming, and lotteries.
Ban coming into place
President Yoweri Museveni has given orders to the government to stop issuing and renewing gambling licenses. This announcement was made by Finance Minister David Bahati when he spoke at the end of the Brethren Conference of the Diocese of Kigezi.
Representing the president at the event, he spoke about the reason for the directive to curtail gambling. He said that religious leaders expressed concerns about the problems youths in the nation were experiencing as a result of gambling.
They believe there is a vicious cycle in the country involving young people and betting. While these young people do not earn much, a significant portion of their earnings goes towards gambling.
Their mentality is that each time they bet there is the possibility of hitting the jackpot. Such a win could end their concerns about money for some time, so they deem the risk acceptable. There are also concerns that online betting is lowering productivity among young people in Uganda. This, in turn, leads to more and more people and families descending deeper into poverty.
The government could soon take charge of the gambling industry in order to work toward helping the Ugandan people move closer to prosperity and further away from these uncertain and speculative practices of gambling.
Is there support for this curtailment?
The chairperson of Uganda’s National Gaming Board claims he has yet to receive any official communication about this matter. He said: “I can’t comment on what I don’t know. They say they want to ban full bettors. I don’t know how they are going to do it. As soon as I get the policy, you can call me and I comment about it. I know it, but I don’t want to comment on it because I have my views about it.”
It seems that there is support for curtailing the gambling sector among Ugandans. In a survey of 5,762 people in August 2016 by radio channel TracFM, 58% were in favor of either completely banning or minimizing the scope of sports betting in the country, while 30% of the respondents were against such changes and 12% were indifferent.
Gambling in Africa
Gambling has become very popular throughout Africa in recent years. It is a largely untapped market with a lot of potential for operators. Many African countries see record revenue highs each year.
More people have mobile devices in Africa than ever before, allowing them quick access to online gambling platforms. Winning a jackpot could have a massive effect on their lives, so many poorer people in the region are happy to gamble with their earnings.
South Africa traditionally has been the leader in Africa for gambling. However, that government is looking at introducing very restrictive measures on gambling. This has gotten a lot of backlash, and so far they have only put through some very minor changes in legislation.
In November, the National Gambling Amendment Act of 2018 was approved. The act primarily made changes in the governance of gambling. The government had to exclude some controversial measures in this version of the bill to ensure its passage.
Kenya is another country that is experiencing significantly high levels of gambling. The government there is very wary of letting gambling get out of control.
African countries face a lot of new challenges. More legislation is needed to govern the sector. However, they certainly stand to benefit handsomely by implementing proper taxation measures.