Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has directed his government to halt renewing or issuing licences to any online gaming companies.
According to state minister for Finance David Bahati, there shall be no further issuance licences for gambling and betting companies companies. Bahati was speaking at the closure of the 2019 Brethren Conference of the Diocese of Kigezi over the weekend.
Bahati, who was representing Museveni at the event, said that the president’s directive follows concerns especially from religious leaders that Uganda’s youth were wasting their lives and money on betting.
“We have received a directive from President Museveni to stop licensing online sports betting, online gaming and gambling companies. The President has now directed the board which has been regulating them. From now onwards, no new companies are going to be licensed. Those which are already registered, no renewal of licences when they expire,” he said.
He said, Ugandan youth are trapped in a vicious cycle of betting, staking their little earnings while believing that they might win a jackpot in every stake. He said religious leaders had also complained that online betting has reduced productivity among Uganda’s youngsters, sinking families further into poverty.
Bahati said that the government wants to take charge of the industry to endure that Ugandans work their way to prosperity instead of expecting sudden cash, based on speculation and uncertainty.
“Gambling, sports betting and gambling, there is no renewal of the licences of the companies that are operating. No new companies are going to be licensed, that is what the president has said…The president has directed.” said Bahati.
However, the chairperson of National Gaming Board Uganda Manzi Tumubweine said that his office had not yet received an official communication on the pronouncement.
“I can’t comment on what I don’t know. They say they want to ban full betters, 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.” Tumubweine said.
Gambling is legal in Uganda and is regulated under The National Lotteries Act and the Gaming and Pool Betting (Control and Taxation) Act. It mainly includes lotteries, casinos and gaming and pool betting. There are an estimated over 2,000 active gambling and betting operators in the country.
President Museveni may have a point though. Reports reveal more than half of the Africans that bet on sports are under the age of 35. One of the main reasons gambling has grown so fast on the continent is down to sports betting companies allowing users to place bets on their mobile sites or through their apps, making it more accessible for youth and easier for them to get addicted.
Both the accessibility of sports betting and addiction likely make it easier for youth to believe they can make a quick buck.
However, is banning sports betting entirely the correct thing to do? Perhaps the correct measure would’ve been first to consult with the sports betting companies and agree with them spending a percentage of their revenues on educating gamblers on the dangers of betting and its possible effects.
On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Yoweri Museveni tweeted that his nation will ban the registration of “new fully-owned foreign betting companies while the old ones will not have their licenses renewed.”
Over the last few years, gambling in Uganda has grown with the industry diversifying from just casinos and lotteries to sports and online betting. Tax collections from the sector have also ballooned, with revenues jumping from 0.24 billion Ugandan shillings ($65 million) in 2003 to 11.1 billion shillings in 2014, according to one estimate.