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Uganda commences crackdown on illegal gambling operators

Uganda targets illicit gambling operationsUganda is following in the Philippines footsteps and cracking down on illegal gambling operations ahead of new legislative changes in the industry.

There has been a lot of movement in regards to the gambling sector in Uganda, with the government announcing last month it wants both operators and players to share the tax burden.

Now the country has launched a nationwide crackdown on illicit gambling operations to get a head start on the new laws planned by the government.

Inspection teams, run by the country’s Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board, have been set up to target gambling operations which aren’t complying with licensing terms, as well as those running without appropriate credentials.

The total number of betting shops targeted is not yet known, Uganda’s media outlet New Vision reported 28 unlicensed gaming and betting shops have already been shut down in the suburbs of in the suburbs of Nakawa, Bugolobi, Kawempe, Bwaise, and Kasubi.

The Head of Public and Corporate Affairs at the Board, Jonathan Kyeyune, said the crackdown is nationwide and will encourage operators to adhere to the law.

“We are closing operations of those machines that are not licensed as well as those that are not compliant to the law,” he said.

The shops were found guilty of one or more breaches, including operating without a license, running betting services near schools, and being smaller than 30 square metres – the required minimum size for a betting shop in Uganda.

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The crackdown should not come as a surprise since the Regulatory Board chief executive, Edgar Agaba, already announced at a media conference he had forced Uganda’s media watchdogs to start shutting down around 500 online betting sites which operate illegally.

Agaba also detailed plans by the government to establish a central monitoring system which would include a national register of punters. He said it was to ensure gambling is only accessible by residents aged 25-years and older and to make use of all tax gambling revenue.

As we briefly mentioned above, Uganda has proposed a reduction in gambling tax from 35 percent to 20 percent for gambling operators but an increase from zero to 15 percent for players.

Other laws which are likely to be enforced include reduced hours of operation for betting operators following Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni announcement he wanted to restrict the hours of gambling and alcohol use.

“[D]rinking and gambling at any hour or the day is excessive liberalism,” the President said.

Kenya’s betting operators still challenging tax hike

Uganda isn’t the only African nation which is dealing with new tax systems and other gambling law changes.

Kenya recently announced it was increasing its tax rate to a uniform 50 percent of all sports betting, casino and lottery revenue.

As expected betting operators are retaliating, with the head of the Association of Gaming Operators and CEO of SportPesa, Ronald Karauri, making a presentation to the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Planning and Trade.

Karauri warned the increase tax rate would “wipe out the gaming industry.”

He added the Kenya Revenue Authority “will lose billions of shillings of revenue when the gaming operators close shop” and this will “create a black market for gaming in which the cash made from the industry will go out of the country to offshore sources.”