THE future of legal gambling of any kind in Uganda has been placed under a dark, ominous cloud following the news President Yoweri Museveni has made moves to trigger the end of the industry.
Under pressure from the country’s religious leaders and activists, Museveni passed an executive order to his Government last week, ordering the immediate halt to issuing gambling licenses to gaming companies.
The move puts a shelf life on legal gambling — be it sport, lottery or casino — in Uganda, given existing licences are rumoured to be up at the end of 2019.
Uganda’s finance minister, David Bahati, announced the news in a public statement this week, expressing concerns that his nation’s youth were ‘wasting their lives and money on betting’.
Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a long-standing poverty rate among its citizens. Yoweri Museveni has been the nation’s leader since toppling the former regime in 1986.
Rather than regulating gambling, considering tax options or education programs that help citizens maintain their freedom to gamble, the Uganda Government seems to have taken a direct and harsh action.
In his statement, Bahati demonstrated the influence religious leaders have on Government — their concerns seem to be the deciding factor in Museveni’s decision.
“Gambling, sports betting and gambling, there is no renewal of the licences of the companies that are operating,” Bahati said.
“No new companies are going to be licensed, that is what the president has said… The president has directed.”
The risk Uganda takes with the decision is to provide an opportunity to illegal online bookmakers and black market influences that will be able to sweep in and provide betting services.
How Uganda will actually implement a ban on gambling online is unclear, putting the consumer protections that Ugandan punters now enjoy at risk.
There are an estimated over 2,000 active gambling and betting operators in the country — their future remains in doubt.
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