Gaming board needs to be more visible

Tighten betting regulations to protect the public. It is clear that the economy is not working for many Ugandans. There are so many cries of unemployment and underpayment.

So many youth feel they are yet to get the jobs they desire or that be!t their qualifications. Most of this is down to the general improvement of literacy levels.

Amid this struggle, perceived or real, there’s one sector that has seen growth for many years more than most – the gaming and lottery sector.

Even with many sectors reporting a decline in profitability, the gambling sector (commonly referred to as betting) continues to grow. The sector is regulated by the National Lotteries and Gaming Board, an agency under the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

In 2016, an Act to reform the law relating to the conduct of lotteries, gaming, betting and casinos; to establish the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board; to provide for licensing and regulation of lotteries, gaming and betting; to provide for taxation of casinos, gaming and betting activities; to repeal the National Lotteries Act, Cap. 191 and the Gaming and Pool Betting (Control and Taxation) Act, Cap. 292; and for related matters, was passed.

Its visibility remains mysterious as betting and gambling companies operate freely. Okay, to their credit, the board now requires that all companies include the regulator in their adverts plus a reminder of the minimum age permitted to take part in the industry.

Recently, there was also an operation that saw the authorities confiscate equipment worth Shs4.2b used in the industry. The board argues that some of the equipment doesn’t meet the standards.

All these are small steps to regulate an industry that collects billions from the public every month. Still, there are so many company premises that open prior to the prescribed time. You find the youth in these shops even during morning hours. It is also not yet possible to full verify that everyone gambling is above the advertised 25 years of age.

Even the online platforms that need to verify age at the point of registration do not have the tools to investigate.

Also, the minimum amount that people can bet is still very low at only Shs1,000. This has to be raised to make it prohibitive for most. Gambling, a cornerstone of the economy of the Chinese territory of Macau and the state of Nevada in the USA, remains a luxury for many.

The challenge we have today is that even with the high tax regime charged on bets and winnings, gambling remains accessible to everyone. This should not be the case.

Making it cheap is allowing many low-income earners to throw away their little money in an industry that should only take surplus funds and extra income.


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