How gambling started in Uganda

Uganda is a country in Central Africa, with a population of over 40 million people. The people who inhabited the territory of present-day Uganda before the establishment of the Republic of Uganda, which was established through the evidence from the Paleolithic era shows humans, have inhabited Uganda for at least 50,000 years.

The first settler of people probably spoke Bantu languages. In 1894 Uganda became a protectorate of the British Empire, in 1962 Milton Obote was the political leader that led Uganda to independence, and Milton Obote was also the president then that made into law the first Act to guide gambling activities in Ugandan. However, according to the history it was reported, the natural form of gambling has been around way back in the days before Uganda became a British protectorate meaning before the colonial era in 1894.

They used to be a game back then called Omweso by the old and coin tossing in most regions of the country, and this is a prominent and ancient form of gambling of which the older adults usually gather around to play OMWESO.

At the same time, the young adult often involved with coin tossing. These game played by the significant numbers of tribes from North, Western and originals from the central part of the country. However, the first formal considerable piece of legislation that made betting, wagering and other forms of gambling legal in the state was the National Lotteries Act of 1967. The Gaming and Pool Betting (Control and Taxation) Act of 1968.

Today we have seen a new form of gambling legal in the country due to the global civilization and advancement in technology from internet connectivity to mobile penetration all-new form of gambling was introduced such games including Slot games, Lottery, Matatu (Card), Video gaming, Pool table and Chess etc. Therefore in 2012, Uganda local news agency reported the alarming numbers of youths which are having social issues relating to under-regulated gambling mainly the spread of problem gambling and further said the impoverishment of the lowest economic class. They are the most vulnerable to the economic effects of excessive gambling.

The country was tag “new driver of chronic poverty” due to the growing number of gambling addiction among youth. That same year the government realized that problem gambling is going out of hand so a quick-fix to this menace would have to sort out. The following year in 2013 sees a gaming board was established by the Act that sees the streamlined of the Lotteries and Gaming Bill. This Act found the National Lotteries and Gaming Board responsible for overseeing and controlling the gaming sector and issuing licenses to operators.

That same year the board made a move by tightening their control over the gambling industry first by doubling betting company license fee to nearly USD$ 3,500, secondly by prohibiting betting brands from setting up shops near public facilities including churches, markets and government offices. However, these measures didn’t quite seem to solve the problem, so the authorities of Uganda are still yet to strike a balance between the social harms and tax benefits of gambling in which the country mainly survive on tax. In 2019, see the Uganda President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni directed the gambling board in Uganda not to grant new gambling license as well as not to renew those that there license is still active due to snowballing of gambling addiction in the country which there have been battling with since 2012. However, as things stand, only time will tell if this order by the president will be looked into in the future.

Nevertheless, today Sports betting are by far the most popular form of gambling in Uganda, especially football betting. Still, to be candid with you as stated above, gambling has been around for quite some time even before the country became the British protectorate.

The government decision to ban gambling is not the right call. Well, to be sincere. The government will be at the receiving end with the revenue-generated from gambling will be on hold. So striking a balance to curb problem gambling I think is the only solution for the government with proper regulation in place as it is in most advanced countries that have been able to successfully regulate gambling addiction to the minimal level.

Because by nature, Ugandans are avid gamblers and a lot of different sportsbook foreign sites will target Ugandan players once focused, nothing will be remitted to the government coffers.

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