Interview with Uganda gambling expert – John Musasizi
The person of John Musasizi is full knowledge of the gambling business in Uganda over the past ten years. Mr. Musasizi has been dealing with the gambling business in Uganda for 15 years.
Initially, he worked for 7 years as an inspector at the local Gaming Board, an institution aimed at administering and legalizing this business in Uganda. The task was to control the companies running this business, eliminate illegal activities and help in implementing business plans for licensed companies. After finishing work at the Gaming Board, he undertook consultancy and assistance in running gambling companies in many Ugandan companies currently operating.
E-PLAY: Your experience from this period is so great that for the next few years you were an industry consultant. What companies in Uganda did you work with and what did you do during this?
John Musasizi: The companies I have the opportunity to work with are, National Lotteries Board – Compliance & Enforcement Dept., Tai Chi Casino-General Manager, Canon Bet-Operations Manager and currently with Wizard Entertainment Group Limited-Country Manager
E-PLAY: You have experience in both land base business – opening sports betting and gaming shops. How specific is this business in your country, what are the biggest obstacles?
JM: business in Uganda is really good and it still has big room for it to fulfill its potential. the current registered punters are 5 million out of the 45 million estimated Ugandans. The number could rise to 15 million if all avenues are explored by our business partners.
The street market vending is the most popular in the country, with around 20 companies running their business with retail based betting, slot machines and online betting on laptops placed in point of sales by the companies.
The biggest punters in the country are the lowest income earners, the population that is running on small scale business but have high returns on cumulative bets. They are supplemented by some middle class earners who mostly place their bets online and are more interested in sports betting.
I believe one of the biggest obstacles is the withholding tax which is levied on both the winning and the stake. The punters find it hard for the revenue department in Uganda to tax on their betting stake and at the same time on their winnings. Revenue placed, 15% tax on winnings. This has led to some companies to deep into their profit to create bonuses of 15% to cover the taxes imposed on the punters.
However, this does not deter the business to have room for expansion and to call for investment in this sector as revenue can be made with satisfactory profits
E-PLAY: After the recent turmoil in the Gaming Board, after the dismissal of the previous boss for corruption, full chaos reigned. In your opinion, how can this situation last long and what will be its consequences?
JM: First and foremost, I would not want to discuss or comment on this issue because it is in the Uganda courts of law. I don’t want to believe that really “full chaos reigned” as business is usual in Uganda. The Government is cleaning the industry and streamlining proper regulation, management and monitoring. The situation should positively change before the end of year 2019 come licensing period. Gaming community should not worry about the situation because one thing is for certain a more sustainable and investment-friendly gaming ecosystem is developing in Uganda.
For certain the government policy is changing, and with the new lottery board being structured, we expect more open minded, professional appointees to lead the new revolution in the business. The system being set is going to improve the communication between the government, regulators and the stakeholders. I believe in this new setup, the stakeholders, are going to have a more equal say in how the gambling business should be structured and influence in policy making and implementation to have a fair playing field.
E-PLAY: The gambling business in Uganda has over 10 years of experience. He is depicted in this area as the most developed. The normed law and regular revenues to the treasury mean that many surrounding countries want to follow Uganda. What do you think is the reason for this situation?
JM: Not surprising to me. UGANDA is the” Pearl of Africa”. It is imperative to say that it is a country that adapts very fast to new ideas and innovations and to evolves fast to suit what is workable and attainable. I would say that in Uganda we see that it should be the fast country that has mastered the art of street market for gambling, and it has ensured that gambling is put in-check and doesn’t dismantle the core values of society. Uganda is a liberal economy and has peace and stability conducive to invest in gaming business.
We have managed to integrate the systems of gambling and betting to the new technological advancement of mobile money system which has led to easy payments and electronic transfers with less cash transactions. With this kinds of innovations, it has become easy for monitoring collection of revenues.
E-PLAY: Currently, ICE Africa will take place in Johannesburg, this will be the second edition of this event. What do you expect from this event, how will it affect the overall assessment of the gambling business in Africa by organizers and global investors?
JM: I expect Ice Africa to show case a lot of new products and technology which we can integrate in what is already existing to add excitement to our punters and bring more revenues. A gathering of this magnitude will attract more parties to invest to Africa, since they will have seen the real test of what has been achieved so far with the players already in the business here. most people from Europe and America fear to invest in Africa with a phobia that there is insecurity in Africa and their businesses would not be safe. Well Africa is the new wave for this business, so those that would have doubted will see what they have missed. Please come to ICE Africa 2019 and find your partner to create business.