Uganda: Regulating Sports Betting Is Welcome

Youth look at football fixtures at a sports betting centre in Arua District recently. Several students in Nebbi District have resorted to sports betting.
8 December 2016

Local government authorities in Teso sub-region have banned sports betting machines which they say are killing innovation among the youth (See Daily Monitor December 7, 'Teso bans sports betting')

Mr Ben Eumu, the Ngora District chairperson, said they have given an ultimatum that all machines in various trading centres be withdrawn before the year closes or risk being destroyed.

In Serere, a raid was carried out on betting machines using coins and in Amuria, a council resolution to ban betting machines that use coins from trading centres was recently passed and awaits implementation.

It is not uncommon to hear stories of students who use their school fees to bet in the hope of doubling or even tripling the money only to lose it all. It is said some youth in rural areas sell grain even in times of hunger to raise money for betting.

There are those who have been lucky enough to win a couple or more times but the majority lose or win just a few shillings. The centres have also turned into a breeding ground for all kinds of vices such as theft, drug and alcohol abuse, among others.

In June, a 16-year-old boy was killed in Mpigi District at a gambling centre following a fight with his colleague over Shs500 during sports betting. The Mpigi Resident District Commissioner, Mr Swaibu Lubega Waggwa, then ordered local leaders and police to immediately close cinema halls, bars and gambling centres that operate during morning hours.(see Daily Monitor June 6).

A number of local councils in the central region have also banned gambling, for example, Kalungu, Lwengo, Lyantonde and Kyanamukaka Sub-county in Masaka District.

These are not the only leaders or members of society who worry about the addictive and blindly deceptive nature of betting. Every town across the country is lined with betting centres which never lack customers.

Unfortunately, sports betting is legal and therefore might not be entirely done away with and it being a lucrative business is a source of government revenue, however, the set regulations must be implemented. All sports betting centres must be fully-licensed, must respect the age limit stipulated in the law and opening hours must also be limited.

Sports betting, which is a form of gambling, is meant to be a game or hobby, not a source of livelihood or an occupation. The revenue and employment opportunities realised from these centres notwithstanding, we can't continue paying a blind eye to its downside or simply talk about it.

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