Rwanda: Govt Halts Licensing of New Betting Firms

Betting and gaming, one of the fastest growing industries in the country, will not be receiving new players in coming days as government has halted issuing of new licences.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry has halted the licensing of newcomers pending a new policy that supports the existing regulatory framework.

Olivier Gasore, the acting Director of the department of Industry Development at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, told The New Times that the current law governing the sector could be having some loopholes, which necessitates a policy.

At the moment, he said, the ministry and its partners, including law enforcement authorities, have authority to suspend licences and issue fines in the event players are found to be non-complaint.

On most streets in Kigali and other cities around the country, it's common to spot a billboard announcing the presence of betting or gaming company.

However, the growing popularity of the businesses and the consequences on sports betting on a section of the youth's socio-economic welfare has caused some to question whether the venture is adequately supervised and regulated in Rwanda.

Betting addiction and over indulgence has become common across the country with a section of the youth considering it as an income generating activity as opposed to a leisure activity.

With only proof of legal age, partakers can gamble preferred amounts of income with some placing their entire income with the hope of multiplying it.

In Interview with The New Times, a number of employees of sports betting outlets said that a majority of the youth who walk through their doors consider it a source of income. They admitted to witnessing many blow up their income.

Employees interviewed declined to be named in the article.

There have also been suggestions to curb the amounts one can bet, gamble over a specified duration to cushion partakers from heavy losses.

Statistics from the Ministry of Trade and Industry show that there are eight betting companies, eight slot machine gaming companies and three casinos registered in the country.

Among the common cases of flouting acceptable rules in Rwanda include slot machine operators who put more machines in services than they are licenced to operate.

According to the Trade minister Soraya Hakuziyaremye, they have previously found instances where firms put more machines than they are licenced to operate or operate outside the provisions of their licences.

Some have in the past set up establishments in areas that are not designated which led the ministry and local government authorities to review sites before licensing.

There has been a number of incidences where clients complained that they did not receive their prizes.

Like other businesses, Hakuziyaremye said that they are open to receive complains which they do investigate and take appropriate measures. Among the measures taken includes using the Rwf100 million guarantee deposited by firms and awarding it to aggrieved clients.

Firms are expected to renew their guarantees annually.

Some have, however, called for more concern and attention to be given to what they described as addiction especially among the youth.

For instance, Egide Kalisa a Student at the University of Rwanda said that its concerning that a number of his peers were spending their pocket money and incomes on betting at time barely even having money for rent.

Robert Rutayisire, the Head of Forzza, a popular betting company told The New Times that as a new and emerging sector, there are still some gaps in supervision which operators are working to curb.

He said that there are talks among betting companies to establish an association to deal with emerging issues.

"Betting is a new sector in Rwanda as it was accepted by the law less than five years ago, so there are still some gaps in its supervision which allow some unscrupulous to operate unlicenced while conning citizens. We are looking forward for the setting up of a gaming board which will include private operators and experts to address the existing challenges and new ones. We have also started to establish an association of betting companies to deal with all issues related to our sector," he said.

Among the best practices that his firm had adopted was settling payments as soon as the outcome is known.

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