Foreign sports betting companies are hurting Uganda’s economy, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija has said as he clarified on the controversial move to ban gambling in Uganda.
Mr Kasaija said on Tuesday that President Museveni’s directive is specifically meant to lock out foreign sports betting companies that are said to be repatriating profits to their mother countries.
“We’re not banning gaming. We’re saying this activity should be limited to only Ugandans. We have said that licensees that are running will not be renewed and new ones will not be issued to foreigners because we've discovered so much of our money is being exported through that gaming thing which as far as I am concerned has little value to the economy. It ends up by taking our very scarce foreign exchange which we earn through very difficult circumstances like growing coffee and other crops," he said before encouraging youth to work hard.
The minister was speaking to journalists at Imperial Royale Hotel during the launch and dissemination of a report on compliance of national budget framework paper and sector budget frame work papers with gender and equity requirement 2019- 2020.
The Minister of State for Finance in charge of Planning, Mr David Bahati was on Monday quoted saying Mr Museveni directed a ban on gambling because sports betting companies have diverted the attention of youth from hard work.
He said the President had directed the board which oversees gambling not to renew or issue new licenses.
However, Mr Kasaija emphasized that priority has now been left to locally owned companies with a clear motive of developing the economy, other than supporting foreign companies which starve the economy of foreign exchange.
Gambling, especially in sport, has become a phenomenon across East Africa, driven by the ubiquity of satellite and digital television, with smartphones that enable online and app-based gambling.
In just a few years, betting shops have emerged widely in cities, towns and villages across Uganda.
What operators say
Samuel Mutekanga, an operator at one of the leading sports betting companies in Kampala, Betway, was shocked by the decision.
"The directive is not only a surprise but shocking. It is a danger to our investment," he said.
"Were we consulted? No. How can such a ban come in a pedestrian way? Where does it leave the money we have invested?" he added.
Patrick Lubaale, another sports betting official at Galz Betting in downtown Kampala, said thousands of people depended upon the industry.
"If the president is complaining about the negative effects on young people, we have already been sensitising the public about the irresponsible betting and people are aware about this, but this should not be reason to ban the trade," he said.