Gambling is a hugely popular activity in Uganda, particularly for the younger generation. Research has suggested that around 45% of the country's male population between the ages of 18 and 30 years participate in some form of gambling. However after sharing his concerns about gambling habits, the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, recently directed the government to halt renewing or issuing any licences to gambling operators.
This is effectively a ban on gambling - but is it justified? Countries and governments around the world take different standpoints on gambling. Some believe it is harmful both socially and financially, whereas others actively encourage the growth of the industry and enjoy its economic benefits.
Places where gambling is successful
Countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom allow gambling in many different forms, but have strict legislation in place to protect customers and prevent social or economic harm.
Well-established and respected online providers, such as 888 Casino, are an example of a trusted site that provides a safe and engaging place for gamblers to bet, making it a hugely popular UK online casino. Following the regulations that companies like this follow could be a much more effective solution for Uganda. Assessing this requires us to take a look at the country’s current economic challenges and consider the risks and rewards the gambling has to offer.
In the USA, the American based National Basketball Association (NBA) has come out to show its support publicly for the gambling industry. Sports betting brings in a significant revenue stream in the USA and is important for both the national and international sports industries.
Additionally, the UK is an example of a country with a thriving gambling industry that only continues to grow. The betting industry alone is valued at around £650 million. In the UK, land-based casinos helped to improve employment on a local level. Casinos require employees to help keep them running. They also benefit surrounding businesses such as hotels, restaurants and bars who profit from increasing passing trade and tourists coming to the area to gamble. And, the growth of the online gambling industry has been incredible, making a significant contribution to the economy.
What is the current economic situation in the country?
On the positive side, Uganda has come a long way in reducing the amount of poverty in the country of the last couple of decades, much of this is due to improvements in the agricultural sector. Between the mid-1990s and 2013 the number of residents in the country that were classed as living in poverty halved. However, the longevity of life quality improvements is a cause for concern, as nearly two thirds of those who escape poverty end up living below the breadline again at some point in the future.
Uganda has a high population of young people. Due to a wide range of factors, including a series of recent natural disasters, the country’s economy is struggling and therefore the job market is struggling. Around 700,000 of Uganda’s population reach working age each year, yet only 75,000 new jobs are created. This highlights how much of an issue unemployment is for young people, which is only set to get worse given that one million of Uganda’s population will reach working age between 2030 and 2040.
What is stopping the Ugandan government?
The government’s current concern is that without jobs, more and more young people are resorting to gambling in an attempt to make money. More than half of those under the age of 35 bet regularly on sports. The President of Uganda has stated that young people are becoming idle and are not participating in hard work. With more people looking to gambling as their main source of income, the worry is that they will become addicted and land themselves in more debt.
Before the recent ban, the government took action two years ago by introducing a 35% revenue tax of gambling operator’s profits. This followed similar moves from other African countries such as Nigeria and South Africa.
These concerns explain the government's reason for the gambling ban, however critics are arguing that allowing the industry to continue to exist could have positive impacts for the Ugandan economy.
Could relaxing the laws have a positive impact?
High profile organisations in the gambling industry are fighting back. One argument they have given for reversing the ban is that they in fact provide much needed revenue for the country. This comes in the form of lower taxes, paying down the country’s national debt and funding important social initiatives and programmes.
Banning established gambling venues from operating in the country could increase the risk of illegal activity and help Uganda to improve its levels of employment. There is the possibility that gamblers will just take the activity underground and continue in secret. This would eliminate any potential tax revenue benefits that the industry brings and could increase issues such as addiction, underage gambling and scams.
What are the risks to allowing gambling to continue in the country?
Of course, there are risks still associated with legalising gambling in Uganda. The main issue is that gambling addiction and harmful behaviours could still occur. Italy is an example of this. Italians are some of the most prolific gamblers in the world, while they account for just 2% of the global population, they make up nearly 25% of the gambling population. Many of Italy’s residents are classed as having a gambling problem.
For now, the future of gambling in the country is uncertain. Uganda could see a number of economic benefits by reintroducing gambling in the country, including tax revenues and employment levels reduced. However, without careful regulation, that runs the risk of allowing harmful social behaviours to continue.
Gambling/Advertorial Content by The Media Marketing
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