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Sports betting ban

Why putting money on Kasaija not Bahati is smart

Kampala, Uganda | DAVID AJUNA | On Jan.20 David Bahati, the minister of state for Finance made an announcement that has shaken the betting industry in Uganda and attracted international attention.

Bahati who was speaking at an event in Rugarama, in Kabale town, announced that the President had directed the National Gaming Board Uganda (NGBU) to stop licensing sports betting, gaming and gambling companies. Bahati said the President was concerned that betting, with false promises of easy money, was diverting youth away from hard work.

Reaction was instant and heated.

Edgar Agaba, the Chief Executive Officer of NGBU told The Independent that banning ban could a result into the government losing more than Shs50 billion in taxes in the coming financial year.

Agaba said his organisation will be seeking clarity from the government.

“I have no policy direction as yet on the matter,” he said to explain why he could not comment more.

Sports ‘shadow’ minister and Makindye West legislator Allan Ssewanyana was equally unimpressed.

“Government should shift energy to creating jobs for the youth before prohibiting betting,” he told The Independent, ““Museveni and his group have deliberately refused to create avenues for youth employment, but instead have swung into action to even curtail the only source of income for these young men and women.”

Andrew Kitakka, a better at Fortebet in Nakulabye said the ban is not necessary.

“Government also gives good deals to foreign companies. How come they have not banned them all under the disguise of wanting to end repatriation. Their reasons are not substantial.”

But Timothy Amanya, a lawyer said the ban on betting activities is good.

“Its effects are very dangerous; especially psychologically and economically. It corrupts morality in society,” Amanya said. That is the view of many religious leaders. They say betting increases the scale of lawlessness.

As the opposition got more heated, two days later, on Jan. 22, Bahati’s senior minister, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija called a press conference to announce that Bahati had run way with the President’s idea. Apparently, according to Kasaija, the President had not directed a ban on betting. Rather, the President had directed a ban on licences for foreign-owned betting firms. Going forward, Kasaija told journalists, only Ugandan companies would be allowed to engage in betting.

“I will soon issue a statement indicating that government shall no longer issue licenses to foreign betting companies,” said the minister.

In an interview with a local daily, Kasaijja said government will determine the number of betting companies and where they will operate in a new regulatory regime.

Kasaijja said the President’s quarrel with foreign betting companies was their tendency to repatriate profits.

“All the money they earn from sports lovers is moved to their countries of origin,” Kasaijja told the Independent.

Kasaija went on to say that government would also terminate the licenses of the already running foreigner-owned betting companies. Close to 90% of the betting firms in Uganda are owned by foreigners.

Kasaija also dismissed the claim that foreign owners of betting firms are “investors” – meaning members of a favoured club of foreigners with money in Uganda. According to Kasaija, bthe foreign betting barons cannot be investors because “there is no significant investment they bring to Uganda that cannot be done once local ownership of the betting firms is undertaken”.

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