It’s no secret that the economy isn’t exactly a bed of roses for many Ugandans. Unemployment and underpayment are common complaints, especially among the youth who feel their qualifications are not matched by job opportunities. With rising literacy levels, the frustration grows as expectations for better jobs are unmet.

Yet, amidst this economic struggle, one sector is booming – the gaming and lottery industry. While many sectors report declining profits, the gambling sector continues to thrive, proving to be a surprising beacon of growth.

The Rise of Betting

The National Lotteries and Gaming Board, under the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, regulates this thriving sector. Back in 2016, an Act was passed to reform laws related to lotteries, gaming, betting, and casinos. This Act established the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board, which oversees licensing, regulation, and taxation of these activities.

Despite these regulations, the betting landscape remains somewhat murky. While the board now requires companies to include regulatory information and age restrictions in their adverts, the visibility and enforcement of these regulations can be hit or miss.

Small Steps Toward Regulation

In a bid to tighten controls, authorities recently confiscated equipment worth Shs4.2 billion from the industry, arguing that some of it didn’t meet standards. These steps are crucial for regulating an industry that rakes in billions from the public monthly. However, challenges remain.

Many betting shops open before the prescribed times, and young people can be found placing bets even in the morning. The verification process to ensure gamblers are above the advertised age of 25 is still not foolproof, particularly on online platforms.

The Price of a Bet

The minimum betting amount stands at a mere Shs1,000, which is alarmingly low. This accessibility means that even those with limited income can easily gamble away their money. Unlike Macau or Nevada, where gambling is a luxury for many, in Uganda, it remains far too accessible.

Despite high taxes on bets and winnings, gambling is still within reach for almost everyone. This shouldn’t be the case. Gambling should be an activity for those with surplus funds, not a risky venture for low-income earners hoping for a windfall.

While the gaming and lottery sector continues to grow, it’s essential to strike a balance between regulation and accessibility. Making gambling more prohibitive could help protect vulnerable groups from the pitfalls of betting. As Uganda navigates this booming industry, the focus should be on creating a safe, regulated environment that doesn’t exploit the financially vulnerable.

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