The Legality of Sports Betting in Uganda

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Gambling and betting have since time immemorial been apart of human civilization.Gambling is perhaps as old as mankind and has been practiced in different forms including games, races and wagering despite being associated with moral decadence.

Not even the holy and olden times of good Lord escaped the practice. The Bible does not explicitly mention gambling, but it does mention events of “luck” or “chance.” As an example, casting lots is used in Leviticus to choose between the sacrificial goat and the scapegoat. Joshua cast lots to determine the allotment of land to the various tribes.

In contemporary Uganda, it is not uncommon that mothers, neighbors, and the entire community will indisputably give the “bad eye” and unsolicited advice to young people involved in the habits of sports betting and gambling.

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Elders are neither desirous of letting their young ones associate with persons already conversant with the practice.

Laws and directives have also failed to desist Ugandans from indulging in this activity because of its perennial allurement and rather promising high returns.The government of Uganda for instance took a two year action by introducing a 35% revenue tax on gambling operatives as a systematic approach to discouraging youths from engaging in such activities but still failed.

Even though its notorious companionship with other human vices is also well-known, the disastrous consequences of gambling have still not discouraged the practice which leads to the assertion that Uganda should rather regulate it rather than outlaw it.

The Oxford dictionary defines the term Bettting as the action of gambling money on the outcome of a race, game or other unpredictable event. Betting is a more sophisticated word substitute coined for gambling since gambling carries with it a social stigma which is known to bring along other social and moral vices.

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The revolution of internet technology has opened New dimensions of betting and gambling and has created global market for it. This simply means that betting and gambling does not only occur with physical presence as it used to in the olden times but also occurs online on cell phones in the comfort and privacy of one’s home.

Research has suggested that around 45% of the Ugandan male youth population between the ages of 18 and 30 years participates in some form of gambling. One can hardly come across a Ugandan Street or neighborhood without a sports betting and gambling spot.

The quandary thus sets in, being that; unlike other jurisdictions like the United States and the United kingdom that allow gambling in many different forms and have strict legislation in place to protect customers, Uganda lacks a comprehensive and updated or detailed law on betting and gambling yet laws are required on the same to ensure that consumers are adequately protected from its ill effects, the new dimensions of gambling catered for and the profits assimilated into Uganda’s economy.

Gambling is notably legal in Uganda and is recognised under the national lotteries and gaming Act 2016. Under section 4 of this Act, the National Gaming Board of Uganda is mandated to issue licenses for lotteries, casinos, gaming and betting in Uganda.

The board has power to conduct investigations, examination, inspection and issue guidelines directives or instructions for the proper management of the industry the licensing process is controlled under section 41 of this Act to award licenses.

The application for license is made to the board whose obligation amongst others includes licensing, regulation and taxation of the different sports betting centers casinos and lotteries.

In addition to this Act are various regulations governing various individual gambling centers. It is however important to note that these do not create a fundamental position of the law governing all the upcoming sports betting centers and various lacunas that need be addressed, thus there is need for the legislature of Uganda to come up with a comprehensive law or statute so as to protect the ever growing consumers of gambling from fraud and other irregularities that may come along in light of the new circumstances like the COVID 19 pandemic.

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Josephine Luzige is a lawyer,
Policy advocate, Writer
Immigration law analyst and
Founder of Youth Legal Platform

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