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Uganda Pulls the Plug on Sports Betting and Gaming LicencesPublished January 23, 2019 by Lee R
The protection of youth and the growing political power of religious leaders has tabled licensing in Uganda.
A sports betting ban in Uganda has severely dampened the hopes of major new operators.
Big Projections Disappear
Firms like Sportpesa boldly entered the market with projection of a budget reaching the millions.
However, these grand illusions may have turned into delusions with Uganda finance minister David Bahati's announcement that President Yoweri Museveni had blocked the issuance of any further licenses:
“We have received a directive from President Museveni to stop licensing sports betting, gaming and gambling companies,” said Mr Bahati, continuing:
“The President has now directed the board which has been regulating them that…from now onwards, no new companies are going to be licensed. (As for) Those which are already registered, no renewal of licenses when they expire.”
The justification was out of concern for protecting the youth, specifically the statement read “because sports betting companies have diverted the attention of youth from hard work.”
This of course shelves Uganda as a new frontier in Africa for any applicants or new licensees, such as
SportPesa which has operated in Uganda since late 2017.
Change of Course
The about face of President Museveni’s position is quite extreme when considering he hailed SportPesa's entry as a “boost” to the entire sports industry.
At the time, Museveni claimed that SportPesa would help the government “empower the youth through football and increase revenue by strictly regulating betting.” Apparently the reverse impact has been realised with the nation's youth, or the defensive priorities have shifted.
Local Investors Affected
After launching local operations last December, and riding sports sponsorships to market position, BetLion is a another big name taking the hit. BetLion includes local investors as well, so the ripple effect in the local community is evident.
In Contrast to Neighbour
This is further an extreme about face to other local jurisdictions, such as Kenya which is moving forward by easing online betting taxes from 35 percent to 15 percent.
Religious Leader Appeasement
The new directive also appeases a strong local contingency apparently, as in a church service Mr. Bahati lauded long-time betting opponents among church leaders who can now “praise the Lord because their prayers have been answered.”
In a country where religious leaders are experiencing less restrictions on taking Parliamentary positions, Uganda is an example of a country where even in a region which needs revenue boosts, moral leaders and social priorities are still capable of overcoming iGaming regulation forward progress as a moment's notice.