The Minister of State for Finance – General Duties, Dr Gabriel Ajedra Aridru has said that government is facing challenges to regulate the betting sector.
Ajedra was on Friday appearing before Parliament’s Finance Committee together with the Edgar Agaba, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board to present the budget estimates for the Board for the coming financial year 2019/2020.
Provided under the Lotteries and Gaming Act, 2016, the Board’s main objective is to supervise and regulate the establishment, management and operation of gaming activities in Uganda as well as protect citizens from adverse effects.
Figures from the Lotteries and Gaming Board indicate that 49 licensed gaming operators, operating 2,238 premises in more than 100 districts across the country. There are 20 casinos and 15 slot machines.
Ajedra was questioned by Mitooma Woman MP Jovah Kamateeka on efforts to regulate the sector. She noted that gambling activities go on at any time of the day and night and that they have not spared the underage and the poor.
“The public is suffering, why don’t you limit the time for gaming, young children and men who are supposed to engage in other economic activities are all taken up by this game,” said Kamateeka.
Hoima Municipality MP, Lawrence Bategeka also cited the need for government to engage to necessary stake holders to discuss and strike a balance between the financial benefits of the sector and its social impact.
In the financial year 2017/18, the sector fetched the economy 42 billion shillings in revenue and the Board has so far collected 22 billion shillings revenue in the current financial year 2018/2019 out of the targeted 45 billion.
In the coming financial year 2019/2020, government targets to collect 55 billion revenue from the sector.
In the past, different sections of the public with religious leaders being at the forefront have come out to condemn betting and gambling saying that it was a breeding ground for crime with most of the urban areas in the country littered with betting centres. It is also argued that a lot of unemployed youth have been using the activity as a means of employment.
In January, President Yoweri Museveni directed new measures for the sector intended to strengthen the regulation of betting activities. In his order, he wanted a halt on registration of new sports betting companies or renewal of licenses for the existing companies upon expiry.
Ajedra told MPs that the issue had been discussed extensively in cabinet and made a resolution directing the Board to review the entire sector and also ensure that the new regulations restrict flow of money out of the country by foreign betting companies.
He said that the new proposals are yet to be completed hence making the regulation of the sector still problematic.
Agaba said that there are efforts to regulate the sector but they are cut short by inadequate funding.
He, however, revealed to the committee that his board had come up with a new set of regulations for the sectors which have been cleared by the solicitor general and are currently before the Finance Minister. He said that they are likely to be issued to the public by end of June.
The Board’s Budget has been reduced in the coming financial year 2019/2020 to 8.37 billion compared to the current 2018/2019 financial year budget of 11.37 billion. The Board has tabled a request of 3.15 billion shillings additional funding to enable them have a National Electronic Central Monitoring System to strengthen their regulatory role and monitor all betting activities.
Agaba said that the total cost of the monitoring system is 10.5 billion shilling but due to budget constraints, it is to be paid over a period of three years. He said that if fully implemented, it will enhance their revenue generation to 70 billion shillings.