Victory is a fleeting thing in the gambling business. Today’s winners are tomorrow’s blinking toads, dumb beasts with no hope – Hunter S. Thompson
The quickest and surest way to ruin is gambling.
When government licensed sports betting companies a few years back, surely they should have anticipated that vice would spiral out of control. Ugandans, especially the youth are as passionate about sport, and football in particular as any other lot world over. It’s not surprising therefore that Ugandans took to sports betting and gaming with equal albeit reckless measure.
The most common form of sports betting is where people predict on results of football matches in hope of winning, slot machines, horse, dog and goat racing among others.
Today, every street, in every town is littered with sports betting houses, packed to rafters with idle youth, every hour of each day, trying out their luck on a game of chance.
Recently I witnessed in total dismay, how crummy to the core Ugandans have become with betting. As people rushed to beat the morning hour traffic to work, a group of young men waited impatiently at Ovino arcade in Kisenyi, Kampala. It’s wasn’t a shift change at a factory as it looked on the onset. No, they are waiting for the betting houses to open. It is a sad and depressing sight, which has become too common in every town in this country.
Some will claim the staggering unemployment in the country has made gambling a viable albeit desperate option. It’s not viable for sure, desperate perhaps.
Several community leaders, Members of Parliament, religious leaders and common folks in the community have voiced condemnation of the vice and expressed worrying concerns on the impact it is having on the youth especially. They argue, and rightly so, that it encourages, laziness, and is a recipe for crime. However, government is seemingly not as morally conflicted as the society is towards gambling.
As a matter of fact Government realised the potential this tax base could yield. In 2014 Parliament passed the income tax (Amendment) Bill, 2014, which among other things provided for withholding tax of 15% on all winnings. As to whether this was meant to discourage the practice or take advantage of the gambling addiction, is any man’s guess.
Currently parliament is legislating on the Gaming and Lotteries Bill 2013, which seeks to reform the law relating to the conduct of lotteries, gaming and casinos, and to taxation of gambling activities. The bill proposes 20% of the total amount of money staked less the payouts. This implies the industry is here for the long haul.
The reckless abandon with which Ugandans, and the youth in particular have taken to gambling for their livelihood is all too distressing. Every gambling house is a mouse trap. The claim that the betting house always wins is not unfounded. The price our society will pay when the gambling addiction takes its toll on the youth is inconceivable. Depression, suicides, and more worryingly a life of crime, come to mind. One is drawn to question whether the tax gains and growth of the industry is worth it, at all.
So what will become of this nation when the core of its backbone, the youth, are gambling away, their toil, time, resources and future on a game of chance? As the industry continues to grow, business owners and government continue to reap more from profits and taxes respectively. There is one sure loser though, the young men and women that are so deeply sunk in this abyss.
As calls for government intervention become louder, urgent, more desperate, one thing is certain, government seems happy sit back and profit from their recklessness and tax them for what it’s worth. Besides why kill the goose that lays golden eggs!