Sports bet­ting and gam­ing – Our youth are los­ing out

By: Reagan Wamajji

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.

These sports betting centers can be found everywhere around the country. Though licensed, hey still are a danger to society. Photo Credit: NewVision


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!