Photograph — Try Updates

In an effort to control gambling and the threat it poses to the society, the governments of Uganda and Kenya have taken steps to intensify regulatory policies on the betting industry.

Over time, the rising number of young gamblers in Africa has continued to be a major source of concern. Recent research shows that the youth population (ages 17 – 35) in countries like Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa spend a whopping $50 monthly on betting through their mobile phones.

Kenya has the highest betting participation compared to other African countries, with 79 percent of Kenyan youth estimated to be placing bets on football matches. For many, this addiction has resulted in debt, particularly for those that are unemployed. About 500,000 Kenyan youth have reportedly been blacklisted by various online lending companies after they borrowed money to bet and gamble. In effect, Kenya has become a hub for betting and gambling where the industry generated $1.9 billion in revenue for the government.

The menace of gambling is blamed on the loose betting, licensing and control policies which have encouraged the birth of over 50 local and foreign companies in the past four years alone. Although governments had previously taken measures to curb this practice by restricting the importation of gaming devices, impounding and burning gambling machines, the numbers keep increasing. The high tax rates on the industry have not yielded many results either. These governments have thus taken further steps that will stiffen operations in the betting and gaming industries and cut their numbers, and ultimately slow down the growing gambling rate among youth.

In Kenya, licences for all betting agencies stand suspended effective from July 1. Their renewal will be subject to proof that the companies are tax compliant. The government hopes that imposing a compulsory tax on the sector will force many agencies to shut down.

Meanwhile, Uganda has ordered that licensing sports betting, gaming and gambling companies should stop. No new companies are going to be licensed and for those which are already registered, there is no renewal of licences when they expire.

While these measures are commendable, there are other contributing factors that need to be addressed. The betting population largely constitutes of unemployed youths who gamble as a means of survival. Stiffening gambling laws could push this active population to seek out ways that best suit them, these include accessing illegal or foreign sites. Other than addressing the industry, governments should also look into job creation and youth empowerment.

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