KAMPALA: The government of Uganda recently decided that it will stop registering foreign betting companies on the grounds that they were repatriating most of the profits to their home countries. Government went ahead to say that it would not renew licenses of such companies, further stating that only those with local shareholders would have chance to operate in Uganda.
The issue here is that there many foreign companies in different sector operating in Uganda but have not received the criticism from government like it has done to foreign betting and gaming companies which are legally registered with government through the Uganda Gaming Board (NGB).
Suffice to say is that despite some weaknesses in the Ugandan law, the foreign betting companies have been a blessing to Uganda much as moralists don’t agree with their operations. For instance, they pay taxes to the central government, pay license fees to local governments and this has contributed to the increase in government revenue.
Foreign betting companies have also been a blessing to the Ugandan population as they have provided jobs to the youth mainly who work as cashiers, accountants, marketers, IT personnel and the like. The companies also hire security agencies to keep their premises. They also have been a blessing to urban landlords of commercial buildings. Government cannot pretend that foreign betting companies are useless to the Ugandan economy. They are major players in the Ugandan economy.
That aside these foreign betting companies like Fortebet, Betway and others are playing a big role through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. They have reached out to sports teams through sponsorship but also helped the needy in hospitals and schools, just to mention but a few.
For instance, Fortebet in October last year donated Shs10 million to Gulu Referral Hospital to buy waste bins. The company also donated a brand-new tri-cycle together with 60 sanitary aprons to Lira Municipality, all valued at Shs10 million, it has also went ahead to donate mama kits to 30 expectant mothers in Namatala Health Centre IV in Mbale Municipality.
As government plans to streamline the local gaming industry, it should be mindful of such contributions. Government should introduce measures that are favorable for the growth of the gaming industry which of course should take into consideration the role foreign betting companies have played.
It would be wrong for the country that has its youth unemployed and underemployed to do away with registration of foreign betting companies. Government’s policy is that the private sector should be at the forefront of job creation as government alone cannot provide jobs to the young people and has actually failed to do so. That is why we have many youths trying betting in anticipation that they can win some money and start their own businesses. They lucky one have actually done so, as they have bought boda bodas, taxis, established shops and other businesses.
NGB itself notes that should government do away with foreign betting and gaming companies, there shall be a reduction in government revenue, increase in employment, reduction of incomes from rental facilities and other utilities like water and electricity.
NGM should look at foreign betting companies as partners in the growth of the industry. The regulation role should be done carefully not to kill foreign betting companies. For instance, NGB should work hand in hand with these companies to promote responsible gaming to protect the vulnerable population from the adverse effects of gaming and betting. The companies are willing to promote transparency and accountability as they operate.
Therefore, it goes without saying that foreign betting countries are still needed in this country for the role that they continue to play. Government only have to negotiate with them and provide an enabling environment for them to thrive.