Uganda Regulator Highlights Challenges As COVID-19 Restrictions Ease

January 11, 2022
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​​​​​​​Uganda’s Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board has said its responsible gambling programme will be a “yardstick” for all industry stakeholders, as the regulator positions itself as one of Africa’s busiest authorities.

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Uganda’s Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board (LGRB) has said its responsible gambling programme will be a “yardstick” for all industry stakeholders, as the regulator positions itself as one of Africa’s busiest authorities.

Denis Mudene Ngabirano, the LGRB’s CEO, who took up the role last October, made the comments to local media mogul Don Wanyama, CEO of Vision Group, in a meeting earlier this month.

Ngabirano told Wanyama the key challenges his organisation must overcome are “manually monitoring an electronically driven sector, lack of physical [enforcement] presence across the country, insufficient budget allocation” and the impacts of COVID-19.

The LGRB managed to raise UGX43.4bn (€10.8m) during the 2020/21 financial year, while handling 38 disputes and confiscating 555 illegal gaming devices, said Ngabirano.

Over the past few months, the regulator has been visiting radio and TV stations to raise awareness of its “Responsible Gaming in Uganda” initiative.

On December 15, 2021, the LGRB also held a meeting with gambling operators as part of a drive to promote responsible gambling.

During these stakeholder meetings, the regulator and operators also discussed ways it can “revive” the sector after “these unprecedented times of COVID-19”.

Between March and November 14, 2020, casinos, gaming and betting shops were forced to close and an increase in cases saw another lockdown introduced in May 2021.

In September 2021, President Yoweri Museveni announced the lifting of some restrictions, including allowing the reopening of casinos, gaming and betting shops in November 2021.

Despite being allowed to reopen during the day, venues still had to shut by 6pm.

At the time, Uganda had an ongoing national curfew between 7pm and 5:30am, which was removed with the remaining restrictive measures at the start of 2022.

The various local governments working with the LGRB were told they “must inspect the various betting outlets for suitability” before allowing them to reopen, according to the President.

However, in his New Year message for 2022, Museveni warned the measures will be reversed if more strain is put on the country's limited number of intensive care unit beds or if the country’s hospitals begin dealing with more severe and critical cases.

Currently, there are 53 licensed operators, 75 issued licences and 2,078 approved premises with 497 licensed key employees, according to the LGRB.

However, at least one local operator, Sports Betting Africa, said the restrictions and taxes have made it impossible for it to afford to operate virtual games, a key part of its land-based business, forcing the company to close more than 200 shops and try to shift its business online.

The operator's website currently just says: “SBA is closing business in Uganda.”

Separately, the LGRB has launched a competition for a licence to conduct a National Lottery which will be conducted on behalf of the government.

Applications for the licence close on January 14.

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