Uganda Lawmakers Push for Daytime Sports Betting Ban

Some lawmakers in the African nation of Uganda think that sportsbooks should be part-time operations. If it were up to them, sports betting would only occur after 5 PM and end at around 2 AM the following morning.

Uganda sports betting
Uganda sports betting
Bettors line up to place bets at a sportsbook in Uganda. Country lawmakers want this practice to end and propose limiting the hours sports betting activity can take place. (Image: Global Press Journal)

Lawmakers with Uganda’s Committee of Finance don’t understand sports betting. That would explain why they believe it’s possible to limit the activity to non-working hours. Ugandan media outlet the Monitor reports that one committee member, Enos Asiimwe, made such a suggestion to the Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board (LGRB) this week.

Asiimwe suggested that the LGRB implement a regulator change so that sportsbooks operate after 5 PM in order to “make youth more productive” and because some people engage in sports betting “as early as 10 AM.” This would seriously impact the industry as bettors target events around the globe at different times of the day.

Implausible Solution

Uganda is seven hours ahead of New York and seven hours behind Australia. Should the LGRB restrict operating hours for sportsbooks, attempts to bet on certain international games would be unrealistic. Bettors could place bets well in advance, but line changes would impact the odds and the payouts.

There’s also the issue of enforcement. The LGRB explains that 60% of all gaming activity takes place online. As such, trying to limit when sportsbooks can accept bets would be a monumental and possibly insurmountable challenge.

This doesn’t mean the regulator completely rejects the idea. The subject of closing the window on sports betting hours came as the LGRB presented its budget plan to the Committee of Finance.

In that plan, the regulator requests US$567,000 extra to onboard an electronic monitoring system to add safeguards to the legal betting industry. LGRB CEO Denis Ngabirano didn’t specify the type of system, but asserted that it would generate more revenue for the country and help mitigate the risk of money laundering.

Ngabirano added during the meeting with the committee that operational hours are “one of the issues” the regulator is addressing. He stated that the commission is working on new rules it hopes will clean up the overall gaming industry. The LGRB also wants to increase regulations while working to reduce the influence of the illegal segment.

Uganda Sees Rise in Sports Betting

There was a time, not too long ago, that Uganda was going to ban sports betting and online gaming. That plan fell through after cooler minds prevailed, realizing that it’s impossible to prohibit an activity easily accessible through online channels.

The country also tried to implement a tax of 35% on gaming operators’ revenue in 2017. That didn’t hold up, either. Lawmakers, in response to industry complaints, forced a reduction to 15%.

That tax rate is easier to swallow and there has been a steady increase in sports betting activity since then. This is why global operators like 888 Holdings are now showing interest in Africa.

There’s another flaw in the proposed reduction in sports betting operation hours. As one lawmaker, Jane Pacutho, pointed out, limiting the hours doesn’t limit interest – it only condenses it. Therefore, bettors will spend their evenings focusing on sports bets and not on their families.

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