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Uganda moves to ban gambling: minister

Gambling, especially in sport, has become a phenomenon across East Africa, driven by satellite and digital television, while smartphones enable online and app-based gambling (AFP Photo/Isaac Kasamani)

Kampala (AFP) - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has ordered authorities to stop issuing and renewing licences to betting firms in a bid to crack down on gambling, the finance minister said Monday.

"The directive was received on the matter and it is going to be implemented," the minister David Bahati told AFP.

Speaking to the privately owned Daily Monitor, Bahati said Museveni had ordered that "from now onwards, no new companies are going to be licensed. Those which are already registered, no renewal of licences when they expire."

Gambling, especially in sport, has become a phenomenon across East Africa, driven by the ubiquity of satellite and digital television, with smartphones that enable online and app-based gambling.

In just a few years, betting shops have emerged widely in cities, towns and villages across Uganda,

Samuel Mutekanga, an operator at one of the leading sports betting companies in Kampala, Betway, was shocked by the decision.

"The directive is not only a surprise but shocking. It is a danger to our investment," he said.

"Were we consulted? No. How can such a ban come in a pedestrian way? Where does it leave the money we have invested?" he added.

Patrick Lubaale, another sports betting official at Galz Betting in downtown Kampala, said thousands of people depended upon the industry.

"If the president is complaining about the negative effects on young people, we have already been sensitising the public about the irresponsible betting and people are aware about this, but this should not be reason to ban the trade," he said.