Losing out on the Presidential directive on Sports Betting

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The author, Michael R Ruhindayo, is an International Development Worker and Organization Development specialist

H.E., the top executive of this land, has loudly pronounced himself on the future of sports betting in Uganda. He touched a major nerve that controls a large part of our majorly young impressionable, gullible and obviously vulnerable population.

The trending driver of betting in this land, has been football, hence the sports betting brand. i have lived in other lands where horses or even boxing are the trending betting items. Therefore, do not mistake the betting frenzy with the love for soccer, or even European league(s) euphoria. Far from it! It is the psyche of an increasingly hopeless, unproductive society that adores speculation, fake news, and fatalistic attributes.

This was foretold by the post world war 2 growth economics theorists WW Rostow, who suggested similar speculative attributes of a country at Pre-conditions for take-off stage. So my dear Minister of Finance, according to WW Rostow, the characteristics typified in Uganda society today seem to suggest that we are not yet at the phewwwwwwww stage (Take-off stage).

Betting knows no socio-economic boundaries and is a vice that affects all levels of the socio-economic strata, as the stakes are placed their bets higher or lower depending on the financial ability of the betting participants. What is obvious in Uganda today, and not unique to Uganda alone, is that there are many stakes, but only a handful reaps from the pool.

It surprises me that society does not want to address itself to this anomaly. What actually fuels this unquestionable optimism? The continuous committal of scarce resources to a project so unproductive is the tragic consequence of sports betting in this land.

As it is today in every small town along the main highways, and in the urban localities a young man bets away a day’s wages at the expense of his expectant family. Hence fueling the rampant poverty indicators and increasing income inequality as hoards of poor folk pool their small resources to benefit a handful of winner and the companies that provide the betting platforms.

This inequality has often been written about as the probable basis of socio-economic upheavals in urban and rural Uganda. This will unfortunately be compounded by the apparent lack of planning; there is no exclusivity. Our housing areas are a mixture economic strata (levels) especially those in Wakiso and Mukono.

In the event of the ‘have-nots’ taking up arms out of the frustrations of biting poverty, the consequences will be bloody indeed. The move by the Chief Executive of this country is thus a welcome idea- not only to regulate the betting sector but expunge the nasty vice and free our people from the painful snare that betting exposes our people to.

However, the reverberations we hear from his field captains (His Ministers), is so frustrating, annoying and even worrying. It makes one to think that the president’s directive may never see the light of day. The scampering, multiple statements, divergent interpretations (‘uncoordinated movement of troops’) by this and that minister, is a sign of a bigger problem. Who benefits from the continued existence of the betting platforms? Even if the Honorable Minister of Finance’s interpretation of the presidential directive is upheld, and betting is regulated to be run by indigenous citizens, still the income inequality gaps would widen further entrenching poverty among the people.

This undesirable vice should be taken back to the confines of gambling arenas (also known as Casinos). There should also be a nation-wide clean-up of the popularization of betting platforms with no new licenses being issued. Please Mr. President, tell your ministers to shut-up and ensure that your directive is followed to the letter. Betting has proven to become an easy way to further impoverish both urban and rural folk. Our people are quite gullible. The president’s intervention is timely and indeed visionary. Nevertheless the apparent “Uncoordinated Movement of troops” by his ‘field captains’ (the Ministers) erodes any confidence and hope that the President’s well intentioned directive will propagate into any desirable outcome. Mr President, stand your ground.

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