By now, the people of Uganda are familiar with the betting ban. President Museveni made his decision over two years ago, and as time rolls on, the betting operators active in Uganda will bite the dust one by one, and soon, none will remain.
But was this the right plan of attack? There tends to be two schools of thought. They can arguably be divided into conservative and liberal thinkers, with one side supporting the ban and all that it stands for, and others opposing it.
When it comes to dealing with issues, especially those that are deep rooted with seemingly few solutions, the situation is always difficult. Sometimes interventions that have the best intentions quite simply leave the disenfranchised even more worse off. Sometimes the opposite occurs, however, and Uganda’s betting ban poses an interesting discussion with regard to public intervention and policy.
If we take an objective view, Uganda has several issues, chief amongst these is that of widespread gambling addiction, which has gripped youth in particular. The very thrill of betting, and gambling overall is the possibility that you might lose, but there is a base level of being comfortable with losing that needs to be in place to make betting and gambling fun, and more importantly, sustainable.
This appears to be the crux of the matter, and is why, arguably, Uganda is facing the issue that it currently is. Furthermore, it makes the introduction of a betting ban feel that much more necessary, and is why many have agreed that this is in fact the perfect solution to the issue.
But this where there is so much dispute has crept in. If history is anything to go by, and if literature around addiction is to be consulted, a ban may not be the way forward. Perhaps a decent stop-gap measure yes, but another more long term solution is what many parties believe is necessary to help those with gambling addictions back on their feet.
On the conservative, pro betting ban side of the coin, a ban is a proactive, tangible and pragmatic solution to the very real and devastating problem. One that is worthy of plenty of applause. However, if we were to take a look at the various nations where online gambling has been rendered illegal, very poignant questions begin to be asked.
In South Africa, online sports betting through licensed bookmakers is the only form of legal online gambling. Other forms, such as online casino, poker and bingo however, remain prohibited. Has this online gambling prohibition stopped the South African gambling community from accessing illegal online gambling portals? It certainly has not.
What makes this an even bigger issue, is the fact that these illegal operators are very much left to their own devices. Players are at greater risk because they are unprotected, and have nowhere to go if they are left being victims of malicious antics.
This is where the more leftist thinking comes in. Perhaps the answer is not only in the ban, but also lies in the provision of spaces for recovery and rehabilitation. Pushes towards education surrounding the dangers of gambling. A ban is one thing for sure, but there is nothing stopping gambling addicts from engaging in the practice illegally, and thus more precariously.
While a ban is a good stop gap, and an intervention with the best of intentions, it is not the one and only way Uganda will trump it's gambling problem. Education and rehabilitation is what will influence and possibly cure a poisoned gambling culture that has devastated so many.
This article is sponsored by Trano