The Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board (LGRB) came into existence in 2016 following the enactment of the Lotteries and Gaming Act, 2016.
In an interview with Business Focus (BF) on August 15, at their head offices at Communications House in Kampala, Edgar Agaba (EA), the Chief Executive Officer at LGRB revealed that they have come up with several rules to streamline the lotteries and gaming (betting) industry in Uganda. So far, they have licensed about 30 betting companies and 1000 branches countrywide. He adds that in order to protect the public, over 500 fake slot machines have been confiscated while an estimated 10,000 are still on the market.
Below are the excerpts of the interview;
BF: What is Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board all about? What is its mandate?
EA: The Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board (LGRB) started operations on April8, 2016, but officially launched on May11, 2017. We are trying to set up the Human Resource; currently we have 21 staff, but to execute our mandate efficiently, we need over 50 staff. We are also trying to put IT systems in place and equip the Board with necessary equipment like cars and computers. Our mandate is to regulate lotteries (national and public). We have so far licensed Play Lotto. We also regulate and supervise Casinos both land based and online; we have 10 in Kampala, while Entebbe, Jinja and Mbale have one each.
Most importantly, it’s our mandate to regulate and supervise sports betting. We have licensed about 30 betting companies both online and land based. We have over 1000 betting shops across the country, but 60-70% of them are in Kampala. We also regulate slot machines (they are like fuel pump machines).
BF: Briefly tell me more about the law governing the lotteries and gaming sector?
EA: We (LGRB) came into existence in fulfillment of the Lotteries and Gaming Act, 2016 which provides that we monitor and supervise the operations of the sector. We are here to make sure that the public is protected against negative effects of gaming.
Gaming is for leisure, entertainment and recreation purposes.
LGRB has powers to license, revoke and audit players in the gaming industry.
We also ensure compliance; license branches, software and hardware. We also keep a national registry of the equipment used. We also are trying to put in place an Electronic Central Monitory System. We also handle disputes resolutions.
BF: What does it require for one to get a gaming license for various categories?
EA: Operators have to apply for various licenses at a non-refundable fee. For lottery, foreigners pay Shs50m, while Ugandan nationals pay Shs20m. A company is considered foreign when non-Ugandans own the company by over 50%. Betting companies pay an application of Shs20m and Shs10m for foreigners and nationals respectively.
For Casinos, foreigners pay Shs50m while nationals Shs20m. When an application is accepted, lotteries pay a licensing fee of Shs100m while betting companies pay another Shs10m licensing fees. Casinos pay a licensing fee of Shs15m. Application for pool betting is Shs50m and Shs20m for foreigners and nationals respectively, while operating license fees is Shs10m.
Application for gaming (slot) machines is Shs50m and Shs20m for foreigners and nationals respectively, while Shs50, 000 is the license fees.
BF: In specific terms, what has LGRB achieved since it came into force?
EA: Since 2017, we have been enforcing the law. We have licensed 30 betting companies and carried out countrywide inspections to weed out illegal operators.
In 2016, we had over 1,500 betting branches across the country, but now we have slightly above 1,000. Some we have closed, others have closed themselves after learning that they don’t meet the standards.
We have confiscated over 200 fake machines, but many more are still on the market. We estimate between 5,000-10,000 fake slot machines to be on market, but we shall get them out slowly.
We also are enforcing monthly reports from operators for compliance purposes. We are now developing a national register for machines. We are developing standards with Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) for all gaming equipment. We are also developing local content regulations, electronic monitoring system and streamlining online operations. International gaming players operating online without licenses in Uganda, we block them.
BF: You said some betting branches closed for not meeting standards. What are the rules for operating a gaming company or branch in Uganda?
EA: A betting branch or any other gaming shouldn’t be near a school, market, place of worship or government establishment.
Gaming isn’t allowed in villages because people maybe cheated. Gaming is only allowed in towns. Gaming is only allowed to those above 25 years of age. We shall also not allow crowding in betting shops. We encourage people to embrace online gaming like it is in Kenya. Youth should place their bets and go to work.
BF: You seem to be very restrictive. Won’t this scare away potential companies that may want to come to Uganda?
EA: We know last year gaming industry contributed Shs36bn in taxes, but our role isn’t to promote gaming. It’s for leisure and recreational purposes. We encourage people to only game what is extra in their pockets. Do not game your essentials.
Gaming isn’t bad as long as it’s not addictive. You don’t need to spend the whole day in a gaming house.
BF: What key challenges are you facing?
EA: There are still negative perceptions about the industry. We need to protect the youth, the reason why only those above 25 should be involved in the gaming industry. The idea is that at 25 you’re out of University.
We are also limited in terms of resources. We have 117 districts and 100 of them at least have betting shops. But we only have a motorcycle. We are planning to get some cars to ease supervision. We are also trying to beef up the Human Resource.
BF: Your last word…
EA: We are doing everything possible to attract only genuine and legitimate gaming companies. To the public, don’t invest in hope. Gaming should only be recreational.