A whole industry will disappear in one of the African countries.

The president of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has issued a ban on sports betting. The way this is going to work is that no new licenses are going to be issued and the old ones will not be renewed upon the expiration date.

Sports betting operators will have some time to set their affairs in order before closing, or going abroad. It’s hard to see a whole industry slowly die out, but it doesn’t seem that Museveni is going to change his decision.

The context

The reason behind banning all sports betting is said to be the negative influence on the youth. Gambling is widespread in poor countries, and Uganda is not rich by any stretch of the imagination.

Perhaps this is why many young people do not see any other way of getting well off than betting their money to the last dime, waiting for a huge win. Young people in Uganda are said to gather in large quantities near the bookies to place a bet on their favourite football team.

The president seems to be particularly concerned with the youth, as many clients of football betting establishments are in their early twenties. The logic here is painstakingly simple. If the youth wants money, they bet and lose it to the last penny. If we ban gambling, they will go to work, open businesses, and move the economy forward.

A crisis or an illusion?

Despite what Uganda’s authorities might think, gambling is not an illness. It’s more like a blood test that tells you how healthy you are. Gambling is a fun thing in affluent societies, but the poor ones treat it very differently.

Have you seen the lines of poor Americans gather in Las Vegas, betting their last money in the hope of getting a jackpot? Probably not, it’s the wealthy who gamble the most there. Because they understand that gambling is entertainment.

If people turn to gamble or crime to earn a living, it’s a sign of desperation. It’s the only option that people see in their lives. Again, this doesn’t mean gambling in Uganda is bad in and of itself, this means there’s something wrong with the country.

Seeing a gambling crisis and fighting it by a ban is like trying to fight alcoholism by banning the alcoholic from the local bar instead of searching for the reason why he drinks.

The consequences

This doesn’t mean anything good for Uganda, and especially for the people, Museveni is trying to save so hard. People who are desperate enough to treat gambling as a valid way of earning money en masse will not just go back to their backbreaking jobs.

Stripping them of their way to blow off steam after work, sports betting may lead to a number of things. People may enter the world of crime or internet scams to earn a living. Drug abuse and violence may also rise a bit, as desperate young men with idle hands are not known for being too keen on following the rules.

Lastly, Uganda’s government is going to rid itself of a huge stream of tax money, as this rich industry closes and goes into the grey market.