Kampala, Uganda | URN | Uganda is losing billions of shillings in betting due to untested, uninspected, and unverified machines being used by betting companies, the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board has conceded.
While Section 4 of the Lotteries and Gaming Act of 2016, mandates the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board to issue licenses for lotteries, casinos, gaming, and betting companies, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards – UNBS does not have the requisite tools to test and certify gaming equipment.
The vacuum has led to an influx of substandard and unendorsed gambling machines also known as slot or poker machines into the country, which are being used to defraud their unsuspecting clients.
The board members led by their Acting Chief Executive Officer, and Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs, Denis Ngabirano, made the revelation in a meeting with the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises – COSASE on Tuesday 1, August 2023. The officials appeared to respond to queries raised by the Auditor General’s report for the financial year that ended on 30 June 2022.
Ngabirano revealed that UNBS, which is mandated with promoting fairness in trade, and precision in the industry through reliable measurement systems does not have the required tool to enforce the standards.
He explained that the Board relies on prequalified external testing laboratories with certification from the International Organization for Standardization – ISO, an independent and non-governmental organization that develops standards to ensure the quality, safety, and efficiency of products.
The response attracted criticism from Richard Ssebamala, the Bukoto Central Member of Parliament who accused the Board of failing to deliver on its mandate and leaving Ugandans to be defrauded by investors in the gambling sector.
Joel Ssenyonyi, the Committee Chairperson wondered why the Board would register and license betting companies without ensuring that the standards of the machines are enforced to the detriment of the unsuspecting clients.
Deborah Kituyi, the Board’s Legal Manager pointed out that underfunding and understaffing are among the notable challenges affecting their operations. Out of the 51 approved positions, only 36 positions are filled leaving a gap of 15 positions.
According to the Auditor General, the Board failed to prepare Statutory Regulations to regulate the industry. It also failed to prepare a National Register of gaming or betting machines and devices contrary to the Lotteries and Gaming Act, of 2015.
Such a gap was noted to complicate the monitoring and renewal of licenses and thus expose the industry players to the risks of fraud and risks of using inappropriate machinery and equipment.