“Responsible gaming is not just a diktat of the government”

James Mpiirwe, manager of responsible gaming the Gaming Regulatory Board Uganda.
James Mpiirwe, manager of responsible gaming the Gaming Regulatory Board Uganda.

Exclusive interview.- Focus Gaming News speaks with James Mpiirwe, manager of responsible gaming at the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board of Uganda.

With gaming expected to continue to grow in Uganda, Focus spoke with James Mpiirwe at the country’s Gaming Regulatory Board as the regulator prepares to launch its responsible gaming programme.

Uganda’s current regulator was created under the Lotteries and Gaming Act No. 7 of 2016.

Previously responsible for compliance, Mpiirwe has been tasked with overseeing the regulator’s responsible gaming programme which is set to commence this quarter.

He told Focus that a national survey carried out by the Economic Policy Research Centre in Uganda showed there was a need to take measures on responsible gaming due to the impact on household welfare, particularly to increase public information.

The regulator’s programme foresees the imminent launch of print information and public education campaigns, including in schools, and the creation of a central monitoring system to oversee gaming activity.

It will also include a self-exclusion programme and the training of national counsellors to offer treatment to problem gamblers.

The recruitment of partners and development of treatment protocols will start in the current quarter, Mpiirwe said.

“Responsible gaming is not just a diktat of the government. Everyone is a stakeholder.”

James Mpiirwe, manager of responsible gaming at the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board Uganda.

As for operators, Mpiirwe said that most were meeting their current obligations but would need to do more. 

“Operators are doing what they’re required by law, but it takes a lot more,” Mpiirwee said. 

He added. “It’s a partnership. we’re going to speak with them so that they join us in taking responsibility for the activities they promote and we think they’ll be coming on board.”

“[The programme] is far reaching. Some of the requirements under the programme require a lot of funding, which cannot all be provided for by the regulator, so they really have to come in. Operators are 50 per cent of the whole programme.”

“As soon as you come into the airport you think Uganda is all about gambling because there are shops lined up along the road. We’re trying to change that.”

James Mpiirwe, manager of responsible gaming at the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board Uganda.

Mpiirwe says the regulator has concerns about the structure of the gaming industry in Uganda.

The most prevalent form of gambling in the country is sports betting and the industry is still vastly weighted towards land-based gaming. 

The market remains 87 per cent land based with large numbers of retail betting outlets, although Mpiirwe says he expects online gaming to grow significantly.

Mpiirwe said: “The model that has been in place for the last ten years is that people put up as many shops as they can put so it is easier for the customer to access the services they’re offering – bringing gambling to the people instead of people coming to the gambling.

“That has been what is concerning us as regulators the most. If you come to Uganda, as soon as you come into the airport you think Uganda is all about gambling because there are shops lined up along the road. We’re trying to change that.”

“We are seeing now most operators are going online.”

James Mpiirwe, manager of responsible gaming at the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board Uganda.

But Mpiirwe recognised that the pandemic was speeding up a transition to online gaming and that technology was advancing.

“That is something that has drawn the attention of most operators and we are seeing most operators are now going online,” he said.

“We expect the next time we do a study online gambling will be way more than [the current] 13%.”

Check out the full interview with James Mpiirwe on the Focus Gaming News YouTube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe!

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