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MPs stunned by lack of rules as govt picks firm to run national lottery

A man receives money he won from betting
A man receives money he won from betting. Photo – File

By Our Reporter

Kampala: MPs are perturbed that government has identified a company to manage the lucrative national lottery without regulations in place.

This follows the revelation by the Ag. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board, Denis Ngabirano, of the successful firm (not named) that they have recommended to the finance minister.

The board was responding to queries in the Auditor General’s report for the year ended June 2022 during a meeting with MPs on the Public Accounts Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE).

Chaired by Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi, the board members that appeared on Tuesday, 01 August 2023, were to tasked explain how they procured the operator to conduct the national lottery.

“We still have not sorted out issues of standards, and now there is a mega national lottery coming up. We previously had Premier Lottery and JADA which made some people rich,” said Ssenyonyi.

Ngabirano said that in December 2021, the board advertised and made a call for applications to conduct the national lottery.

“We received five applications which we evaluated and identified an operator who is expected to fulfil certain requirements before the minister signs the licence for them,” he added.

According to the Auditor General’s report, four sets of regulations had not been set up including those to handle complaints and determine disputes, as well as those to handle the disposal of unclaimed prizes.

“The absence of the different regulations has resulted in an unregulated industry with risks of abuse and possible exploitation of gamblers and minors,” reads the report in part.

Hon. Yusuf Nsibambi (FDC, Mawokota County South) said it is key to have regulations to manage lottery and gaming centres across the country, to ensure users are not taken advantage of.

“With just guidelines per se, one cannot sue an operator. Many youths go into gambling out of naivety and as such, you must ensure control over the operators,” said Nsibambi.

Board members of the Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board appearing before COSASE on Tuesday.

The CEO cited the Lotteries and Gaming Act, 2016, which provides for a National Lottery conducted on behalf of the finance minister, with a view of raising funds for a purpose defined by the minister.

According to Section 23 of the Act, “the Board shall, before recommending to the Minister to issue a licence to conduct the national lottery, satisfy itself that the person is fit and proper to conduct a national lottery.”

Hon. Muwada Nkunyingi (NUP, Kyadondo County East) said the finance minister ought to be summoned to the committee to give an account on the regulations.

Deborah Kituyi, the Head of Legal Aftairs at the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board, said they have advised the minister through recommendations, to have the pending regulations enforced.

“The finance ministry forwarded them to Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for legislative drafting. I am confident that probably by the end of this quarter, we will have these regulations in force,” Kituyi said.

The board has been given until Wednesday, 02 August 2023 to respond to the queries raised in the Auditor General’s report.

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