Sports betting is doing a roaring trade around the world, spurred on by high-speed internet that makes placing bets and watching sports in real time a reality. In Uganda, sports betting is the most popular way to gamble, and as such, online bookmakers have been cashing in on the action. While there are a number of Uganda-based bookmakers to choose from, it’s become apparent that international bookmakers are also trying to get a piece of the pie in this sports-mad region.

If you search for “bookmakers” and “Uganda” on Google, the list of results that you’ll find will no doubt lead to sites where they are advertising not Ugandan sportsbooks, but international sports betting sites, such as SportsBet and William Hill.

Why are these websites heading to the top of the search results, instead of onshore bookmakers? Because they’re being targeted by international bookmakers, and more specifically, affiliate websites.

This is how it sued to happen, the mobile revolution has caused huge disruption

Affiliate websites are websites run by individuals or companies that aren’t a part of the original business. Instead, they provide links to the bookmaker as well as perhaps a deal if you click on the link. The affiliate will receive a payment for referrals when people click on the links then spend money through the bookmaker. This may be on sign ups, on limited spending at the bookmaker, or even on the lifetime of the punter’s spending through the bookmaker. This can make it quite lucrative for an affiliate, if many people sign up and spend lots of money.

Then there’s also the case of European bookmakers snapping up .ug domains, the official domain of Uganda. Back in 2015, it was found that both Betsson and Betway had registered their own .ug domains, even though these bookmakers are both registered in the online gambling haven of Malta. It’s obvious to see that companies are eyeing the market in Uganda for expansion and success.

Is it a bad thing that international bookmakers are targeting Ugandans?

Well, as it often is in gambling, there are two sides to this particular coin. On the one hand, by using offshore bookmakers, it means that money is flowing through another country instead of Uganda for the most part. This means that the Ugandan government is missing out on potential tax income and enormous benefits from these operations; for onshore companies they are required to pay 35% in tax on revenues.

However, having international bookmakers available for punters is quite good for those who are betting. International betting houses are often run very well, have really interesting bets available, have very responsive websites and apps, and offer plenty of different international sports and tournaments to bet on. The appeal for those who want to place bets is clear.

These both don’t address another issue: the rising rate of problem gambling in Uganda. With more international players on the scene, it makes sports betting that much easier, which is sure to contribute to the problem. Even in regulated markets, the ability to lose huge amounts of money is not difficult. Combined with the average incomes of Ugandans, this is concerning, to say the least.

The solution to having these international bookmakers on the scene is for the Ugandan government to introduce laws surrounding international sports betting. This way, international bookies will have to comply to the rules set by Uganda to both limit problem gamblers, as well as draw income to the country through strict tax regimes. It will require a lot of thought, as well as significant infrastructure to ensure compliance, but it is possible. Other countries have implemented similar systems, so it’s time that Uganda gets on board and does the same too.

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