Problem Gambling in Uganda: A Public Health Perspective

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The dramatic surge in the presence of gambling establishments throughout Uganda confirms the boom in the gambling industry within the country. Despite the reported benefits associated with the gambling industry such as increased revenue and potential employment opportunities, problem gambling is rapidly evolving in to a public health issue in Uganda. Notably, although gambling is positioned as a legitimate recreational and leisure activity within Uganda, there is widespread recognition among health care professionals and policy makers alike that, like alcohol consumption, gambling has the capacity to become dysfunctional in a minority. Although unlike alcohol consumption, there are no specific policy targets relating to harm minimization strategies for problem gambling. The heightened exposure of Ugandans to gambling with betting shops (a majority of which are unlicensed) now visibly clustering together on high streets represents an issue of significant concern. In a country riddled with poverty and high levels of unemployment, mainly amongst the youth, it is perhaps unsurprising that this strata of the society have found themselves resorting to gambling as a potential source of livelihood. Unfortunately, despite the current laws in place that enforce the prohibition of underage gambling, minors are actively engaged in gambling activities. In this respect, problem gambling can result in adverse effects on the gambler (i.e., psychological distress, financial woes, disruptions to work, study and close relationships and legal difficulties), their households (i.e., domestic violence and children with higher rates of behavioural, emotional and substance use problems) and the wider society (due to the likely increases in absenteeism from work, lost economic productivity and criminal activity attributable to gambling disorder). Against this background, the government needs to put in place a policy action focusing on public health interventions for treatment of problem gambling in Uganda via collaborative efforts between prevention specialists, legislators, researchers, and treatment providers.

Strategies to increase education and public awareness regarding the issue of problem gambling in Uganda are of core necessity. With this in mind, the Ugandan government needs to be prepared to release funding and provide services in order to treat problem gamblers in the long run via the generation of a national problem gambling team, located within the mental health programme of the Ministry of Health. The national problem gambling team would provide policy analysis, contract management and data and information analysis. From a global perspective, having resources and policies that would help increase the currently scarce mental health and addiction efforts related to problem gambling in low- and middle-income countries such as Uganda could have a major impact on global health.

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One Response to “Problem Gambling in Uganda: A Public Health Perspective”

  1. niidade Says:

    This is a serious problem, not only in Uganda, but in other countries. I believe the problem of compulsive gambling can lead to other problems like stealing to finance this kind of lifestyle. The solution should be more directed towards solving the root causes of this problem. The question that should be asked is: What leads these youngsters to this lifestyle? It is said that the devil finds work for idle hands. Some of them may not be in school,as a result they find time to do this. Of those in school, greater supervision, discipline and regulation is needed to keep them in school during school hours. Parents have a responsibility to monitor and control the movement of their children and the state has a responsibility to clamp down on illegal gambling areas. Those that are licensed should be made to enforce age restrictions. With these interventions, the issue of problem gambling will be less serious and pervasive.

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