Two year ban on gambling set to end in The Gambia

  • President Adama Barrow set to open up country to legalized gambling
  • Part of sweeping reforms to modernize African nation’s economy

The president of the west African state of Gambia, Adama Barrow, has officially issued a presidential order that will lift a two-year ban on gambling activities in the country.

Adama Button is set to reverse the policy of a ban on gambling in The Gambia.
Adama Barrow is set to reverse the policy of a ban on gambling in The Gambia.

Lotteries, sports betting and casinos were prohibited in 2015 under the leadership of the immediate former president Yahya Jammeh.

The ban was so severe that the Gambian police and military had been mandated to conduct crackdowns on any perceived gambling establishments and underground cartels.

Alleged participants in gambling activity were subject to criminal prosecution and possible long terms jail sentences. Jammeh imposed the ban insisting that gambling was an exploitative and unethical practice.

Economic boost

Barrow assumed presidency in January and is carrying out sweeping reforms that are expected to modernize the country’s economy. The lifting of the gambling ban is part of the new government’s plan to turn Gambia into a hub for local and foreign investors. The move is also expected to create much needed employment in a country where over 50% of the youth are unemployed.

Before the ban, there was a significant upsurge in gambling establishments and sports betting ventures, creating decent employment for thousands of youth. The government also received millions of dollars in direct and indirect taxes. By reinstating legal gambling activities, the new government expects to cash in on the economic potential that lies in this emerging sector.

Back in full force

Gambling centers across the country are slowly resuming their normal business after the seemingly rash directive by the previous regime halted their once booming industry. Many establishments especially those along the Westfield-Brikama highway are operating at full capacity with renewed drive to make up for lost time and revenues

Ethical issues

As much as the new decree has been met with much praise, there are many who do not think it is a step in the right direction.

Jammeh’s main reason for the ban in 2015 was the fact that gambling was, in his view, eroding the moral standards of the nation.

Cases of problem and underage gambling were reported to have been on the rise. People such as Muhammad Njie, a security guard at a betting center, supported the ban saying that gambling operations are not properly regulated.

In an interview with Gambian newspaper, The Point, Njie stated his opposition to the reopening of gambling centers especially due to the negative effects on minors.

“Students used to use their fares or even school fees on games especially soccer betting. They will leave their houses, put their uniforms in their bags and come to betting houses where they will spend the whole day,” he said.

“That is why I believe it was good that Jammeh ban it.” he added. Despite his personal opinion on the issue, he was happy that the industry offered him the opportunity to earn a decent wage.

Another major reason for the ban was the fact that gambling is largely frowned upon by the two main religions in Gambia, Christianity and Islam. The Gambia Christian Council and The Gambia Supreme Islamic Council are yet to give official statements on the latest developments.

Winners are all in

Those who have previously been successful in their gambling exploits welcome the new directive and are already looking forward to more payouts.

Ousman Samba, an ardent sports bettor, said that the money he won before the ban was instituted has helped him improve his lifestyle. “I put that money to good use, so that is why I said lifting the ban on gambling is a good move so that many people can win and utilize the money.”

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