MPs worried about possible gaming addiction

KIMIHURURA - Stakeholders acknowledge that addiction is a serious cause for concern in the gaming industry as prospects towards establishing a legal framework gain momentum.As the Lower Chamber’s Committee on Economy and Trade, Thursday, discussed the bill on the nascent industry, members led by Committee Chairperson – Juliana Kantengwa, and Emmanuel Mudidi, voiced concern over the possible dangers of addiction to gambling.
 Philippe Brizoua, the head of Rwanda Gaming Corporation points at a slot machine. (File Photo)
Philippe Brizoua, the head of Rwanda Gaming Corporation points at a slot machine. (File Photo)

KIMIHURURA - Stakeholders acknowledge that addiction is a serious cause for concern in the gaming industry as prospects towards establishing a legal framework gain momentum.

As the Lower Chamber’s Committee on Economy and Trade, Thursday, discussed the bill on the nascent industry, members led by Committee Chairperson – Juliana Kantengwa, and Emmanuel Mudidi, voiced concern over the possible dangers of addiction to gambling.

What worries MPs is a situation where a gambler renders his or her family destitute after hurling all money into gambling.

They acknowledged the need for vigilance while drafting the new legislation.

Emmanuel Hategeka, the Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Trade and Industry (Minicom) and gaming expert – Philippe Brizoua, acknowledged the potential impasse, and calmed the fears.

“Many games, even football, have an element of addiction. So, addiction is a very valid fear. The law actually provides for that and puts in place measures to curb addiction and that’s why it is important to have this law passed,” Hategeka said.

“Unlike other sectors, for this one, there is a law that regulates addiction. There is also a provision, which is going to be in the industry, of awareness creation about addiction to gaming.”

Brizoua, who is also the CEO of Rwanda Gaming Corporation also said addiction to gaming is a concern faced by other industries - alcohol, tobacco, electricity, and others.

“We have the same concern in the gaming industry and we are really committed to operate responsibly,” Brizoua said.

People under the age of 18 years will not be, legally, allowed to gamble.

Brizoua explained that some other challenges faced by the sector include limitations to bank funding, and getting telecom companies to support it through provision of services – enough band width, and others.

Hategeka told MPs that the profile of people involved in gaming are mostly those with “some surplus income” with another category of people who want to try their luck. Hategeka said gambling essentially promotes income distribution also.

The gaming industry is relatively new in Rwanda.

Currently, there is no integrated legal framework. Several ministerial notices, authorisations and permits issued by the ministries of local government, justice, sports and culture, as well as commerce and trade regulate the industry.

Rwanda Gaming Corporation and a French-based horse gaming company, Paris Mutuel Urbain (PMU) are the only players in the sector.

•Socio-economic impact

Statistics indicate that in terms of economic and social impact, as of December 2010, the gaming turnover reached Rwf 7.4 billion. Cash out and prizes [to winners] worth Rwf six billion were registered.

Further still, the Rwf 1.4 billion, gross gaming revenue gained by the operators, was reinvested in Rwanda to support low level of operations over the testing period.

During the first quarter of 2011, turnover reached Rwf 2.5 billion from an estimated 10 percent of the gaming industry’s capacity. Cash out and prizes [to winners] reached Rwf 2 billion.

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