Gambia ends ban on gambling

The Barrow administration has lifted a ban on gambling, imposed by former President Yahya Jammeh that has seen casinos, lottery groups, and slot machine operators kicked out of business.

Jammeh’s government banned gambling two years ago after the autocratic ruler accused gaming companies of exploiting citizens and says it is forbidden in Islam.

Jammeh portrays himself as a devout Muslim and his shutdown of gambling businesses was supported by the country’s powerful group of clerics, the Supreme Islamic Council.

According to Jammeh, “Gambian society has been built on the foundations of promoting positive social values like thrift and integrity rather than negative ones like greed and avarice.”

But the country’s new President Adama Barrow says the economy needs to be diversified, wants to create jobs and attract investors to the country, which Jammeh left nearly insolvent.

Hundreds of people lost jobs directly and thousands of others were indirectly affected by the 2015 ban. Jammeh accused heads of households of squandering money on games.

The former government said minors were seen lining up at kiosk to gamble and declared the issuing of licenses for game companies to operate “illegal.”

The Gambia’s only independent daily, The Point, did welcome Jammeh’s gambling ban at the time, arguing that “families are shattered, schoolchildren forced to drop out of school, and crime rates (are) increased” because of both legal and illicit gambling.

Gambia heavily relies on tourism and the ban of gambling was felt in the sector but the Barrow government lifting the ban could see gaming centers lined up along the Senegambia strip opening for business.

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