Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has announced an official ban on all gambling in the West African nation, and ordered all forms of wagering to stop immediately.
In a release from his office, Jammeh said the government “has banned lotteries, casinos and all forms of gambling in the Gambia” effective March 2. “All operators of these services and establishments are hereby instructed to cease operations from the effective date.”
The action will affect gaming halls, casinos and sports betting shops in tourist resorts and the capital of Banjul, reported Agence France Presse. The government has slammed the gaming industry as “exploitative” and says the prohibition will protect the nation’s youth from becoming “a generation of compulsive and addicted gamblers.
“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,” said the statement. “Therefore, it is the duty of the Gambia government to safeguard and promote the public welfare of our citizens.”
Supporters of gaming have promoted it as a way to raise tax revenues. Jammeh replied, “It is clearly evident that these vices often hurt those who are poor and disadvantaged. The social and economic costs are enormous, and show up in the shattered lives of individuals and their families. Gambians are predominantly followers of Islam and Christianity, and both religions explicitly or implicitly strictly forbid adherents from engaging in gambling.”
An unnamed Banjul lawyer told AFP that religion is not a legal basis for shutting down gaming venues, many located in the resort community’s Senegambia strip. “This decision is illegal and should be rescinded by the executive,” he said.
Gambia attracts an estimated 50,000 annual visitors from Britain alone, AFP reported. But it has been “run with an iron fist” since Jammeh took power in 1994.