We are looking at the state of Nigeria’s gambling market, and what can be improved to enhance the experience for both players and operators. To fill its huge potential, clearer laws are most likely required.
Gambling industry and regulations are hot topics in several African countries right now – including and especially Nigeria. Though incredibly popular, it is badly run and not nearly as profitable and safe as it could be. What is the current situation, and what could be done to improve it?
The Legal Landscape
Nigeria has two federal acts related to gambling, creating a complex situation with many regulations and laws. The 1977 Gaming Machines (Prohibition) Act outlaws gaming machines, while the Criminal Code Act of 1990 prohibits so-called “gaming houses”.
Essentially, horse racing, skills-based games, sports betting and lotteries are permitted under the Criminal Code Act, but games of chance are not. However, the industry is poorly regulated, and many Nigerians regularly play the banned games at offshore online casinos.
The land-based and online gambling activities that are permitted are licensed, regulated and taxed by Nigeria’s government, and must fulfil specific and often complex requirements. For example, sportsbooks have to use totalizers to register bets and then distribute them evenly amongst their winners.
The challenging regulations and requirements are widely believed to be the reason there are just three brick-and-mortar casinos on the vast terrain of Nigeria. Instead, many operators work illegally – even though the punishment is stiff for those who get caught, the profits appear too lucrative to resist. In addition, the Nigerian police force is said to be overworked, with limited resources, and unable to deal with most unlawful gambling outfits and allegations.
The issue for gamblers at illicit establishments goes even deeper; most illegal operators are running underground frauds or scams of various kinds, and steal their customers’ money with impunity. Without any regulation in place, there is no recourse for any player or bettor who falls victim to these schemes.
What Can Be Done?
With many Nigerians enjoying gambling, the sector has the potential to generate huge tax revenue if properly regulated. At the same time, players would be protected and responsible gambling measures could be further introduced.
The question facing the country’s legislators now is, how to pare down the current convoluted system and introduce rules that properly govern the industry. For the answer, many insiders suggest that Nigeria look towards the example set by the United Kingdom.
Gambling in the United Kingdom is legal in almost all its forms, at both online and land-based establishments, and is closely monitored by the nation’s Gambling Commission. Any operator who doesn’t comply with the Commission’s strict regulations and rules is liable to have their licence revoked, and since the market has so many competitors, players are not tempted to take their chances at such disreputable sportsbooks and casinos.
The result is a robust, regulated and profitable sector, where the rights of all parties are looked after. Will the Nigerian government take notice of Britain’s example, and start making changes? To date there are no signs of this – but only time will show what the future holds.