The director-general of Nigeria’s National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) wants to team up with Ghana to form a regional gambling stronghold in the West African sub-region.
Lanre Gbajabiamila made the comments to his counterpart at the National Lottery Authority (NLA) of Ghana, Samuel Awuku, at a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, last week.
The regulators met to discuss the possibility of allowing Ghanaians to participate in Nigeria’s national lottery, which it plans on launching later this year, as both regulators scramble to respond to claims of tax leakage.
The head of the NLRC envisages “one huge market where virtually all countries within the sub-region could key into one huge gaming market that would be guided by an agreement that would be binding on all participating countries, without anyone feeling short-changed”.
Ghana’s regulator also distanced itself from a deal it recently struck with the Nigerian Licensed Lottery Operators Forum to have its members pay royalties to sell tickets based on Ghanaian lottery draws.
However, the NLA did not say it would cancel the deal, instead promising to re-evaluate it.
Gbajabiamila advised the NLA to deal with the regulator directly in the future, as opposed to other industry stakeholders.
Awuku responded by saying: “The regulator is the biggest elephant in the room, the one that says what works or what does not, therefore we need your support in achieving our dreams of better collaborations with the operators and Nigerian gaming stakeholders.”
Ghana’s politicians and regulators have been debating the most efficient way to tax the country’s growing gambling industry, following warnings of massive amounts of untaxed revenues.
Opening up new potential revenue streams alongside suggestions of cracking down on unlicensed lottery sellers appears to be the NLA’s response.
It is estimated that Ghana misses GHS$300m (€44.7m) annually in tax revenue due to “leakages” in the gambling sector, according to the 2021 budget speech.
It would appear Nigeria is pushing for increased cooperation between the two countries for a similar reason.
Nigeria’s gambling industry generated less than N1bn (€2m) for the government in 2019, according to a speech by George Akume, the minister of special duties and intergovernmental affairs, at the National Gaming Conference held in July this year.
The government minister said the revenue was “not only disappointing” but also “unsustainable and unacceptable”.
One idea floated by Akume to stop the tax leak is to acquire a Central Monitoring System (CMS), an idea the NLRC has long paid lip service to, claiming to be in the process of completing a communiqué including its action plan.
In June, Nigeria’s National Lottery Trust Fund (NLTF) had to call on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to help it tackle corruption in the gambling industry and recover revenues owed to licensees it accuses service providers of withholding.