Nigeria's Government Eyes 'Huge Sums' Of Lost Gambling Tax Revenue

October 2, 2023
Nigeria’s government has pledged to “tackle” a host of challenges facing the federal gambling regulator, including introducing a long-awaited central monitoring system “as soon as possible”.

Nigeria’s government has pledged to “tackle” a host of challenges facing the federal gambling regulator, including introducing a long-awaited central monitoring system (CMS) “as soon as possible”.

During a visit to the National Lottery Regulatory Commission’s (NLRC) office on September 22, Zaphaniah Jisalo, the minister of special duties and intergovernmental affairs, also promised to help improve wages and working conditions at the regulator.

Jisalo wants to help the NLRC overcome its “formidable challenges”, such as a “loss of huge sums of money to illegal gaming operators in the country” and corruption, according to a press release by the ministry on September 22.

The minister also “pledged to expedite the legislative process for the Lottery Act, recognising that previous challenges necessitate a fresh start". He gave his assurance that this legislative effort would culminate in the enactment of a new law within a remarkably swift 90-day period, according to an NLRC press release on September 29.

Jisalo said strengthening collaboration with the NLRC is “pivotal” to President Bola Tinubu’s eight-point plan, which targets food security, poverty eradication, growth, job creation, access to capital, inclusion, promoting the rule of law and fighting corruption.

The National Gambling Bill (HB 1288), which was passed by the Nigerian Senate in May 2023, allows for the establishment of a long-awaited CMS. However, there have been little to no notable changes since then.

The NLRC has long called for the swift passage of legal changes to update the country’s regulatory framework and has been championing the need for a CMS for several years.

A CMS was expected to be in place by early 2021, with a federal taskforce established in 2020 during the interim to try and recover an expected N8bn (€17.7m) in backdated gambling taxes.

In July 2021, George Akume, the previous minister of special duties and intergovernmental affairs, said Nigeria’s gambling industry generated less than N1bn (€2m) for the government in 2019, during a speech at the National Gaming Conference.

The government minister said the revenue was “not only disappointing” but also “unsustainable and unacceptable”.

There are other challenges facing the Nigerian gambling market at the moment, as highlighted by Olabimpe Akingba, the executive secretary of the Association of Nigerian Bookmakers during a panel at SBC Barcelona on September 21.

“We are yet to get state governments to collaborate with the federal government. Currently, we have a power tussle between these two arms of government. Despite that challenge, Nigeria is still the country with the lowest entry barrier for operators,” Akingba said.

There has been a long ongoing legal dispute between federal and state gambling regulators in recent years over who has the right to oversee gambling businesses in the country.

Akingba went on to say that, in Nigeria and other African countries, “the regulators are more focused on revenue generation as opposed to responsible gambling”.

“Regulators are not doing their part in responsible gambling. Not much action beyond what is written in the law, which is already the bare minimum. We have seen rising addiction but nothing is in place for treatment. Definitely, regulators are not focused on it at the moment but I think it's important for them to look at it,” Akingba said.

Despite the trade group considering introducing new responsible gambling standards for its members, it fears that unlicensed operators would take advantage.

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