History of gambling in Nigeria
Gambling is not very well regulated or managed in Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa, seventh in the world and the world’s 20th largest economy. Under Chapter 22 of the Criminal Code Act of 1995, some forms of gambling are legal, some are not. The 2005 National Lottery Act made the lottery legal, the only game of chance, rather than skill, to be granted that status.
Generally speaking, the law states that games of skill, land-based casinos, the lottery, and sports betting are legal, whilst games of chance such as roulette, dice games, and non-skilled card games are illegal. There is some scope for slot machines, though this area is heavily regulated and only licenced operators can have slot machines.
The key drivers behind the laws are to crack down on illegal gambling, provide support and protections to gamblers and operators, and to tackle money laundering as proceeds of crime.
It is estimated that almost 40% of Nigerians aged 18-35 are involved in some sort of gambling, with sports gambling topping the list as the most popular. Predominantly gamblers are aged between 18 and 40, accounting for 60 million of the country’s gamblers, spending an average of 3000 Naira daily (around 1.8 billion Naira a year).
National Lottery Regulatory Commission
The NLRC was established through the National Lottery Act of 2005, borne out of a need to regulate the market and provide protections to both gamblers and operators alike. It provides guidelines and legislation to all forms of gambling in Nigeria, and is the sole body that is able to issue licences:
1. Lottery Licence
2. Sports Betting Licence
3. Promotional Licence (i.e., scratch cards, web-based, SMS, Interactive Schemes)
4. Gaming and Casinos
The NLRC has many aims:
1. Set standards, guidelines, and rules for the operation of gambling in Nigeria
2. Promote transparency and integrity in the market
3. Protections for players, stakeholders and the public
4. Raise revenue for good causes
Legal gambling in Nigeria
Due to the laws enacted in 1990 and 2005, there are very specific forms of gambling that are legal in Nigeria.
1. Casino Games
There are only three legally recognised and regulated land-based casinos in Nigeria, offering a selection of table games, slots, and even video poker machines. The Federal Palace hotel and Casino (Lagos), Transcorp Hilton (Abuja) and Le Meridien Eko Hotel and Casino (Lagos) are accessible to locals and tourists alike, though they are much smaller and lower key when compared to their counterparts in Europe and the Americas, due in part to the restrictions in place, the substantial barriers to entry, and the relative immaturity of the Nigerian gambling market.
One of the most popular casino games is Poker, allowed as it is considered a game of skill. Poker is fairly easy for even the most novice card plyer to learn and get involved, though it takes much dedication and practice to truly master. There are a number of sites that help players, from novices through to experts, learn how to play poker and improve their game.
2. National Lottery
The National Lottery is hugely popular in Nigeria and was one of the first forms of gambling legalised in the country in the early 1990s as a way of raising state revenue. This category also covers gambling on games of chance (largely illegal except some exceptions) such as scratch cards, promotions, and other lotto-related games.
3. Sports Betting
Sports betting is increasing in popularity and is one of the most popular forms of gambling. Increasingly, sports betting is done online, as gamblers have found it more profitable, as they are able to register with a number of different ones, taking advantage of welcome bonuses, and can make new bets in line with real time changes to improve their odds of winning.
Illegal Gambling in Nigeria
Under the 1990 and 2005 Acts, there are a number of forms of gambling that are illegal:
• Dice games (except backgammon)
• Non-skill-based card games
However, though games of chance are illegal in land-based casinos in Nigeria, the laws do not extend as far as the online world, so Nigerians are free to gamble online in any of those games by accessing casinos based offshore (providing they accept Nigerian players which only some do).
According to Statista, internet penetration in Nigeria is relatively low though, with around 46% of the population having internet access in 2020, expected to rise to just 65% by 20205 (this is compared to the US for example where, as of 2020, over 85% of Americans not only have access to the internet but use it frequently). Many online sites offer compatibility different platforms (such as mobile; Android/Apple, PC; Mac/Windows, and even streaming options) to allow for the greatest market penetration.
However, with the restrictive measures in place within the country, it is to be expected that as more and more people want to gamble, they will look to online offerings outside of the country to be able to access the games they want to play. Currently, it does not seem that there is much want from the authorities to implement online regulations, though, as numbers of gamblers and sites welcoming Nigerian players increase, it is likely that there will be pressure to regulate what individuals are accessing online, to ensure legislation is protecting online players, as well as bringing in tax revenue to the state.
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