The West African nation of Nigeria may be best known as having Africa’s biggest economy and being the world’s 12th largest producer and 8th largest exporter of petroleum, but it is also very well known for its long-time love affair with gambling which mainly comprises sports betting and pools , charity-based lotteries and selected land casino games.
In fact, Nigeria’s overall gambling market is expected to exceed US$60 million by 2018.
Although this figure pales in comparison with fellow African gambling-loving nation South Africa (which generates in excess of US$1.5 billion in gambling revenues per year), it is still notable considering that Nigeria currently only has a total of 3 licensed and regulated land casinos when compared with South Africa’s 38 dotted across its nine provinces.
Add to that how Nigeria’s gambling laws, rules and regulations can best be described as needing a major overhaul. For example, gambling in Nigeria still falls under the country’s Criminal Code Act and Gaming Machines Act of 1977, neither of which make allowances for online or mobile casino gambling, which is on the rise as a result of new entrants into the market.
That said, there are no laws to prevent Nigerians from visiting offshore-owned and operated casino, betting and gaming sites that are willing to accept them if they so choose.
Nigeria’s Gaming Machines Act and Criminal Code Act
The Gaming Machines (Prohibition) Act was passed in 1977 to make owning and playing on gaming machines (defined by Nigerian authorities as coin or token operated gaming devices) illegal. As such, contravention of this Act can result in up to one year in prison as well as the confiscation of illicit proceeds and the machines by the Government.
Passed in 1990, Nigeria’s Criminal Code Act references and addresses gambling in Nigeria in Chapter 22, where it is determined that sports betting, racing, lotteries, pools and certain ‘skill-based’ land casino games such as roulette, blackjack and video slot and progressive slots machines are allowed in Nigeria, while ‘non skill-based’ games are not allowed.
Under the terms of the Criminal Code Act it is illegal for anyone in Nigeria to offer unlawful or illegal games or gambling activities at any unlicensed venue or property. If caught, the facilitator of unlawful gaming can be jailed for up to two years as well as subject to a 1000 Naira fine.
Categories of Land Gambling Allowed in Nigeria
There are three main categories of gambling allowed in Nigeria – land casinos, betting and pools, and lotteries:
Nigerian Land Casinos
Even though Nigeria is an enormous country, it still only has three government-sanctioned i.e. licensed and regulated land casinos; the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja and the Federal Palace Hotel and Casino, and Le Meridien Eko Hotel & Casino in Lagos.
Although open to upmarket locals and foreigners alike, all three of these casinos are more catered to foreign tourists and business people. That said, they are smaller than traditional Western land casinos on account of Nigeria’s casino game restrictions.
Games permitted at Nigerian land casinos include table games like Roulette, Blackjack and Casino Hold’em and slot machines, despite the Criminal Code Act that prohibits games of chance. Slots seem to be the exception in licensed land casinos in Nigeria.
Despite have just three casinos, it is predicted that land casino revenues in 2019 could well exceed US$70 million. The same forecasters predict that this rate of growth will exceed that of South Africa and Kenya, the continent’s two other predominant land casino nations.
Nigerian Betting / Pools
The Criminal Code Act allows venues to offer betting and pools in Nigeria as long as that is the only form of gambling available at a betting venue. In addition, all operators of pools or betting facilities must make use of an approved totalisator to place bets as well as divide winnings equally between the respective pool winners.
Operators of betting venues and pools in Nigeria are required to register their operations with the government to be deemed legal and thus permitted. Operators that don’t are considered to be operating illegally, and face prison terms and/or fines.
A lotto or lottery in Nigeria is any game open to the public or sector of the public involving the sale of tickets or papers printed with numbers within a range of numbers drawn in a lottery game that can yield the winner a cash or other prize of corresponding value.
Lottery tickets can be sold by the lottery operator to members of the Nigerian public directly for charitable or fundraising purposes, and anyone caught and convicted of selling or trying to sell 3rd party lottery tickets can face up to 6 months in jail and/or a 100 Naira fine.
Most of the major Nigerian lotteries are licensed by the Lagos State Lotteries Board. The board regulates and oversees the firms that operate lotteries, as well as competitions, games of chance, promotions, scratch cards and other lotto-related games.
Nigerian Land Casino Gambling Licenses
The process of applying for and being granted a Nigerian land casino gambling license is a long, arduous and complicated affair which is why relatively few have been issued.
To start, prospective operators must be examined and approved by the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC).
Applicants must also register for Value Added Tax (VAT), secure a Tax Identification Number from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as well as a Capital Importation Certificate. Only then will their application for a Nigerian gambling license be carefully considered.
Successful licensees may operate or offer land casinos, sports betting, betting pools and/or charity-based lotteries according to the terms of their license issued in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s three casinos – Federal Palace Hotel and Casino (Lagos), Transcorp Hilton (Abuja) and Le Meridien Eko Hotel & Casino (Lagos) do a brisk trade amongst locals and tourists alike, even though they’re on the small side with relatively few games.
Despite this, they still have a marked impact on the nation’s total gaming revenues, the majority of which are generated via sports betting.
Online Casino Gambling in Nigeria
Although Nigeria has a handful of licensed and regulated land casinos, the same cannot be said for online or internet casinos. Online casinos are not allowed in Nigeria, and the fines and/or jail sentences can be big for anyone caught running a remote gambling site.
From a player perspective, however, little is being done by the Nigerian government to stop or even crack down on online casino fans from accessing and registering with offshore owned and run casinos which accept players from Nigeria.
However most of the world’s premier online casino sites do not accept players from Nigeria. Those that do are frequented by large numbers of Nigerians. Some even process deposits, play and withdrawals in Naira for added convenience.
Online Betting is Big Business in Nigeria
Allowances have been made for online betting sites, which is why the country has a handful of hugely successful, popular and 100% regulated internet-based sports betting sites. Three of the best examples include Merrybet, Nairabet and Winners Golden Bet, each of which is accessed daily by thousands of avid sports betting fans from across Nigeria.
Between these and other government-sanctioned betting sites they offer a wide variety of betting markets, lines and odds on local and foreign sports. These include sports like soccer, motorsports, basketball, cricket, Aussie rules football, rugby union, virtual football leagues, virtual dog racing, tennis, rugby league, baseball, badminton, table tennis, futsal and more.
The biggest benefits of Nigerian-owned and operated sports betting sites are that they cater specifically to Nigerian betting tastes, process all payments, bets and withdrawals in the local currency Naira, and in some instances even allow bets to be placed over the phone.
Nigerian Mobile and Internet Infrastructures Highly Evolved
As in most parts of the world, Nigeria’s mobile and internet infrastructures have evolved in leaps and bounds over the past few years, giving more Nigerians than ever before access to the internet and thus the outside world, not to mention state-of-the-art online betting and gaming facilities.
Despite calls from many quarters to revamp Nigeria’s gaming laws to bring them into the 21st century, to date little has been done to make this a reality. This lack of legislative progress has undoubtedly aided in the growth of the country’s ‘underground gambling market,’ which is generating untold millions in unreported revenues, particularly when it comes to sports betting.
And while there are no laws in place to govern remote gambling in Nigeria, neither are there any to prevent Nigerian sports betting fans from seeking out and registering with ‘Nigerian-friendly’ offshore sportsbooks.
Many gambling pundits believe that mobile gambling is the way of the future in Nigeria and other African countries. Although Kenya is presently leading the way in terms of having the most mobile gamblers, Nigeria is expected to catch up in the next few years.