The publication by the Lagos State Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LSLGA) listing some betting companies as unlicensed has continued to attract scathing reviews, with some industry players describing the action of the agency as inimical to the burgeoning gaming industry.
The LSLGA released a public notice penultimate week stating that some 43 lottery and gaming platforms had no license to operate in the state and advised the gaming population to stay away from patronising them.
Conversely, the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, NLRC, through its Director General, Lanre Gbajabiamila, stated in a statement that gaming operators listed as unlicensed and illegal in LSLGA’s publication were duly licensed to conduct lottery and sports betting businesses in Nigeria.
The NLRC insisted that Zebet, Betika, Gobet247, Msport, Afribet, Bangbet, Betwazobia, Koretbet, Paripesa, Livescorebet, Blackbet/betty Bingo, Cloudbet, Hallabet, N1bet, Konfambet, Scratch2win, Naijabet, Lottomania and Millionaire Powerplay are its licensees
The confusion generated by the development has been viewed as having unnecessarily upset the stability the industry had enjoyed since a court judgment that affirmed the NLRC as the authentic body with the legal powers to regulate the industry in Nigeria.
Some industry experts believe LSLB’s action is an affront to the ruling by Justice Iniekenimi Oweibo of the Federal High Court (FHC) in Lagos State that the federal government, through the National Assembly, had the exclusive right to legislate and control lottery activities in the country. Justice Oweibo gave the ruling in a suit filed by the Association of Nigerian Bookmakers in 2020.
The industry players said it is high time Governor Babajide Sanwoolu called the Chief Executive Officer of the LSLGA James Maida to order for consistently bringing the state to disrepute and upset the growth of the gaming sector.
One industry player who sought anonymity said, “The court was unambiguous in its ruling when it stated, inter alia, that with the National Lottery Act, 2005, being an inter-state trade and commerce law, any grantee of a license by the NLRC is free to carry on its trade between states, especially from and into Lagos State, without liability to obtain approval of the license from the Lagos State Governor.
“The NLRC, as the apex regulator of lotteries and gaming in Nigeria, is backed by the National Lottery Act of 2005, the law governing lottery and gaming activities in Nigeria as affirmed by the court; therefore, the LSLB has no grounds for blacklisting holders of national lottery licenses operating in Lagos State. These things are very clear, and it is baffling that the LSLB is running foul of a subsisting court ruling.”
Another expert stated that the National Lottery Act of 2005 was promulgated to prevent unnecessary confusion and confers on the NLRC legislative authority as the sole regulatory body for lottery operations at the national level.
“The crafters of the law, in their wisdom, understood that having a single national regulatory body helps prevent conflicts and inconsistencies in lottery regulations across different states in Nigeria. If each state were allowed to independently regulate lotteries, it could lead to a patchwork of rules and standards that could be confusing for operators and players alike. A unified national regulator ensures a coherent and consistent regulatory framework, and this is what the court also affirmed in its ruling.
“The lottery and gaming industry in Nigeria has the potential to contribute significantly to the country’s economic growth. However, the constant meddlesomeness by Lagos State has created chaos and uncertainty for operators and players alike. This situation could ultimately harm the industry’s growth and limit its potential,” he said.