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Eight Things You Should Know About Nigeria’s Gambling Laws

gambling laws

Gambling is a popular activity among millions of Nigerians. Despite this, the country’s laws seem far outpaced by the industry’s growth, particularly since the dawn of online gambling hit its shores.

While online gambling is available, there are no official laws that regulate it. Even laws relating to physical gambling are somewhat outdated and have seen little revision in years to accommodate the ever-growing activity.

The laws have a clear direction regarding what is and isn’t legal. However, these laws hold certain loopholes that users and operators may seek to exploit and circumvent and are becoming increasingly outdated. Below, we’ve listed eight things you should know about gambling laws in the country.

1. Gambling Has Not Always Been Legal

Like many countries, Nigeria used to prohibit gambling. In fact, the first law relating to gambling passed in the country, the Unlawful Games Act of 1541, outlawed it in its entirety.

It remained so until 1845, when the country adopted England’s Gaming Act, which allowed for specific types of gambling. However, because Nigeria had a strong Catholic influence, gambling was still spoken harshly of, and many in the region didn’t wish to partake in its activities.

2. One Law Oversees All Forms of Gambling

In 2005, the Nigerian government approved the National Lottery Act. Extending beyond just lotteries, this act is the regulatory tool covering all forms of gambling in the region (except for online gambling, which was not as popular then).

The law provides for in-person casino games and betting on events such as horse racing. It also established a state lottery, the National Lottery Nigeria, which remains one of the most popular ways to gamble and has grown into one of the largest in Africa.

3. No Law Mentions Online Forms of Gambling

As mentioned, no provision is made for online gambling in the country in the National Lottery Act or any subsequent law. This means that many operators outside the country’s borders are happy to provide their services to residents as it is not expressly condemned.

External and internal operators are also allowed to accept gamblers due to the lack of legislation barring them from doing so. As such, gamblers are free to play all Nolimit City games on casinos.com and various other sites without legal repercussions.

4. Internal Operators Must Be Licensed

The Nigerian government has stated that all operators providing services from within the country must acquire a gambling license to offer their services to players. Many see this as strange, considering there is yet to be a law ratified to enforce this, and it relies on operators’ goodwill.

All companies that wish to offer online gambling services must register for a license with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC). This governing body oversees the country’s lotto and all other gambling aspects, including the largest physical casinos.

5. Some States Draft Their Own Laws

Although the NLRC regulates gambling on a federal level, some states have taken it upon themselves to pass legislation relating to gambling within their borders. Lagos, for instance, passed the Lagos State Lotteries and Gaming Authority Law in 2021, which made provision for how online casinos and bookmakers can be licensed to operate in the region.

These laws help regulate things at the state level and even make provisions for forming state governing bodies, such as the Lagos State Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LSLGA), responsible for issuing licenses to online operators.

6. Outdated Laws Have Created a Gambling Black Market

Despite casinos being legal and a law being in place to make provisions for them, the outdated rules and processes that require a license to operate have spawned a burgeoning black market in the country. As such, many illegal casinos or gambling houses exist throughout the country.

Aside from physical casinos operating without a license, online operators are as guilty. As recently as 2024, more than 26 illegal operators were identified in Lagos state alone. These are operating and welcoming customers without going through the necessary channels to be able to do so legally.

7. Gambling Tax Laws Do Exist

Although the gambling laws are outdated and not fit for the current gambling climate found worldwide, lawmakers did find it necessary to ensure the government benefits from gambling through the Casino Taxation Act.

While the act is also old and outdated, passed in 1965, it provides that all operators must pay the Federal Board of Inland Revenue (FBIR) a tax on net gaming revenue. In addition, the act allows the FBIR to review a gambling operator’s financial statements at any time. The only condition is that a warrant is required.

8. Outdated Gambling Laws Are Resulting in Massive Losses for the Government

Estimates show that almost 36% of Nigerian adults have gambled. Of these, 53% gamble daily using online operators or physical amenities. These gamblers contribute to the country’s extensive GGR (gross gaming revenue), which is predicted to hit £576.8m by 2025.

However, due to the lack of formal regulation and infighting between federal control and state legislation surrounding gambling, much of this revenue fails to generate income for local government. Consequently, much of this revenue goes to external operators who aren’t licensed and can avoid paying the government.

Conclusion

Navigating Nigeria’s old and sometimes conflicting gambling laws is not simple. As states begin passing their own legislation due to the federal government’s failure to do so, things are likely to get even more confusing.

For players, this means more uncertainty and a lack of understanding about where they can gamble legally. However, with external operators still welcoming players, the real loser here is the government, which is missing out on huge sums of revenue. Hopefully, this will spur it to take action and draft comprehensive legal frameworks that will help the industry grow.