"NLRC" will support bookmakers mid Covid-19 crysis

As the impact of Covid-19 continues hit businesses across the World the NLRC, which stands for “Nigeria's National Lottery Regulatory Commission”, has promised the nations beleaguered sports betting operators that they shall be provided with both practical assistance and moral support during the crisis.

There is not a corner of the globe which has been spared from the effects of Covid-19 and the negative impacts have hit the sports betting industry just as hard as any. With just a handful of exceptions, competitive sport, all competitive sport, has come to a halt. With no sporting action taking place there is nothing to bet on. With nothing to bet on, no bets are placed, and if no bets are placed then no bets are lost, and if no bets are lost… well, there is obviously no income for the sports betting operators.

The central government and the NLRC will work together to make sure that the sports betting sub-sector of the country’s gambling industry is still in place and ready to thrive once the crisis passes and sports resume. Licence holders from all over Nigeria submitted proposals for the government to consider in order to protect and support their businesses. The proposals included a reduction in tax rates by 50% or even a three-year suspension of paying any taxes at all. There was also a request for confirmation that the government will not introduce any new taxes during this difficult time.

“Let me assure everyone that government will do the best it can to protect every business within the industry, we cannot fold our arms and watch our industry with the huge investment therein go down the drain,” said Director-General of the NLRC Lanre Gbajabiamila.

“I am optimistic that the federal government will not hesitate to give necessary approvals for any form of [assistance] that will ensure your business remains viable because ours is a very peculiar industry which if properly harnessed would adequately shore up the much-needed [government] revenue.”

During the conference call, there were also concerns raised about the growing number of unlicensed online operators, something which they said had hurt their retail businesses, both before and during the pandemic.

Mr Gbajabiamila said the NLRC remains committed to stamping out any unlawful activity within the country, however, he added that the regulator does not have the resources to deal with illegal gambling alone.

Mr Gbajabiamila said that any action would have to be a joint effort between the country's Communication Commission, the Nigerian Technological Development Agency and the Central Bank of Nigeria in order to effectively combat these criminals.

This issue appears to have come to a head after a long-running debate over what constitutes an illegal operator. Not long ago the Lagos State Lottery Board (LSLB) blacklisted a number of NLRC licensees. In an unexpected move the LSLB had added GabLotto, Give ‘n’ take, MLotto, WesternLotto, WescoLotto, Chopbarh, Betbiga, Betwinner, Bet24hrs and Truthware Solutions, operator of the Zoomlifestyle lottery, to its blacklist. This was a problem since they all held licences with the NLRC which the NLRC said prevented the LSLB from blocking their operations in the state.

The state lottery board, which was formed before the national regulator, had previously prosecuted operators licensed at a federal level, demanding these businesses secure an LSLB licence in order to continue operating in the Lagos area. This acrimonious relationship between the two government agencies meant that in May 2019 the then-governor of Lagos State “Akinwunmi Ambode” stepping in to help resolve the dispute.

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