Other than being a leading oil producer and one of Africa’s most vibrant economies, Nigeria has a great love for gambling.
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Some of the popular gambling activities include charity-based lotteries, pools, sports betting, and land casino games. Although Nigeria has one of the most extensive gambling markets in Africa, it has complicated gambling laws like the Criminal Code Act. The laws are confusing because there is no clear-cut law that specifically addresses gambling in the country. Two federal Acts distinguish between legal and illegal gambling.
Is Gambling Legal in Nigeria?
Whether gambling is legal or illegal in Nigeria will depend on the type of gaming. There are three main forms of legal gambling in Nigeria. They include sports betting or pools, certain land casino games, and lotteries.
Sports Betting and Pools
The Criminal Code Act Gambling Law in Nigeria outlines the legal forms of gambling. In section 22 criminal code act, any venue used for licensed pool betting is not a common betting house. It is, therefore, legal to operate pool and legal sports betting houses in Nigeria. The law sets further requirements in that any pool and betting house operator must use a pari-mutuel machine, also known as a totalisator. This machine plays a major role in equalizing all bets and sharing the earnings amongst the winning players.
To gain legal status, the operators of lotteries and pool houses must register their operations with the government. Failing to do so would mean that the operators and the owners are operating illegal gambling houses.
The Criminal Code Act Gambling Law in Nigeria defines what a lottery game entails. This is any, device, or method in which money or other rewards are allotted based on chance or lot. A lottery may be public meaning that the public can participate. The criminal procedure code deems it an offence to act as a middleman between buyers of lottery tickets and a public lottery.
You might be surprised to learn that even though Nigeria is a vast country, it has only three legal and licensed land casinos. Two of the casinos are situated in Lagos, and the other one in Abuja. The casinos have diverse games to keep gamblers entertained but do not obtain a vast library like the ones you will find in Western land casinos. Even though Nigeria’s gambling regulations under the criminal code act are against the import and usage of particular casino games, these licensed casinos offer them. To date, it is not clear why Nigeria only has three licensed casinos.
The Two Laws Governing Gambling
There are two major laws governing the gambling industry in Nigeria. Those are the Criminal Code Act and the Gaming Machines Prohibition.
The Criminal Code Act
The Criminal code Act came to effect in 1990. The law addresses and references gambling activities in Nigeria under chapter 22 criminal code act. According to this law, any venue or property where illegal gaming takes place is an illegal gaming house. This criminal code act renders the occupier, manager, operator, or owner of an illegal gaming house liable.
The act states that upon conviction, the penalties include fines and imprisonment of up to two years. Moreover, the Criminal code act clearly defines legal and illegal games in Nigeria. The legal games include land casino games based on skills; the games include blackjack, roulette, progressive slots, and video slots. Non- skilled games are illegal based on this act.
The Gaming Machine Prohibition Act
The Gaming Machine Prohibition Act came to effect in 1977. This law states that it is illegal to own or operate a gambling machine in Nigeria. The penalties for violating this law include imprisonment of up to one year upon conviction. Violating this law may lead to confiscation of all the proceeds obtained from the gambling machines. The law enforcement officers may also confiscate the gambling machines and hand them over to the government. What qualifies as a gaming machine? It is any machine operated by coins or tokens and entices or attracts people to play and win money.
Online Betting – a Grey Area in the Law
Can you operate a legal online casino in Nigeria? The Criminal Code Act Gambling Law in Nigeria has not legalized online gambling in the country. It is an offense to host or operate an online gambling site in Nigeria. The penalties may include fines and imprisonment. However, it is difficult for the government to prevent its citizens from signing up with foreign online casinos. Many offshore -owned gaming sites welcome Nigerian players. With fast and secure internet, players can access legal online gambling sites.
Are Betting Sites in Nigeria Legal?
Yes, legal betting sites exist in Nigeria. As long as the betting site is licensed, it is perfectly safe to bet on. Before licensing, the sites have to meet the requirements of the Criminal Code Act Gambling Law in Nigeria. As long as a betting site meets the strict examinations imposed by the licensing board, you can be sure about the security, reliability, and financial stability of the site.
Irrespective of the application of the criminal code act, among other laws in Nigeria, betting is still a big industry in the country. You cannot exhaust the vast legal betting opportunities. However, you must have attained the legal gambling age to participate. For Nigerians, the legal gambling age is 18 years. However, for residents, the legal gaming age in land casinos is 20 years.