Sports betting has never been more popular than it is right now, across much of the African continent. This includes Nigeria, where around 60 million bettors between the ages of 18 and 40 regularly engage in the activity. Now the government is starting to see the value of regular gambling taxation.
Recent Betting Industry Growth
Nigeria, which has the largest population in Africa, is regulated by the National Lottery Act of 2005 and Chapter 22 of 1990’s Criminal Code Act. Online gambling is not mentioned in Nigerian law, and bettors cannot be prosecuted for using offshore or local operators.
Although sports betting, lottery and certain casino games have been legal in the country for several years, these industries have mushroomed recently. In fact, an Alexa website ranking published on the 19th of December listed bookmaker Bet9ja.com as the site that is the 3rd-most visited by Nigerians. The only sites that individuals log into more are Google and YouTube.
The exponential growth of sports betting in Nigeria is attributed to the same factors as it is in the rest of Africa; increased Internet penetration, high rates of unemployment, and appreciation of the sports themselves. With such a large population, the effects of all these issues are amplified – the nation’s sports betting market is currently estimated to be around USD 2 billion, and is expected to keep expanding.
Widespread Internet Access
The mobile revolution has been faster than the online revolution that preceded it in the 1990s, and has given many people Internet access for the first time. Smartphones are far more affordable than laptops, so more Nigerian (and other African) citizens can obtain them.
General Internet coverage makes it easier to stay connected, while revolutionary banking methods allow simple deposits via smartphone. Bettors are also able to use the Internet to research any event that they are interested in, and Nigerians are making good use of these opportunities too. Information websites like Livescore.com and Goal.com are the 21st– and 49th-most visited sites.
With a sports betting market that is maturing so quickly, the fact that Nigeria’s government wants to take advantage of the revenue is unsurprising. The intention is to charge Value Added Tax, or VAT, as the recently released plans reveal.
The VAT would be collected by FIRS (the country’s Federal Inland Revenue Service) and would apply to gaming and lottery activities. The final decision on VAT has not yet been made, but insiders consider it very likely that the law will be implemented. This would see an automated collection system of %% VAT on all gambling wins.
If used correctly, gambling taxes can have very positive effects. Vital monies can be directed to public works that benefit all citizens, and the increase in taxation is accompanied by a rise in monitoring and regulation. In turn, this protects players’ rights more and helps to fund efforts to curb underage or problem gambling.
However, as is often the case, the betting revenue plans are not without the potential for failure. Akin Alabi, founder of leading Nigerian bookmaker Nairabet, has criticised the scheduled VAT. With such steep taxation, says Alabi, bettors will be driven from regulated to unregulated operators. Whether or not this prediction will come true, only time will tell.