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Gbajabiamila: It’s risky to patronise illegal gaming platforms

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The Director General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), Lanre Gbajabiamila, told
ADELOWO ADEBUMITI that the commission cannot guarantee the safety of resources of those who patronise illegal gaming platforms. He also spoke about licensing and regulating gaming platforms, and how to recognise legitimate ones.

There is an upsurge in gaming platforms patronised by Nigerians. Is there anything to worry about?
If there is an upsurge as you said, the only thing to look out for is if such platforms are legitimate gaming platforms licensed by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), or any other state gaming regulator. If they are licensed, they are more likely to play by the country’s gaming rules. For the Federal Government licensed operators, the National Lottery Act of 2005, as well as the National Lottery Regulation 2007 (as amended) contains the laws guiding lotteries and gaming business in Nigeria. The industry is still very young in the country, but there is increased awareness, hence the upsurge/ increase of activities in gaming industry.

Being virtual platforms, what are the major requirements that they all must meet before being allowed to operate?
The requirements to be met are outlined and can be obtained from our website or any of our 16 offices across the country. But majorly, they have to obtain gaming licenses before which they would have met laid down conditions. For licensing, including adequate capital base, sound technical and financial capabilities, willingness to comply with the provisions of the National Lottery Act 2005 etc. They should also connect to the central monitoring platform.

How can the public recognise legitimate gaming platforms that are registered with the board?
The list of licensed operators is on our website. Also, legitimate gaming businesses display their license in their shops; they often have traceable addresses, and even in their adverts, it is often mentioned that they are licensed by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission. Most of them also comply with the provisions of the law regarding remittances to the National Lottery Trust Fund (NLTF).

Any efforts at curtailing the proliferation of illegal ones?
The NLRC has a department known as the Monitoring and Enforcement Department, whose function is to identify and clampdown on illegal operators. We do that very often across the nation, such that no single illegal operator is spared. We also collaborate with other government agencies like NLC, EFCC etc.

Is it mandatory for gaming platforms operators to register with the board?
Yes, the commission goes after any company, which goes into operation without registering first with it because such a company automatically is illegal until it regularises its operation with us.

What are the penalties for illegal operations?
Penalties for illegal operators include fines and jail terms or both. First, the commission will seal up the business and may prosecute offenders in order to make them feel the full weight of the law.

Are there mechanisms to protect Nigerians from falling into the hands of fraudsters online?
Nigerians should be careful when they participate in gaming activities; they should endeavour to know if such companies are registered before making any form of investment. However, if they have any doubts or suspicion, they could find out from the commission’s 16 offices across the country.

The commission encourages Nigerians to participate in lotteries and gaming, but they must be careful not to participate in illegal ones.

If they patronise illegal operators, no one can guarantee safety of their money, but they stand a chance to get justice if a licensed operator tries to cheat them. The commission exists to also protect their interests and those of other lottery industry stakeholders.


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