Lottery: LASG mulls harmonisation of betting laws,proposes N20m share capital for operators

August 17, 2020
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A bill for a law that specifies the  N20 Million share capital for the operators of lottery, pools and betting in Lagos State is being considered by the state house of assembly.

The Bill, entitled; “Lagos State Lotteries And Gaming Authority Bill Arrangement Of Sections” went through public hearing on Friday 14th August, 2020 at the state house of assembly.

According to the bill, “before a license is granted to an operator, the Authority shall be satisfied that the applicant is a registered company in Nigeria with a minimum share capital of N20,000,000 (Twenty Million Naira) or as may be directed by the Authority.”

It also specified that the local content shareholder shall abide by the regulations, policies, terms and conditions issued by the Authority.

It was also revealed at the public hearing that the new bill, when it becomes law, will consolidate all the laws in the sector and repeal existing laws such as the  Lagos State Lotteries (Amendment) Law 2008, the Lagos State Lotteries Law (2004), and the Casino and Gaming Regulatory Authority Law (2007).

Others are Casino and Gaming Regulations (2007), Pools Betting Control Law (2003) and Pools Betting Tax Law (2003).

The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa, who was represented by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wasiu Sanni-Eshinlokun said in his keynote address that the legislative functions and the legislature is the bedrock of democracy.

Obasa stated that a sound legislature must be the aggregate of the common interest of the majority, and that it must perceive the interest of the people and aggregate it.

“For us to achieve the essence of democracy, the legislature must be in tune with the people.

“This underscores the essence of public hearing. The world wide gaming is worth $200 Billion. Several Nigerians are involved in games and sports bettings.

“Its addictive nature calls for caution, and it is our view that the 2008 lottery law needs an amendment as the bulk of the game are done on mobile gadgets,” he said.

The Majority Leader of the House, Hon. S.O.B Agunbiade, who did an overview of the Bill, emphasized that the Bill, which has has 109 Sections with three regulations, is meant to establish Lagos State Lottery and Gaming Authority and regulate all gaming activities and other connected purposes.

The state’s commissioner for Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo, said in his comments that a lot has changed in the Nigerian gaming sector in the last 10 years, and that most of the people involved are youths.

“The future of gaming in Nigeria is bright. The regulations are very robust. The Bill addresses cyber security and addresses the concerns of many people. I want to urge all stakeholders to take it serious,” he said.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Hon. Rotimi Olowo, said in an interview that he was moved by the response of the stakeholders and the operators that attended the event.

Olowo, representing Shomolu Constituency 1, added that the bill was meant to consolidate, gaming and virtual lottery in the state.

“We have different licenses for individual products in the sector. The people have ventilated their opinions and we will work on them.

“The law is not meant for the operators alone, it is also meant for the regulators, we will look into all the areas.

“They are talking about service charge of 3%, and they say it is small, but the sector is huge. We are not talking about digging into their data, but they should give us correct data,” he said.

The lawmaker said that the Bill would help the state to gather enough money that would be used in the health sector, environment and even sports sector.

Olowo stated further that the money is not coming into the consolidated fund of the state, and that it is meant to take care of the welfare of the citizenry.

He explained that the state wanted a law that would consolidate all the laws in the sector.

“It has about 109 sections and each of the section is not talking about the same thing; some talk about lottery, gaming and others.

“We want to have all the laws in one place, so we will look at their positions and work on it.

“The issue of N20 Million would be looked into by the regulators. We would look at the socioeconomic reality and allow sanity into that sector.

“Some funny guys who are into yahoo come into the business, and some of them are involved in money laundering.

“Many Nigerians want to come into the sector, but they don’t have the wherewithal.

“So, we will not protect foreigners to the detriment of Nigerians. We can reduce the percentage, not that somebody who has the money will just come into it and we will allow Nigerians to suffer,” he said.

He explained that the state would be going into virtual gaming and that this has a lot of potentials for the people of Lagos, adding that they would make sure that this didn’t deter investors or discourage the residents of the state.

He revealed that the Lagos Lottery Board was building a fire station in Apapa and that this will be replicated in other parts of the state and that they would ensure that the money they realise is judiciously spent.

One of the stakeholders at the event, Mr. Adebagun Nojeem from Lagos Pool Promoters requested that the stakeholders in the gaming sector should be involved in the State Lottery Board and that the issue of N20 Million share capital should be looked into.

“The issue of N20 Million share capital should be looked into. It would have retroactive effect on the companies that have been registered. Pool is a game of the senior citizens. With the new capital base, we may go under.

“The 10% charges on sales should be reduced to about 2.5%. Penalty of N2.5 Million should be reduced to 1 Million or N500,000 and the issue of imprisonment should be removed,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr. Tokunbo Akande from the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) said that licensing fees or royalties should be used in the bill instead of taxes and that there should be rooms for dispute resolutions in the bill.

On his part, Mr. Niyi Adekunle from Grand Lotto said that the first license fee for lottery was issued in 2008 for N200 Million, which he said was a huge money and that it is still a huge money.

He added that a lot of people that applied for licenses are dead and gone, and that the license should be changed to reflect the universal license.

“A lot of people are restricted to just one form of lottery. The Lottery Board should be focused on the spending of lottery. People might do lottery not just for winning, but for some other activities.

“For instance, we could say the money spent on buying lottery ticket is for research on COVID-19.

“The issue of licensing staff before they join lottery should also be looked into. Lottery is still an upcoming industry being blighted by cultural and religious biases. A lot of people hide the fact that they work in a lottery company or play lottery,” he said.

Mr. Chima Onwuka from the Nigerian Licences Lottery Operators said that the taxation and levies that are being imposed are becoming multiple, and called for the elimination of multiple taxation.

He said that the investors and operators were in the business to make money.

While Mr. Oyeniyi Emmanuel called for a parallel platform for dispute resolutions, Mr Clement Okoli from Betway Nigeria advised that the House Committee could relate with the regulators and key operators for inputs before the bill is passed into law.

Emmanuel said that in sports betting almost every product is licensed separately, and that one license should cover the whole business and that they should relate with industry experts before the the bill is passed into law.

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