Nigerian Laws on Gambling

Legality of gambling and betting in Nigerian is still a grey area. There are many illegal casinos, sports and mafia bookies, as well as unauthorized lotteries that operate throughout Nigeria. This is happening because many of the residents themselves love this kind of no player protection gambling avenues which is a crime in law. But when such illegal hubs refuse to payback the wins or a casino rigs a game many scams hit and become a problem for the gamers.

That’s is why it is recommended for Nigerians to play slots and casino games or do sports betting at legal and well regulated sites which are licensed offshore.

Gambling in Nigeria and Law

As said above Gambling in Nigeria is not well regulated. Although there is a gambling law in place, many illegal casinos operate in the country. The legal land-based casinos are located in the two largest cities. The biggest casino is The Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos. Nigerian law focuses on activities to reduce money laundering and illegal gambling.

The Gaming Machines (Prohibition) Act of 1977

The first is the Gaming Machines (Prohibition) Act of 1977, which specifies that the ownership and use of gaming machines in Nigeria is illegal, and that the penalty if caught and convicted of owning and using gaming machines, is a year in prison without the option of a fine.

Also all proceeds derived from said machines as well as the machines themselves are liable to be confiscated by the Nigerian Government. According to the Act, a gaming machine is considered to be any mechanical coin or token operated gambling or gaming device that is used for the sole purpose of enticing people to gamble in the hope they win monetary rewards.

The Nigerian Criminal Code Act 1990

The second Act in Nigeria that pertains to what constitutes legal and illegal gambling practices is the Nigerian Criminal Code, specifically Subsection 1 of Section 236 in Chapter 22. In this Act, an illegal gaming house is defined as any property or venue where unlawful gaming is offering or undertaken.

If caught, the owner, operator, manager or occupier of an illegal gaming house can face a fine of 1000 Naira and/or two years in prison. The Act goes on to specify which types of gambling are permitted and which are not.

Casino Taxation Act (1965)

Casino Taxation Act states that a tax on the net gaming revenue is payable to the Federal Board of Inland Revenue. The tax act also gives members of the Board the power to enter any casino with a warrant and review statements or returns.

Casino and Gaming Law of Lagos State (2004) 

This act gave the Lagos State Lottery Board the power to issue multiple lottery licenses in addition to the state-owned lottery license, providing a competitive platform for lottery operators.

The National Lottery Regulatory Commission (2007) 

This law established the National Lottery Regulatory Commission and laid out the functions, operations and financial provisions of the commission.

What type of gambling is legal in Nigeria?

Right now there are various agencies that regulate gaming and gambling operations in Nigeria. Sports betting is the most popular form of wagering and bet shops can be found in all 36 states. Football is by far the most wagered on sport consuming up to 70% of all Sportsbooks bets. The two regulatory agencies that regulate all gaming operations in Nigeria are:

  1. Lagos State Lottery Board (LSLB) – Responsible for regulating casinos, lottery games and charity sweepstakes in the state of Lagos. The LSLB also regulates online sportsbooks and online lotteries.
  2. National Lottery Regulation Commission – Responsible for regulating lottery games throughout Nigeria.

As said above gambling in Nigeria is regulated by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission. The lottery was legalized with the National Lottery Act, 2005 and gambling is defined by Chapter 22 of the Criminal Code Act enacted in 1990. The law splits the games into two categories: The legal and illegal games.

  • The legal games are lottery, land-based casino, and sports betting. 
  • Roulette, dice games, and non-skilled card games are illegal.

The law regulates slot machine activity and only licensed operators can provide slot machine gambling. Money laundering activity is covered by the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.

1. Land casino gambling is legal

The three popular Nigerian land casinos are Federal Palace Hotel and Casino at Lagos, Transcorp Hilton at Abuja and Le Meridien Eko Hotel and Casino at Lagos.  The land casinos are examined and approved by the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering(SCUML) and the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC). They also have a secure tax identification number from the Federal Inland Revenue Service as well as a Capital Importation Certificate.

2. Online gambling is legal

Though online gambling is not legal in Nigeria and if caught involved in operating a gambling site from Nigeria, the law is liable for prosecution and thus fines or gives a prison sentence.

However this doesn’t apply to gamers. Any Nigerian player can play at online sites and do sports betting with real Naira at any regulated offshore online casino. Though there are few online casinos that are Nigerian friendly and accept Naira as currency of deposit, players and bettors make full use of this opportunity to play slots of their choice. There are various other online casinos which accept Nigerian players and allow you to play and bet in other currencies as well like USD, CAD, BTC or any other. There is no obstacle when depositing money to foreign or local bookies. Users deposit money using bank cards or ewallets such as Skrill or Neteller. There is no legal restriction or service blocking.

To play online, all you need is a fast and secure WIFI or  internet connection, a updated PC or mobile browser to play instant games at any trustworthy and regulated casino.

 So this means there is no restriction for the people to reach local or foreign casino or sports betting sites. Although online gambling  is not mentioned exactly in the law, the companies are obliged to follow the regulations and laws as it is for the land-based casinos. All types of online games are available except those that are illegal. The gambling age is defined by the law and players below the age of 18 cannot legally gamble.

3. Sports Betting and Pools are legal

According to Subsection 3 of Section 239 in Chapter 22 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, “any house, room or place which is used for the purposes of a licensed pool betting business shall not be deemed to be a common betting house by reason only that it is so used.”

This clause allows the operation and use of betting and pool houses in Nigeria provided they are the only types of gambling on offer. Further, under the laws of Nigeria, betting and pool operators must use a totalisator (a.k.a. a pari-mutuel machine) to register bets and equally divide the total amount bet amongst the winners.

Also, operators are required to register their pools and/or betting houses with the government in order to gain a legal status. Failing to do so can mean an illegal operation leading to prosecution, fines time in prison.

4. Lotteries are legal

Lotteries are legal in Nigeria. According to Section 240 in Chapter 22 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, “lottery” includes any game, method or device whereby money or money’s worth is distributed or allotted in any manner based on or to be determined by chance or lot.

A lottery ticket includes any ticket, paper or other printed article that entitles the holder who has the winning numbers to collect its corresponding cash prize or equivalent.

A “public lottery” means a lottery to which the public or any class of the public has, or may have, access, and every lottery shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to be a public lottery.

According to Section 240, anyone caught acting like a ‘middle-man’ between a public lottery and buyers of lottery tickets players is liable for a 100 Naira fine or six months in prison.

Illegal gaming penalities

The penalty for players engaging in unlawful gambling is a small fine up to 40 naira, up to 3-months in prison, or both the fine plus prison sentence. There are other laws that make it illegal to own gambling devices. Like the Gaming Machines Prohibition Act makes it a crime to own a gambling machine. The sentence for violation is up to one year in prison.

The penalties for operators, owners, promoters and the banks involved in unlawful gambling are far greater. But often the police in the country is mostly undermanned and when it comes to stopping such crimes. As a result much of the gambling industry has been pushed underground where it thrives through illegal channels.

Play at legal sites

It is finally advised to always play at legal online sites. These online or mobile casinos or sportsbookies are located offshore making them legal to offer slots and sports to play with real money. These are well regulated under gambling laws of their own countries, have gambling license and offer secure and fair gaming to players.