17 May COVID-19: SPORTS BETTING OPERATORS ASSURED OF FG SUPPORT
COVID-19: SPORTS BETTING OPERATORS ASSURED OF FG SUPPORT
Against the backdrop of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, NLRC has said the Federal Government would do all it takes to ensure the Sports Betting sub-sector of the Nigerian Gaming industry does not suffer any undue setbacks during this pandemic period.
This assurance was given by the NLRC Director-General, Lanre Gbajabiamila Wednesday during a video conference meeting with the Sports Betting Permit holders across Nigeria. The DG said the meeting became necessary not only to ensure close contact with the operators but also to x-ray their operational challenges in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. “As your regulator, we feel obliged to touch base with you, find out the challenges you are facing in your business and see how we can continue to work together, despite the difficulties occasioned by this ugly pandemic. Let me assure everyone that government will do the best it can to protect every business within the industry, we cannot fold our arms and watch our industry with the huge investment therein go down the drain”, the DG said
Mr. Gbajabiamila told the operators “I am optimistic that the Federal Government will not hesitate to give necessary approvals for any form of palliative that will ensure your business remains viable because ours is a very peculiar industry which if properly harnessed would adequately shore up the much-needed revenue for the Government. Yours is to ensure that you all play by the rule, while on the part of the Government, we will do all it takes to give needed support for all business to remain viable.”
On the issue of remote gaming, as raised by one of the operators, the DG reiterated that NLRC was determined to stamp out remote gaming within Nigerian space. He stated that the NLRC lacks the capacity to deal with the menace alone, hence it is collaborating with the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, Nigeria Technological Development Agency, NITDA, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to solve the problem of remote gaming.
Narrating their challenges, several of the sports betting operators expressed frustration with the COVID-19 lockdown orders of the government, claiming it had adversely affected their businesses, thereby reducing their projected revenue. They said the lockdown, as well as social distancing, does not encourage business as usual at retail outlets, hence total online gaming has become inevitable. Some operators though said they resorted to virtual gaming, but observed it was becoming much more difficult to break even. The operators, therefore, came to the unanimous consensus; asking that they are granted a three years tax holiday, or at least reduce their taxes to 50%. They also urged the Government not to introduce new taxes during this pandemic period.
The operators further urged the NLRC to approach the issue of remote gaming with the seriousness it deserved, noting that it was wrong to allow foreign betting companies to continue to poach business from Nigeria gaming space without being regulated or making any returns to Nigeria government, unlike the case of local gaming operators.