When Sports Betting, Gaming Returned to Centre Stage

Operators, regulators and stakeholders in the gaming and lottery industry in the West Africa sub-region returned to Lagos for stimulating conversations and enlivening exhibition, after a two-year hiatus, reports Vanessa Obioha 

The seventh edition of the Sports Betting West Africa (SBWA) organised by Eventus International at Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos closed on a promising note by honouring deserving operators, regulators and outstanding individuals in the sector.

Featuring panel discussions and exhibitions, the two-day event returned after a two-year hiatus, forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, since the last one in 2019. 

All topics on focus generated a lot of interest. Discussants including Mr. Ekere Nelson, Ejadamhen Oseghale, Gossy Ukanwoke, Managing Director of Kingmakers, Tunji Idowu, Managing Partner of Velex Advisory West Africa and Olabimpe Akingba, Executive Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Bookmakers had an illuminating debate on ‘Is Overregulation Killing Interest of Current or Potential Gaming Investors? How Do The Regulators Support The Growth of Licensed Operators?’ 

On this subject, some of the panelists argued that there is multi-regulation in the industry and it focuses mainly on licensing, revenue and tax collection. They insisted that apart from licence and revenue, Nigeria does not have an overbearing regime of regulation compared to other African countries like Ghana, Senegal and Kenya. The discussants also made the point that apart from overregulation, there is under-regulation.

The lead sponsor of the programme, Lagos State Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LSLGA) had a very visible presence with a copious stand. In the absence of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), the LSLGA, arguably the most distinguished state-owned regulatory body, took the heat from operators and other stakeholders who had a question or two.  

The CEO of the agency,  Mr. Bashir Are,  disclosed that he was an industry agent in the State of Maryland in the United States of America in 1994. He made robust contributions at the event, doing his best to provide answers to nagging questions. 

Expectedly, Lagos State was singled out for spending a lot of money to promote the industry and trying to get it right.

Referring to Section 7, sub-section 4 of the Nigerian constitution with regards to the right of state houses of assembly, Mr. Are noted that Nigeria is a federation of states, with some of the states legislating against gambling, while others approve of it. His colleague from the Oyo State Gaming and Lottery Board, Mr. Olajide Boladuro complained about the high level of impunity in the country. He observed that it was wrong for the NLRC to sit in Abuja and decide on industry practices in his state.

The Operations Director of the organising company, Eventus, Mr. Josh Blom commended the partnership with the LSLGA as the singular factor that made the event possible. 

He noted, “They proved to be extremely helpful in helping us to gather the industry. It has planted seeds for the next edition to get bigger.” 

Blom appreciated the modest success of this year’s event thus: “As an events organising company, it is getting people to come back to events after COVID-19 that makes it a real success.

“I think this partnership with the LSLGA has provided the opportunity for massive growth. The main function of this type of event is to get the operators, regulators and all the stakeholders in one place. That is how you grow the industry. It is a meeting platform for everybody to bring the good and the bad and put it on the table to discuss where we are going. What do we do? 

“There were a few people in the providers’ category and they wanted to hear what the needs are, while there were various people from the government side who wanted to hear the direction the industry should be going. The feedback that we normally get at this type of event is more than the business connection. We really want to reach an agreement on certain issues.”

During a session on ‘Presentation and Lottery Draw-How to Securely Grow Your Business With Bigger Pay-Outs, Stand a Chance to Win USD25,000 for Free-No Entrance Fees. You Can Be a Winner,’ Mr. Frank Herold, Business Development Director of Emirat AG, a company based in Germany that promotes different types of card games, including scratch card, lottery, horse races, bingo, football pools, sports betting, casino games and customized games,  demonstrated a key factor in the gaming and lottery industry-trust.

He talked about the importance of having punters rely on and trust in the game they are participating in. According to him, a 2021 study showed that only 30 per cent of players said that lottery can be trusted and is fair. While warning operators against spending marketing money on other activities, he concluded, “in order to build trust, we must avoid fraud.”

Talking about the essence of having all operators and regulators in the industry support ‘Responsible Gambling,’ Messrs Wei Wang of Easy Win Lotto Limited, Francis Masade of Velex Advisory, Oyindamola Michael of Parimatch Africa, Simon Burrell of Visatech Limited, said without such understanding, there might be no industry to play in. Their discussion focused on the importance of trust, integrity and players’ safety.

The importance of KYC (Know Your Customer) was drummed up by Oyindamola, for helping to protect both the operator and the customer. In order to mitigate the negative effects of gambling, Masade had some words of caution. “You should bet with what you can afford to lose.” He also reasoned that advertising content for the industry should not glamorise gambling activities.

For BETConstruct, an Armenian company that took up sizeable space at the event, its investment in Africa influenced the decision to take part in the expo. The company’s Business Development Executive, Liana Mirgiyan, summarized her impression. “I was expecting fewer people because of  COVID, however, people turned up.

“They came up with questions and suggestions. We have lots of important partners in Africa and we will like to expand. It is very important that we keep our partners happy and knowledgeable about our new releases and products because we are growing. We are coming with new stuff. It’s not just what we had before. It is very important that all our African partners know about this.

“BETConstruct is one of the biggest platforms for betting and gambling in the world. We do sports betting. We are into casinos; including live casinos and table games. We are one of the companies that stream casinos live. There is nothing you wouldn’t find in BETConstruct. We are moving forward. We are bringing new tools and new products. The Internet is not very good in Africa. It is sometimes down and sometimes very slow. So, for our African market, we create something that doesn’t disappoint and it allows them to participate if they want to.” 

Looking specifically at the Nigerian market, Mirgiyan said, “They are all unique. They are all different. It depends on the language. It depends on the population, even on some local traditions, and some local licensing. I can’t say this one is good, that one is bad; this one is big or small. The aim of BETConstruct is to keep everyone satisfied and happy. The tastes are different and each person wants different things. We have pretty much achieved our goals.”

There was a session on ‘Starting a Betting Company: The How Tos’, which had Adekunle Adeniji, Adeleye Awatan of E-Play Africa, Geoffrey Namanya, Co-founder and CEO of Ocean Gaming Consult Ltd., Kayode Omosehin, Managing Partner of Kariat and Co. and Oluwaseun Alli of MojaGroup Inc. as participants.

Mr. Morten Foght, a very knowledgeable gaming industry expert who represented GlobalBet commended the impressive performance of the panelists, for giving operators beautiful insights into their daily work. He said,  “I like this particular concept where you have some talk with experts at one end and then you have suppliers and products at the other end. That works very well.”

His company, GlobalBet, showcases a lot of brands under its portfolio. He revealed the status of GlobalBet. “It is a virtual supplier. When you are looking at sports betting you categorize them into three-retail, virtual and casinos. Virtual is like a simulation of what you are watching on LaLiga on the soccer side.

“We just run five minutes and kind of animate some near misses on the goal, some scores and some saves from the goalkeeper and we assimilate the outcome based on team strength; based on what you kind of see on the EPL. Instead of sitting and waiting for the Saturday matches at the EPL, you can actually bet on the outcome of the games on the same teams on full tournaments or you can bet on races. We like to simulate what is happening in the sports books with a lot of surer sequences; like betting now and winning now. You can’t get that out of the sports world, you get it out of virtual.”

Although it established a presence in Nigeria three years ago, MelBet was participating in a gambling industry expo in Nigeria for the first time. According to officials of the companies;  Alexander Ezekiel, Operations Manager and Alina Cherlasova, Regional Business Developer, they look forward to more partners for the company in future.

 “Over three years, MelBet has complied with regulatory bodies — Lagos State and Oyo State boards. We have shown individual support for different bodies. We try to see how we can support their programmes. We support the likes of GambleAlert, to promote responsible gambling.

” A lot of people have benefitted from our platform. There is a whole lot that we have done in the life of the people. We give a fast payout when you win and we have sponsored several events. We identify with people who come together in the name of sports and festivities. We have indigenous ambassadors too who are big names. We have influencers. MelBet has actually touched a lot of lives; directly and indirectly.”

An enlivening debate ensued among panelists comprising Johnson Adewale Foye of WeStar Connect, Adesoji Babatunde of StarBet, Bamidele Sunday of LuckyBetng, John Kamau Kungu, Founder,vBetsConsult Africa and Seun Oyeneye, COO of StarBet on the topic, ‘Retail Versus Online:  What Are the Pros and Cons?’ 

Some of the issues raised included the increasing penetration of mobile phones and the ability to access the internet. While weighing the option of carrying the cost of staff, equipment and office, some of the panelists argued that the future of the industry is online.

The SBWA closed on a celebratory note with a raffle draw that gifted big prizes like the latest iPhones and iPads to lucky winners, while stakeholders who have made substantial contributions to the industry were recognized in eight award categories. Winners emerged in the following categories; Sports Betting Provider of the Year, Leading Supplier, Industry Influencer, Virtual Platform Provider, Outstanding Consultant, Online Gaming, Online Casino Provider, Remarkable Woman in Gaming and Gaming Operator of the Year.


” A lot of people have benefitted from our platform. There is a whole lot that we have done in the life of the people. We give a fast payout when you win and we have sponsored several events. We identify with people who come together in the name of sports and festivities

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