Nigeria’s Responsible Online Gambling Efforts: Genuine Progress or Mere Posturing?

Iyke Bede writes that the Nigerian sports betting sector has recorded tremendous shifts in tackling Individuals with Gambling Problems (IWGPs), curbing the menace. Nonetheless, its adoption of innovation seems to have plateaued, citing existing regulatory frameworks as a firewall against irresponsible gambling

Throughout the annals of history, the excitement tied to gambling has remained a timeless pursuit, depicting human pastimes across the ages. In contemporary times, this form of entertainment manifests in diverse ways: from modest, friendly, inconsequential wagers among acquaintances to one involving a vast, multi-billion-dollar industry spanning sports betting and casinos.

Before the internet revolutionised the gambling landscape, particularly with the emergence of online sports betting sites and casinos utilising existing internet infrastructure, the industry faced significant societal and religious stigma. It primarily entailed visiting a pool house or similar establishment to place wagers. These settings, often characterised by punters with ties to crime gangs, painted gambling activities in a bad light. 

Nowadays, one can place a wager from the comfort of their space through mobile devices, win stakes, and cash out said winning directly into financial institutions. This ease, arguably, poses a new challenge — irresponsible gambling.

To be sure, irresponsible gambling has always been in existence. However, the ease of access granted on the internet has led to a meteoric rise in the number of individuals with gambling problems (IWGP) who are harder to track online. Also, the lack of regulation and enforcement at the early stages of the sports betting and lottery industry led to the proliferation of problem gambling.

By 2005, the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) was enacted into law, allowing regulatory oversight for all gambling activities through its regulatory framework. It is also tasked with licensing and compliance, ensuring all operators adhere to stringent rules to promote responsible gambling.

The regulatory body and other state regulatory bodies that sprang up years after, save for the Lagos State Lotteries Board established in 2004, curbed the menace. However, there are loopholes in the system, especially with the revolutionary role of technology that now requires these regulatory agencies to keep up with the pace set by the operators. Despite advancements in the sector following the emergence of NLRC, problem gambling persists, especially in the area of compliance and enforcement.

A study, ‘An Overview of Gambling in Nigeria’ published in 2021 by Chinyere Mirian Aguocha and Sanju George, revealed that 36 per cent of its respondents had gambled, with 53 per cent admitting to gambling daily. The report also revealed that 57.2 per cent of school-age children had gambled at least once, and 58.3 gained unfettered access to gambling dens. Their findings also revealed that between 1 to 8 per cent are prone to problem gambling, which poses a public health concern, necessitating a multi-tiered prevention approach involving stakeholders and policy interventions.

Although operators are required to provide options to punters to help assess if they have gambling issues, these assessment channels to self-exclusion, conditioned by the statutory requirements stated in the Remote Operator Permit Terms and Conditions, merely solve irresponsible gambling head-on. 

By law, operators are required to place or state these responsible gambling measures on their websites. However, checks on a handful of gambling sites showed how operators cleverly placed the warnings hidden in plain sight. That is, one has to look for it to access the convoluted pages with embedded links. Even when one successfully self-excludes from a particular operator platform, it doesn’t bar them from visiting other platforms and resuming betting. Consequently, this measure only partially solves the problem of irresponsible gambling.

In the UK, one of the biggest sports betting markets in the world, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) [their version of the NLRC] introduced GamStop, a free self-exclusion platform that requires punters to input their KYC to exclude them from betting on any platform covered by GamStop or licensed in the UK at the time of their choosing. 

While the GamStop portal was not a perfect tool from the outset, it has steadily recorded success over the years since it was introduced in 2018. In 2022 alone, it recorded a sign-up of 84,000 new players. In 2023, it experienced an 8.9 per cent increase, resulting in 92,000 new sign-ups, of which 55 per cent opted for a five-year exclusion from gambling. Initially, operators were not legally required to come onboard GamStop, but this changed in 2020. With this law in effect, one sign-up significantly protects the players across all platforms in the UK. 

In fairness, the Nigerian sports betting sector has recorded tremendous shifts in curbing this problem. Nonetheless, its adoption of innovation seems to have plateaued, citing existing regulatory frameworks as a firewall against irresponsible gambling. Understandably, poor data collation for research and development purposes stifles any further advancements. But hopefully, with the proposed central monitoring system by the NLRC for data collation, a unified system of detecting the activities of punters may come to fruition. 

Alternatively, punters in Nigeria have access to mobile apps like Gamban and Betfilter at a discretionary fee. Once installed on the individual’s devices, these apps restrict them from gaining access to all betting sites. But this is not as simple as it seems because IWGPs can easily uninstall these apps to get a jolt of rush from placing bets with hopes of winning big. 

In Nigeria, various initiatives have emerged to tackle irresponsible gambling through an evidence-based approach. These include leveraging extensive advocacy work that majorly targets young potential bettors via various media platforms and providing support groups to assist IWGPs. Two such platforms include GambleAlert and Virtually Safe.

By and large, while Nigeria’s efforts in regulating online gambling through bodies like the NLRC have shown commendable progress in addressing the issue of irresponsible gambling, there remains a clear need for further enhancement. The challenges posed by technological advancements and loopholes in regulatory enforcement demand a multifaceted approach. Emulating successful models like the UK Gambling Commission’s GamStop initiative could provide valuable insights.

Additionally, the NLRC’s proposed central monitoring system holds promise for streamlining detection and exclusion measures. Nevertheless, effectively combating irresponsible gambling requires continuous innovation, collaboration among stakeholders, and a steadfast commitment to prioritising responsible gambling practices.

As Nigeria navigates this evolving landscape, initiatives such as GambleAlert and Virtually Safe play crucial roles in raising awareness and providing support, ensuring a safer and more responsible gambling environment for all. Considering the independence and effectiveness of these platforms, the NLRC may benefit from exploring partnerships or adopting similar strategies to bolster its efforts in tackling irresponsible gambling.


In Nigeria, various initiatives have emerged to tackle irresponsible gambling through an evidence-based approach of leveraging extensive advocacy works that majorly target young potential bettors via various media platforms, as well as providing support groups to assist IWGPs. Two such platforms include but are not limited to GambleAlert and Virtually Safe.

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