Online Sports Betting (Gambling): Who is the Regulatory Authority?
The linkage between gambling and sports has been extant for centuries and as technology grows so does the relationship. With the advent of online gambling, it has shifted from the high-street betting shops to online platforms that enable betting on sports events from any location and at any time.
Online betting in Nigeria has become a competitive market in recent years with football or pool betting being the most popular sport betting in Nigeria, generating a huge amount of revenue with agencies like Bet9ja, Naijabet, etc. and facilitating employment.
Although Gambling is legal in Nigeria to a certain extent, Nigeria still doesn’t have any substantive regulations in place to accommodate online gambling.
With the rapid growth in this industry, there is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is tardy in its bid to take necessary steps to fully legislate on or rather, to amend antecedent laws regulating gambling and to incorporate the new changes.
In Nigeria, we are left at the mercy of Laws like the Criminal Code Act of 1990, The National Lottery Act of 2005 and some state legislation on lottery and pool betting. These laws are lax to online betting platforms.
This paper will focus on pool betting and casino gaming and will try to answer the question as to appropriate authority that has a mandate to legislate on pool betting and casino gaming.
One grey area under the present Nigerian federalism is the area of pool betting and Casino gaming. Recently, there has been a bit of confusion between the National Lottery Regulatory Commission and the Lagos State Lottery Board on the appropriate authority to regulate on matters relating to the licensing of a sports betting agency amongst other things.
It is well-known that Nigeria operates a federal system of government and power is shared among the three tiers of government. Each tier of government has matters it can legislate on as provided by the Constitution.
The Federal Government handles matters listed in Part I of the Second Schedule to the constitution while both the Federal and State Government handles matters listed in Part II of the Second Schedule to the constitution.
The question to ask is who has the legislative competence to regulate pool betting and casino gaming? Before delving to answer the question, it might be of interest to note that, recently, the Lagos State Lottery Board published the list of blacklisted unlicensed gaming holders within Lagos State whose gaming license has been granted previously by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission.
The Commission thereafter published a public notice to the effect that;
- It is the apex regulator of lotteries and gaming in Nigeria as conferred to it by the National Lottery Act, 2005.
- That the Act is the contemporary law governing lottery and gaming activities in modern Nigeria.
- That any operator licensed by the Federal Government has the right and is free to conduct the business of Lottery and Gaming in any part of the federation and thus The Board was wrong to have blacklisted the license of such gaming holders.
In response to the above public notice, The Lagos State Lottery Board reiterated the fact that legislating on gaming does not fall within the items listed in the Exclusive Legislative List and the Concurrent Legislative List respectively as provided under the 1999 Constitution.
In addition, Part II, Section 5, Taxes and Levies (Approved List for Collection) Act, Cap T2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria empowers the State Government to collect tax in lotteries, pool, gaming and other related matters.
Now, going back to our question, it is indeed worthy of note that after going through the matters listed in the Exclusive Legislative List and the Concurrent Legislative List as provided in Part I and II of the Second Schedule to the Constitution, it is obvious that pool betting and gaming has not been listed thereon.
Since this is the case, reference is made to Section 4 (7) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended (2011)to completely answer our question. The Section states that the House of Assembly of a State shall have power to make laws with respect to the following matters;
(a) Any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part I of the Second Schedule to this Constitution;
(b) Any matter included in the Concurrent Legislative List set out in the first column of Part II of the Second Schedule to this Constitution to the extent prescribed in the second column opposite thereto.
With the above provisions, it sums up to the fact that matters not listed in the Exclusive Legislative List and the Concurrent List are residual matters which the States are allowed to legislate on and therefore the Federal Government is not competent to legislate on the subject matter.
Even with the constitution being crystal clear on the legislative powers of both tiers of government, It is not new that, there have been several occasions where the Federal Government has attempted to legislate on matters which ordinarily should be the responsibility of the State. See the case of Amaechi v Governor of Rivers state & Ors (2017) LPELR-43065(CA)
Evidently, the granting of gaming licenses to any operator by the National Lottery Regulation Commission is unconstitutional. This has been decided in the case of Edet v Chagoon (2008) 2 NWLR (PT. 1070) 85 at p108.
Where the court held that-
“Pools betting and Casino Gaming do not appear in either Part 1 (Exclusive Legislative List) or Part II (Concurrent Legislative List) of the second schedule to the 1999 constitution. Not being an item in the Exclusive Legislative List or in the Concurrent Legislative List and not matters incidental or supplementary to the execution of any of the powers in the Exclusive Legislative List or even the Concurrent Legislative List, pools betting and casino matters are residual matters.”
The court went further to say:
“Being residual matters, they are within the legislative competence of the House of Assembly of a State.”
In light of the foregoing, the National Lottery Regulation Commission stepped out of its powers when it granted licenses to agencies to conduct gaming activities in Lagos State. Such is unconstitutional as power does not reside with it.
The only way the Commission will be able to regulate such matters is if the constitution is amended to list the subject matter under the Exclusive Legislative List or the Concurrent Legislative List.
Nigeria is in dire need of a regulation to encompass gambling using telephone, television or any kind of electronic or technology to facilitate communication. The internet has radically changed the way pool betting is controlled.
A state granting licensed pool betting should try as much as possible to ensure licensing objectives are provided. Such legislation should try to prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder and to ensure gambling is conducted in a fair and open way and also to protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.