Nigerian Online Casinos

Gambling in Nigeria is a complex issue, and Nigerian gambling enthusiasts have to be very careful to stay on the right side of the law. The 1990 Criminal Code Act makes many types of gambling illegal in Nigeria, but games of skill such as poker, and backgammon are permitted, along with the lotteries and sports betting.

When it comes to online gambling, Nigerian citizens are operating in a bit of a ‘gray area’. Nigerian law does not address online gambling, meaning that there is nothing illegal about Nigerian citizens gambling online. Having said that, there are also no online casinos operating within Nigeria. This article will take a look at the current situation for Nigerians who wish to gamble. While changes to laws and regulations can happen, there are currently no changes to the 1990 Criminal Code Act planned or expected, so it is doubtful things will change anytime soon.

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Online Casinos in Nigeria

As already mentioned, there are currently no online casinos directly owned or operated in Nigeria. It is, however, still possible for Nigerians to access online casinos and gamble online, as long as they use online casinos operated by offshore companies.

This is how Nigerian citizens are able to gamble online, by using websites based outside of Nigeria to access online casinos and sports betting sites. This means there is a fairly wide choice of international casinos available, although not every international online casino will accept Nigerian citizens as customers. It is, however, possible to find some who are happy to accept customers from Nigeria. International online casinos are fairly safe for Nigerian gamblers. Though there are exceptions, most tend to be operated by trusted gaming companies that are licensed in their own countries, and regulated carefully, so they have to act responsibly and safely.

Online Gambling Regulation In Nigeria

There is a good reason that online gambling in Nigeria is not regulated. It is very hard for the government to police internet gambling by Nigerian citizens, so it is easy to gamble online, from the comfort of your own home. Many of the more popular offshore online casinos today are happy to accept players from Nigeria, and Nigerians will find it relatively easy to set up an account. Like any other player, Nigerian citizens will be required to verify their age before being permitted to use online casinos. This is usually a requirement of the regulation and licensing of the foreign casino, and applies worldwide.

There are a few advantages to online gambling for Nigerian citizens. Firstly, their winnings will not be taxed. Also the gambling age at online casinos is lower than within Nigeria. If Nigerian players want to gamble at one of the few, highly regulated, land-based casinos in the country, they must be at least 20 years of age, but for players wanting to gamble at most online casinos, the age requirement is only 18. Players are usually required to send or upload documentation, such as a driver’s license or passport, to verify their age and place of residence.

The Nigerian Online Gambling Market

Nigeria is often known as the ‘Giant of Africa’ due to having Africa’s biggest economy, mainly due to its main export, petroleum. However, it is also very well known for its long-time love affair with gambling. The types of gambling which are legal within the country of Nigeria are sports betting and pools, charity-based lotteries, and selected land casino games.

Nigeria’s overall gambling market was worth around US$60 million in 2018. This figure may be a lot lower than other African nations, such as South Africa, but it is still notable, especially considering that Nigeria currently only has a total of only 3 licensed and regulated land casinos in the entire country, compared to South Africa, which has 38.

Gambling Laws In Nigeria

Nigeria’s gambling laws, rules, and regulations can best be described as out-of-date, and in need of some kind of reform. For example, gambling in Nigeria still falls under the country’s Criminal Code Act of 1990, and Gaming Machines Act of 1977. It is unsurprising, given those dates, that neither of those pieces of legislation make allowances for online casino gambling, which is on the rise throughout the country as a result of new entrants into the market.

There is, however, an advantage for Nigerians who love to gamble. Due to the age of the laws currently governing gambling activities, online gambling is absent from the criminal code, meaning that it is neither endorsed or prohibited, so it is technically not illegal to gamble online. While there are no online casinos operating in Nigeria, there are also no laws to prevent Nigerians from visiting offshore-owned and operated online casinos, betting and gaming sites.

Nigeria’s Gaming Machines Act and Criminal Code Act

The Gaming Machines (Prohibition) Act 1977 makes owning and playing on gaming machines illegal in Nigeria. This covers the use of any coin or token operated gaming devices, and breaking this law can result in up to one year in prison, as well as the confiscation of the machines, and all funds generated by them.

Nigeria’s Criminal Code Act, 1990, addresses gambling in Nigeria in Chapter 22. It does not override the earlier Act, but determines that sports betting, lotteries, pools, and certain ‘skill-based’ land casino games (such as poker and blackjack) are allowed in Nigeria, while ‘non skill-based’ games are not allowed. Confusingly, video slot machines are also allowed under the act, even though many would argue they are not really ‘skill-based’ in the same way as card games such as poker.

Under the terms of the Criminal Code Act, gambling is strictly controlled, and it is illegal for anyone in Nigeria to offer the types of games prohibited by the Act, or to provide any gambling activities at an unlicensed venue. Anyone convicted of providing unlawful gaming activities can be jailed for up to two years, and can also be fined, with the possibility of a 1000 Naira fine.

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Categories of Land Gambling Allowed in Nigeria

There are three main categories of gambling allowed in Nigeria:

  • Land casinos
  • Betting and pools
  • Lotteries

Nigerian Land Casinos

Nigeria is a very large country, but it still only has three government-sanctioned, licensed and regulated land casinos, and although they are of course open to everyone, Nigeria’s land-based casinos tend to cater to foreign tourists and business travelers, far more than locals. The three land-based casinos in Nigeria are:

Games permitted at Nigerian land casinos include table games like Roulette, Blackjack and Casino Hold’em. They also allow slot machines, though these are arguably ‘games of chance’ which are supposedly prohibited by the Criminal Code Act. The three Nigerian casinos are smaller than traditional Western land casinos, and offer a more restricted range of games.

Nigerian Betting / Pools

The Criminal Code Act does allow sports betting and pools in Nigeria, with a few restrictions. Betting must be the only form of gambling available at a specified  betting venue, and all operators of betting facilities must use an approved totalizator to place bets. They must also divide winnings equally between the respective pool winners. Operators of betting venues and pools in Nigeria must also register with the government. Otherwise they may face prison terms and/or fines.

Nigerian Lotteries

A lottery in Nigeria is any game open to the public, or a sector of the public, involving the sale of tickets printed with numbers. Lotteries are random games of chance, and usually offer a cash prize, or sometimes another type of prize, usually of high value. 

Lotteries are also subject to restrictions. Lottery tickets can only be sold by the lottery operator, directly to members of the public, for charitable or fundraising purposes. It is illegal for third parties to sell lottery tickets, with a potential sentence of up to 6 months in jail and/or a 100 Naira fine. Most of the major Nigerian lotteries are licensed by the Lagos State Lotteries Board. which regulates the operators of lotteries, and other similar contests, including scratch cards.

Nigerian Land Casino Gambling Licenses

The process of applying for a Nigerian gambling license is a complicated one, with no guarantee of actually being granted one, which is why there are relatively few gambling venues, and only three land based casinos in the country.

Prospective gambling operators must first be 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). Applicants must then register for Value Added Tax (VAT), and secure a Tax Identification Number from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). All this is necessary before an application will even be considered, and with no guarantee of approval, the process will put many operators off trying.

Successful licensees, however, may operate land casinos, sports betting venues or charity-based lotteries, according to the terms of the license they are issued. Nigeria’s three casinos, all based in Lagos or Abuja, attract locals and tourists alike, and contribute to the nation’s total gaming revenues, but far more is generated via sports betting venues.

Online Casino Gambling in Nigeria

Perhaps because Nigeria has so few land casinos (and only in a couple of the large cities) online or internet casinos are very popular among Nigerians. Online casinos are not allowed to operate within Nigeria, but nothing is done to stop Nigerians signing up to online casinos outside of the country. It is common for Nigerians to register with offshore owned and run casinos which accept players from Nigeria.Some international online casino sites are not able to accept players from Nigeria, but some do, and those that do attract a large numbers of Nigerian gamblers. A few will even process deposits and withdrawals in Naira, though some will require you convert funds to local currency.

Online Betting in Nigeria

Nigeria does allow online betting sites, as opposed to casinos, as long as they are fully licensed and regulated. Consequently, the country now has a number of successful, fully-regulated, internet-based sports betting sites. For example, Merrybet, Nairabet, and Winners Golden Bet. These sites are highly popular with sports betting fans all over the country.

Nigerians can access a wide variety of betting markets, lines, and odds on both local and foreign sports. Sports that can be bet on include:

  • Soccer 
  • Basketball
  • Motorsports 
  • Cricket
  • Aussie rules football
  • Rugby union
  • Virtual football leagues
  • Virtual dog racing
  • Tennis
  • Rugby league
  • Baseball
  • Badminton
  • Table tennis
  • Futsal 

There are a few benefits in using Nigerian-owned and operated sports betting sites, as a Nigerian citizen or resident. These sites cater specifically to Nigerian gamblers and betting tastes, and can process all payments, bets and withdrawals in the local currency. 

Nigerian Mobile and Internet Infrastructures 

Looking to the future, it seems likely that gambling online will become more and more popular, in Nigeria and across the world. As in almost all other countries, Nigeria’s mobile and internet infrastructures have evolved quickly in recent years, which has provided many more Nigerians with internet access, mobile devices, and easy access to state-of-the-art online betting and gaming facilities.

It is, without doubt, time to overhaul Nigeria’s gaming laws, bringing them into the 21st century, but very little has been done so far to implement updates. In many ways this lack of law reform has probably caused, or at least supported, the growth of the country’s underground gambling market, which now generates significant revenues, particularly when it comes to sports betting.

Many gambling experts believe that mobile gambling will dominate the future gambling industry, not just in Nigeria but also in other African countries, and indeed, throughout the world. Kenya currently has more mobile gamblers than Nigeria, but Nigeria is not far behind, and it seems likely that, as smartphones and other mobile devices become increasingly popular, mobile gambling will follow suit.