In Nigeria, the sports betting industry is currently navigating a complex landscape of regulatory challenges, particularly concerning dual taxation by state and federal authorities. This ongoing issue has significantly impacted the operations of many betting companies, prompting some to cease operations while others await a resolution.

During a detailed interview with GAMING WEEK, Maha Otu, the Director of BetWinner Nigeria, discussed the intricacies of managing a gaming company amidst these jurisdictional conflicts. Otu emphasized the critical need for a unified approach to taxation to provide stability and predictability for gaming operators.

“One of our primary lobbying efforts is to encourage federal and state governments to establish consistent taxation processes for gaming companies. This would provide much-needed clarity and stability for operators, enabling us to plan and operate more effectively,” Otu explained.

She also shared the difficulties BetWinner faced regarding licensing, a reflection of the broader regulatory challenges in the industry.

“It’s a very sensitive topic, and it’s a battle we keep going back and forth with. We (BetWinner) had initial issues: they said that if we have the federal licence, since we are operating online, we don’t need it (state licence), but Lagos State insisted that we needed it since our office is in Lagos. And because we’re very compliant and we didn’t want any issues, we got the Lagos State licence, and we have the Oyo State licence as well.”

Otu highlighted the long-standing nature of this struggle and the direct impact on their operations.

“It’s a battle that’s been on for years now, and we hope it ends soon because we are on the receiving end of it,” and she added, “at the end of the day, we just try our best to ensure that we still are able to survive through that because we can’t put our business on hold until there are any verdicts.”

In her advocacy efforts, Otu also focuses on enhancing safeguards against underage gambling, emphasizing the importance of protecting vulnerable populations from the risks associated with gambling.

“So, we just have to try and ensure that we survive through it.”

Furthermore, Otu discusses the broader implications of regulatory preferences, particularly the federal government’s favoritism towards foreign operators. She contends that such policies may yield immediate fiscal benefits through licensing fees but overlook the long-term economic and social benefits that nurturing local companies would bring.

“I feel like the federal government should be more concerned about that. Because issuing out licences to foreign operators… I think they are just seeing the ‘now’ of the whole situation because those people will pay for licences and all of that, just the money that comes in at the time. But the long-term goal wouldn’t be beneficial to Nigeria, especially. If BetWinner didn’t come into operation in Nigeria, I wouldn’t be sitting down here,” Otu stated.

She further noted the disadvantages of external operators who lack the local market understanding that domestic companies bring.

“It doesn’t give that room and opportunity for Nigerians to get jobs, local content promotion, and for those companies over there, they wouldn’t be able to finetune their products to suit the market here because they are not here, and they can’t fully understand the market like people who are actually in the industry on the ground.”

“So, I hope the federal government rethinks it because it would not be beneficial to us and to them as well in the long run,” she added.

Otu’s efforts exemplify the ongoing push for regulatory reforms that better align with the industry’s needs and the broader Nigerian economy. Her leadership is vital in moving towards more responsible and sustainable gaming practices prioritizing long-term growth over short-term gains.

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