Nigerian Gambling Regulation and Legislation
The laws and regulations governing gambling in Nigeria can be a little confusing because there is no cut and dried law or legislation that solely addresses gambling in the West African Nation. Instead, there are two federal Acts that make reference to gambling in terms of what is illegal or not allowed, and what is legal and allowed. Here is a brief explanation of each:
The Gaming Machines (Prohibition) Act of 1977
The first is The Gaming Machines (Prohibition) Act of 1977, which specifies that the ownership and use of gaming machines in Nigeria is illegal, and that the penalty if caught and convicted of owning and using gaming machines, is a year in prison without the option of a fine.
In addition, all proceeds derived from said machines as well as the machines themselves are liable to be confiscated by the Nigerian Government. According to the Act, a gaming machine is considered to be any mechanical coin or token operated gambling or gaming device that is used for the sole purpose of enticing people to gamble in the hope they win monetary rewards.
The Nigerian Criminal Code Act
The second Act in Nigeria that pertains to what constitutes legal and illegal gambling practices is the Nigerian Criminal Code, specifically Subsection 1 of Section 236 in Chapter 22. In this Act, an illegal gaming house is defined as any property or venue where unlawful gaming is offering or undertaken.
If caught, the owner, operator, manager or occupier of an illegal gaming house can face a fine of 1000 Naira and/or two years in prison. The Act goes on to specify which types of gambling are permitted and which are not. In other words, which games are unlawful (see the list below). This, of course, begs the question of what constitutes legal or lawful gambling in Nigeria.
What is Lawful Gaming in Nigeria?
There are really only three lawful types of gambling in Nigeria – betting / pools, lotteries and a handful of land casinos. Here is a brief description and explanation of each:
Betting and Pools
According to Subsection 3 of Section 239 in Chapter 22 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, “any house, room or place which is used for the purposes of a licensed pool betting business shall not be deemed to be a common betting house by reason only that it is so used.”
This clause allows the operation and use of betting and pool houses in Nigeria provided they are the only types of gambling on offer. Further, under the laws of Nigeria, betting and pool operators must use a totalisator (a.k.a. a pari-mutuel machine) to register bets and equally divide the total amount bet amongst the winners.
In addition, operators are required to register their pools and/or betting houses with the government in order to gain a legal status. Failing to do so would mean that they are operated illegally and open them up to prosecution, fines and/or time in prison.
According to Section 240 in Chapter 22 of the Nigerian Criminal Code Act, “lottery” includes any game, method or device whereby money or money's worth is distributed or allotted in any manner based on or to be determined by chance or lot.
A lottery ticket includes any ticket, paper or other printed article that entitles the holder who has the winning numbers to collect its corresponding cash prize or equivalent.
A "public lottery" means a lottery to which the public or any class of the public has, or may have, access, and every lottery shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to be a public lottery.
According to Section 240, anyone caught acting like a ‘middle-man’ between a public lottery and buyers of lottery tickets players is liable for a 100 Naira fine or six months in prison.
Despite the vastness of Nigeria, to date the country has only three licensed land casinos – two in Lagos and one in the nation’s capital, Abuja.
They are Le Meridien Eko Hotel & Casino and the Federal Palace Hotel and Casino in Lagos, and the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja.
Although equipped with a smaller selection of games than you’d find in most western land casinos, each has enough to keep local and visiting gambling fans entertained.
Most have a small selection of table games (such as Blackjack, Casino Hold’em and American Roulette) accompanied by a bank of slot machines, which can be coinless.
Even though Nigeria’s various Acts expressly prohibit the import and use of certain casino games – such as slot machines, for instance – the nation’s three licensed land casinos seem to be permitted to offer them.
It’s unknown why licenses have only been granted to just three casinos to date, but it may have something to do with the fact that pools / betting and lotteries are the preferred forms of gaming in most parts of this large African nation.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Nigeria?
No, online gambling is not legal in Nigeria, and anyone or organisation caught hosting and/or operating an internet-based gambling site within Nigerian borders may be liable for prosecution and thus fines and/or a prison sentence.
That said, it’s extremely hard if not impossible for the Nigerian government to prevent its citizens from accessing and signing up with Nigerian-friendly online casinos and any other off-shore owned and run internet gaming sites that welcome players from Nigeria.
While it’s true that relatively few online casinos allow players from Nigeria to sign up, deposit and play, there are a few that do, the best of which you’ll find reviewed and featured here on this site. Some casinos even allow players from Nigeria to deposit, play and cash-out in Naira.
To play online, all you need is a fast and secure internet connection, a late model computer or smart mobile phone or device, the means to fund your rea money online casino account, and a trustworthy, safe and reputable online casino to sign up with.