Most forms of betting and gambling are illegal in Nigeria under Chapter 22 of the Criminal Code. The exceptions are skill based card games, backgammon, our national lottery, and our nation’s three licensed casinos. The law also leaves room for the state to run betting pools and racing totes.
Other than these exceptions gambling is illegal in Nigeria.
The penalty for players engaging in unlawful gambling is a small fine up to 40 naira, up to 3-months in prison, or both the fine plus prison sentence. There are other laws that make it illegal to own gambling devices. For example, the GAMING MACHINES (PROHIBITION) ACT makes it a crime to own a gambling machine. The sentence for violation is up to one year in prison.
The penalties for operators, owners, promoters and the banks involved in unlawful gambling are far greater. However, our police force is mostly undermanned when it comes to stopping such crimes. As a result much of the gambling industry has been pushed underground where it thrives through illegal channels.
Illegal Gambling in Nigeria
Underground casinos, football mafia bookies, unauthorized lotteries and domestically operated illegal betting sites are spread throughout Nigeria. Because the players themselves are also committing a crime, there is no player protection. If a bookie refuses to pay, a casino rigs a game, or other scams are run, the player has nowhere to turn.
As scams are common here, it is far safer to gamble with online gambling websites that are actually licensed and regulated in foreign countries. One of the best places to look is sites regulated in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the European Union where gambling is legal.
The reason this is a good idea is even Nigerians can complain via post or internet when they have a dispute with a European licensed gambling site. You can complain to their gambling commission, their sanctioned arbitrators and even their local police. As these companies are legal, the channels for player protection are many. Because the sites know this – and because most are already honest – such complaints are rare.
Also, understand our local police have no jurisdiction over these sites. While they are violating Nigerian law, this law does not apply to them as they are not located here. The police here are not too concerned with stopping gamblers from using European licensed websites.
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