Q&A with Lanre Gbajabiamila, Director General at Nigerian National Lottery Commission

Africa, Nigeria especially, is one of the fastest growing iGaming markets in the world.

Before the pandemic hit, Nigeria’s GGR was expected to grow by 16% over the next 5 years (PwC).

Despite impressive growth rates, regulation is still a major factor in its limitations. The market is still heavily reliant on retail outlets, and with live sports betting being the main revenue driver, the last 3 months have been an extremely testing time for this region.

However, there could be a silver lining at this time of loss, as it may give government the motivation needed to push through new online regulations that would allow the industry to flourish just as well as some of its’ western counterparts.

We caught up with Lanre Gbajabiamila, Director General of the Nigerian National Lottery Commission to hear his thoughts on lessons learned over the last few months and what this could possibly mean for the future.

How has the lack of live sports impacted operators? What effect has it had on your other products since then?

“Tremendously. Sport is about live activities and events. Obviously, most of the events betted on are Live, and that is what brings about the enthusiasm in the people participating in it. Lack of live sports definitely will create negative impacts on gaming businesses as well as the industry in general.”

Has being at home more often made players more vulnerable? What can we do to better protect them as an industry going forward?

“The effect of the pandemic is global, and it requires absolute compliance to the guidelines issued by authorities. As a regulator, we also have to further develop operational measures, taking into consideration the effects of the pandemic on both the players and the operators.”

What has been the most unexpected effect of the pandemic that you’ve noticed?

“Gross revenue loss. Obviously, one expects that there is going to be loss of revenue in the industry but not to the extent that the statistics is presently showing. Also worthy of notice is the unexpected rate of job loss in the industry.”

Will gaming ever go back to how it was before the outbreak? Do you foresee any long lasting changes as a direct result of the lockdown?

“There is going to be a paradigm shift from how the gaming industry was before lockdown and what it is going to be after the pandemic in terms of technology implementations. More players will migrate to web space from the retail space and thus providing avenue for more statistical data for further analysis.”

Do you think African countries will see online gaming as more of a priority now? Do you think we’ll see a rise in online betting regulation or any other regulatory changes?

“Definitely, yes.  As we said earlier, the pandemic will bring a change in how things were done before. New regulatory guidelines will emerge which will affect operations and player behavior, which when adequately adhered to, will enable the operator to recoup their losses.”

From speaking with Mr Gbajabiamila it’s clear that African countries like Nigeria have taken a real hit just like the rest of the world. It’s reliance on retail and live sports has made it especially difficult to survive.

But now that the industry’s weak spots have been highlighted in the extreme, it gives the key stakeholders an opportunity to identify critical areas to improve and ensure the sustained growth of this market.

We can expect to see a much stronger focus on online products throughout the Continent, and more stringent frameworks put in place to protect customers. Increased online activity allows for better analysis of player behaviour, pathing the way for a more customer-centric strategies. The future looks bright.

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