Nigeria’s tax structure remains biggest obstacle to gaming growth – Seun Anibaba

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What are federal and state agencies doing cooperatively to streamline investment in gaming?

ANIBABA: At the sub-national level, most states do not have an independent gaming board; instead, regulation falls under the mandate of each respective state’s internal revenue service. A trend we are noticing is that more states are creating separate agencies with the specialised skills to handle the gaming sector. From a federal perspective, we recognise the role that the government plays as a regulator and policymaker for responsible gaming. A key issue that state and federal agencies have to cooperate on is the harmonisation of fees and taxes, to ensure that investors and international companies are not subject to double taxation. We are designing a framework that minimises any overly restrictive regulation. At the end of the day, both sides recognise the importance of creating an environment that enables the sector’s further development.

What factors are driving growth in the sector?

ANIBABA: Mobile penetration, easy access to gaming platforms, and transparency of gaming and operational activities are major growth drivers. As the number of payment solutions increases, the ease of transferring funds is improving drastically, which improves user experience. Another key factor is employment generation; investors who set up gaming companies bring an entire value chain involving technical providers, agents and local jobs. The tax structure remains the biggest obstacle to growth, and we urgently need to create a fair and transparent playing field. In Lagos State, ministries and agencies are working towards one common vision, with special emphasis on security, infrastructure and power. Gaming industry development has been integrated into the tourism master plan for Lagos, as gaming is an important form of entertainment. Finally, effective regulation and partnerships with international technical partnerships such as Gaming Laboratories International are helping drive growth in the sector.

How can Lagos become a gaming hub in Africa?

ANIBABA: Lagos is the country’s largest gaming state. The vision of the Lagos state administration is to make it West Africa’s premier gaming destination. We are working with stakeholders to review technical standards and equipment, as well as our application, review and licensing processes to adhere to global best practices. Another development is the long overdue creation of an integrated resort casino in Lagos, which would bring in a lot of international tourism. We expect growth in luxury and sports gaming and pool betting, which will create state revenue to finance initiatives and projects.

How is innovative financial technology affecting sports betting and other gaming activities?

ANIBABA: Payment processors, software developers and game providers are all boosting gaming activity. Local and international software companies are increasingly coming up with products that are more relevant to the market, as they begin to look at games that tie into our culture and interests. There is an increasing awareness of these opportunities. Technology is also aiding regulators and investors by making the verification processes for operating licences more efficient.

In what sense might the roles of international investors and other sector-pertinent actors evolve?

ANIBABA: The gaming market is mostly made up of global players, but there are efforts under way to get local firms more involved, even if it is initially in partnership with foreign players. With the increased focus on responsible gaming, more international stakeholders will join the gaming ecosystem, and there will be an increase in corporate social responsibility which will diffuse the perception of gaming as a ‘taboo’. Going forward, we expect that investors will continue to be drawn to Nigeria’s emerging potential, given its population, love of sports and development of technological space, which will bring more funds into the economy.

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