By Kehinde Olaosebikan
In many countries today, lottery has become a major source of revenue. Beyond taxing, proceeds from the industry are used to improve the economies and living standards of citizens. From the United States, United Kingdom, Germany to Netherlands, lottery is utilized in financing projects that preserve, enhance and restore the state’s environment and natural resources among others.
When the first modern lottery was launched in the United States with the debut in New Hampshire in March 1964, it was received with scepticism, but with good regulations and forthright systems, lottery has continued to rise. Today, it earns huge revenue for governments of different states of America. Many Americans place high hopes in lottery for their betterment.
That lottery thrives in the United Kingdom and other countries is a result of deliberate efforts of government backed by sincere synergy of all the relevant agencies of government.
In 2005, Nigeria joined the league of lottery-supporting nations with the establishment of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC). Mandated to issue licenses and permits, set standards, guidelines, rules and promote transparency and integrity in the operations and business of lottery in Nigeria, the commission is steadily coming of age. Expectedly, the industry suffered what could be considered the teething challenges as its earnings for government hovered around N200 million and N400 million for over a decade.
But, since 2018, the fortunes of the NLRC have taken a big leap as it began generating billions of naira in revenue for the Federal Government. The commission has continued to put measures deliberately positioning lottery as a major revenue earner for Nigeria.
From the first month in office, its incumbent director-general, Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila, has left nobody in doubt on his capacity, competence and readiness to take lottery to higher levels in Nigeria. He was behind the formalisation of lottery business in Lagos, where he raised lottery earnings from point zero to over N6 billion yearly. He took off at NLRC with a transformation programme, which has become a huge success.
In recent years, NLRC has evolved as one statutory body that has successfully keyed into the presidential initiative for the economic revamp of the nation. The commission evolved a robust regulatory regime and consistently devoted carefully knitted strategies to achieve a wholesome definition of industry practices and in the process it has successfully engendered an overall sound health of the sub-sector in Nigeria.
Last July, the commission brought together all the stakeholders in the industry as it organised the first gaming conference in Nigeria, where all issues concerning the growth of the industry were discussed with a seven-point communiqué. To achieve uniformity in the trade, the stakeholders resolved that financial standard be tailored to accommodate the peculiarities of operators in the gaming industry.
Another major highlight of the conference was the issue of engendering robust legislative framework, which would accommodate the concerns of all stakeholders, and the formation of greater synergies by the NLRC and sister agency, National Lottery Trust Fund (NLTF), in the establishment of monumental projects to reflect the impact of lottery proceeds in the industry.
After the conference, a lot of improvements have been noticed in the gaming industry. It is already fostering higher stability; promoting healthy competition and instituting a regime of synergy that has made the gaming and betting sector a critical integral of the Nigerian economy as envisaged by the President.
For all intents and purposes, the choice of Gbajabiamila as the NLRC boss aptly paid credence to the narrative of a round peg in a round hole, which fits effortlessly and allows for optimal performance on the job. The helmsman has continued to exhibit both capacity and willingness to deliver and has virtually succeeded in putting in place a model that has put the industry on a smooth auto run without any serious hiccups.
His strategy borders on the creation of a management-staff interface on one hand and a commission-public interface on another hand, culminating in an expertly devotion of the mix to achieve a healthy interplay in which the commission and its stakeholders are on the same page.
He went ahead to provide strategic direction and encourage sectoral linkages that encouraged the present upsurge and vibrancy in the sector, drawing up a development projection and an appropriate trajectory that has been painstakingly pursued to the admiration of the industry players. Increasingly, the industry keeps attracting high-profile investors, employs thousands of Nigerians with some millions of other citizens relying on the industry to make ends meet.
The commission, as the DG disclosed at the conference, was working towards the installation of a central monitoring system that would enhance earnings from the gaming industry through blocking of leakages and elimination of discrepancies in the accounting processes.
Gbajabiamila told the conference that the commission “has consistently worked on the actualization of a central monitoring system platform to ensure real time monitoring and promote accountable transparency in the gaming sector.”
Another innovation is the development of a technology-driven game, Naija National Game, to be launched very soon. The game, according to Gbajabiamila, is capable of turning things around for the commission and in the lottery business generally. As the journey on the lottery business started by the American government in 1964 is today a huge success in the United States of America, it is almost certain that at the rate things are moving on steadily in the NLRC under Gbajabiamila, Nigeria would very soon start reaping bountifully from proceeds of lottery industry.
Nigeria now has an effective, proactive, forthright and performing lottery regulatory commission with the right head and leadership; getting the legal framework right and the synergies expected from sister agencies and critical stakeholders are being solidified progressively. A new dawn in the lottery industry is evidently here and the time is now for Nigerians to feel the impact of the games in more meaningful projects being executed by the NLF and remittance of higher revenues to the covers of Nigeria. It is indeed a huge revamp in the lottery world of Nigeria and a good example for other government agencies and commissions.
•Olaosebikan is a journalist and public affairs analyst