Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The Oyo State Government has warned betting shops that heavy sanctions that may include withdrawal of operating license are awaiting any of them that continue to allow underage gaming in their business premises.
The Director-General, Oyo State Gaming Board, Olajide Boladuro, gave the warning on Wednesday in Ibadan during an interactive forum with stakeholders in the gaming industry held in Ibadan, the state capital.
According to him, “My major priority as the Director-General is to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, hence attracting more local and foreign direct investment, curbing the menace of underage and irresponsible gambling and drive reforms that will cater for the interest of the state government, operators and other stakeholders in Oyo State.
“Underage gaming is a kind of menace all over the world. Everybody knows the +18 sign. Gambling is legal. The Federal Government of Nigeria and also the state government have allowed people to do their own things as far as betting on sports and doing lotto are concerned.
But the things that are paramount to my own appointment by Governor Seyi Makinde, is underage gaming. It is something we are not paying close attention to. I remembered when I was just appointed a few months ago, I drove around Molete and Oke-Ado areas of Ibadan. I went into some betting shops, and I could see 13 and 14 years old, betting. I was not pleased with the scene I saw. So, we are taking that very seriously.
“We’ll impose a lot of sanctions and details of that will be coming in the near future. The penalty for us finding underage children that are supposed to be in school and be focusing on their education, in betting shops or betting houses is being taken seriously. It is a big concern to me.
We are working very closely with security agencies and the operators themselves, to make sure that underage gaming in Oyo State become a thing of the past.
“Since I have been on board, there is no operator that has been sanctioned. But we have been giving warnings. Once we put in some regulations that were not properly in place, and those regulations are clear, we will have a clear path to the kind of sanction and the penalty that should be melted out to people that engage in such activities.”
Boladuro stated further that the regulation and taxation of the gaming industry is an evolving endeavour that has remained largely untapped in Nigeria, saying: “Its importance cannot, however, be over-emphasised. The gaming and lottery industry is gaining traction and from a recent survey from KPMG, it is considered a multi-billion-dollar industry.”