Regulating the gambling sector

THE National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in a recent report, stated that an average of N1.8 billion is being staked daily on lotteries and pools in the country, ironically in an economy that is in obvious recession, dogged by both inactivity in the real sector and spiralling inflation. This should not come as a surprise since it is in sync with the trends in human behaviour. The slur in the productive sector of the economy can only spur the spirit of adventure in its presumed victims.

The firms in the pool betting and lottery industry are recording a boom. They are obviously not affected by the mundane ethos of production while peddling hope and optimism. The realities of unemployment, the get-rich-quick syndrome and the minimal risks for an expected bounty have combined together to spur the fans of lotteries and pools betting on, causing them to make higher stakes. Of course, moralists and puritans may snigger at the burgeoning business. But then, for as long as it is legitimate, morals, religious persuasions and proclivities can hardly be reckoned with in this case, especially when there are whole states and countries which are financed and run from revenues derived from such sources as gambling, pool betting and lotteries.

Besides, gambling, pool betting and lotteries are avenues for the redistribution of wealth, even if temporarily, among the people. The few winners get to feel what it is like to be wealthy for a brief period in their often miserable lives, and keeping their newfound wealth requires a different set of skills altogether, of which they may be bereft. However, the Nigerian state should be concerned with how to derive maximum advantages from the gambling sector. Apart from merely taxing the active sector of the economy, the derived revenue from the sector ought to be creatively expended by being invested on developmental activities. This can be achieved if the nation’s policymakers set goals for the revenues derived from the sector.

With fiscal discipline, the revenues can be made to yield dividends in terms of visible infrastructure. They can also be made to stimulate activities in the dormant sectors of the economy and gear them up for creative harnessing by the government. The government will of course also need to establish a proper monitoring mechanism and create an enabling environment for this active sector to be able to harness the immense potentials through appropriate tax policy to generate revenue for other developmental projects and recycle wealth. In the process of deriving maximum advantages from the sector, attention must be paid to other sectors of the economy that may inadvertently suffer from this development.

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) may be required to handle this aspect of the dynamics through its various public enlightenment and education programmes. It should encourage the players of pools and lotteries to spare a thought for their families and domestic responsibilities while they are at the sweepstakes, and to remember to share the booty fairly if they win. Lotteries, pools and betting are legitimate human activities and part of the society. The agovernment must derive as much as possible from them through legislation, regulation and control.

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