[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The gaming industry is a veritable tool for states in the country to increase their Internally-Generated Revenue if properly harnessed, Mr Olajide Boladuro, the Director-General, Oyo State Gaming Board, said in Ibadan on Monday.
Boladuro said upon this realisation, Oyo State was set to reposition the industry by addressing some challenges bedevilling it.
He listed some of the challenges to include the activities of illegal operators, the need to stop underage betting and the need to provide an enabling and friendly environment for the industry to thrive.
He also said there was the need for the Federal Government to decentralise the licencing of gaming and lottery operators so that those conducting the business in any state would pay taxes to the state.
“Even the licenced ones don’t want to be transparent. When you come with a technology, backed up by the law, to evaluate their operations they frown at the move seriously. We want to know how many people played at a gaming centre and what they paid so as to enable us to determine and charge appropriate taxes, but they do not want this as most of them are not transparent in their business operations. Illegal operators also use the media for publicity. We have reached out to the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission to compel radio and television stations to demand for the licences of operators that use their media to advertise”.
Boladuro added that the National Lottery Regulatory Commission was also creating a stumbling block for states to maximise the benefits of licencing.
“There is a case at the Supreme Court right now that has been adjourned to October 20, 2021. We are waiting for the case to be decided by the court because there are operators that are licensed in Abuja and when they come to our state to begin their operations, they rebuff our demand to be licenced claiming that the Federal Government already licenced them in Abuja. This is double jeopardy for us in the states and we are currently battling that licencing be decentralised. If any operator wants to do business in Oyo State let the operator pay licencing fees and taxes to Oyo State”.
He said also that in the U.S.A., different states owned their lottery and the central government had nothing to do with those things.
“The Governors Forum knows about this as well. They are joined in the law suit and the Attorney-General of each state is joined also. So we are hoping for a favourable outcome on October 20 2021″.
Boladuro also said Oyo State government frowned seriously at underage betting and that the board was taking steps to stop those under the age of 18 years from participating.
“I do not want to see school age children at viewing centres when foreign football games are in session as they are supposed to be in school. We are rolling out campaigns and sensitising people through various programmes that will eliminate or bring underage betting to the barest minimum”.
Boladuro equally observed that the gaming industry had provided jobs and reduced unemployment rate in the country and tasked governments to use its proceeds for the development of social infrastructure.
He noted that developed economies across the world had used proceeds of lottery and betting to fund development.
He said in Nigeria, “Lagos State is an example of a state that has put the proceeds of lottery into good use. The state used proceeds of lottery to rehabilitate the Murtala Muhammad Way during Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration. Also, Lagos State Security Trust Fund takes money from the gaming industry to fund its activities. The future is very bright for the gaming industry in Oyo State because of its peculiarities and because of the proximity of Lagos to Oyo State. A lot of operators that cannot afford the huge licencing in Lagos State tend to come to Oyo State. In Oyo state, we have created avenues where start-up operators are given incentives like tax exemptions for them to thrive”.
Boladuro added that Oyo State would be exploring opportunities in the operations of casinos and lottery to increase its revenues.
The Oyo State Gaming Board had shut six gaming centres within Ibadan last Friday for allowing underage people, especially students in school uniforms, to bet during school period.