Marketing Communications in Sport Betting targeted at Children and Young Persons: The Regulators Role in Nigeria

 

According to Alexa, an Amazon company (https://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/NG) BET9JA’s website is the 2nd most visited site in Nigeria next to Google. Its visitors spend about 12 minutes 4 seconds each which is higher than Google’s 9 minutes 19 seconds daily time on site. - Betting companies generously attract visitors online and, these visitors may include Children and young persons (Minors).

The sports betting industry is potentially a multimillion dollar industry in Nigeria - and Government is poised to draw maximum revenues from it. According to PWC reports, the gambling industries in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa were estimated at $37 billion as of 2018. Dr. Uchenna Uzo of the Lagos Business School asserts that in Nigeria, “60 million residents in the age group of 18-40 are active sports bettors. - Who spend about $5 million on sports bets daily. The implication is that sports bettors stake approximately $182.1 billion annually in Nigeria. Statistically, the industry grows annually at about the rate of 7.7 percent”.

“Lotteries’ - an enviable international trade - include ‘any game, scheme, arrangement, promotional competition or device for the distribution of prizes by lot or chance, or as a result of the exercise of skill and chance or based on the outcome of sporting events or any other device which the President may by notice in the gazette declare to be lottery and which shall be operated according to a licence” (Section 57 of the National Lotteries Act (the “Lotteries Act”) 2005) issued by the President - Lagos State Lotteries (Amendment) Law 2008 (the “Lagos Lotteries Law”) which has similar provision allows the Commissioner to declare what may constitute lotteries within its State.

Governments through the Lotteries Commissions has the duty to balance public interest and social responsibilities against the need to scoop revenues from the Lotteries industry. Given the prominence of sport betting in Nigeria, we will use Sports betting interchangeably with Lotteries.

The Lotteries Act prohibits Children and persons under the age of 18 from participating in Sports betting and, Licensees (“Betting companies”) cannot pay any winnings to persons under the age of 18. While the Lagos Lotteries Law allows the Commissioner to make regulations specifying the age limit of Bettors, no regulations appear to have been issued to exclude any age bracket from Sports betting. This implies that children can lawfully bet within the State.

Gambling is recognized as addictive in the UK and, this accords with our common experience. The Lotteries Board together with the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) should formulate clearer policies aimed at protecting children from direct or indirect marketing communications and promotional sales by Betting companies in Nigeria. The Lotteries Act and Lagos Lotteries Law require Betting companies to operate on social responsibility principles without clarifying its meaning in view of its mainstream notion as infrastructural interventions by companies in their business environment.

Lottery Boards should pronounce more audibly on the meaning of social responsibility principles which should require Betting companies to embed ethics into their operations and management including marketing and sales. Ethical sales and marketing communications forbid targeting - objectifying - Children as consumers because they are generally capricious and legally incapable of making sound judgments.

The existing Regulations ought to be amended to require clearer reporting and compliance obligations from Betting companies on their marketing programmes aimed at protecting Children in Nigeria - this should form part of license application and renewal procedures - which is not the case presently.

A combined reading of the Lottery Act, National Lottery (Amendment) Regulations 2007 and, National Lottery Regulatory Commission Governing Board Regulations 2007 show that Sports betting is a lawful trade in Nigeria and the Lagos Lotteries Law allows it as well. Presently, a betting company, BET NAIJA, is the official sponsor of Big Brother Africa, a TV show which its audience is a mix of Adults and young persons - Lotteries Board and APCON should formulate policies aimed at ensuring that Sports betting marketing and sales should take all ethical steps to protect children and Minors from being exposed to and harmed by advertisements that feature or promote Sports betting or Gambling.

Given that about 60 million residents in Nigeria, within the age group of 18-40 are active Bettors or Gamblers and, Children and young persons are not sufficiently protected by existing Legislations and Regulations, we urge the Lotteries Board to promptly require Betting companies to boldly flag on their website and marketing materials (offline and or online) that Persons under 18 years are prohibited from any betting activities and winnings cannot be paid to them.

Regulations 3 of the 2007 Amendment requires Betting companies to install terminals or devices that will allow the Lotteries Board or its Trust Fund Board to monitor its operations with a view to determining its statutory contribution to the Fund - emphatically, the same terminals or software should be used to determine each Sports betting companies’ compliance to Minors’ participations in its business with clearer sanctions.

The Lagos Lotteries Law prohibits betting on the Street except for society and private lotteries. The Lagos Lotteries Board should ensure that Gambling marketing and sales are not carried on within a reasonable distance from private and public schools including places where Children and Minors congregate - the National Lotteries Board could achieve this by means of a Regulation with clearer requirements on compliance and returns to the Lotteries Board. APCON should as well promptly include this in its sports marketing policies or rules.

Given that Children and young persons are more susceptible to addictive practices such as betting, the Lotteries Board and APCON should proscribe any marketing communications that has the tendency to exploit their credulity, aspirations, goals, inexperience or lack of knowledge. Socially responsible advertising should not show, condone or encourage gambling activities aimed at Children and young persons which harm their social, emotional and psychological development.

Sports betting companies should be required to ensure that Game tiles on its websites are not such that will appeal to Children - the Lotteries Board may require Betting companies to employ suitable cookies to identify when Children visit sport betting sites, and to deny access to them.

Also, card payment should be required for online betting or gambling with clear compliance requirements aimed at protecting Children and Minors.

Above all, reducing sports betting-related harm to children and young people require more than regulatory frameworks, therefore, Parents, Guardians, Families, corporate or cultural and or religious entities must act, - in line with our cultural values - if Lotteries Board are to achieve lasting results. Nigerian marketing and sales Researchers, Psychiatrists and, Psychologists should as well emphasize the dangers of direct or indirect sports marketing communications and sales to a Child’s development - our hope is that this will help provoke in all Stakeholders a deeper concern for public debates and discourses on this subject.

WRITTEN BY Osita Enwe

Corporate Commercial Counsel

SRJ Legal Practitioners

Osita has been called to the Nigerian Bar with a widening experience in corporate/commercial and transactional practice that include handling transactions for Individual and Institutional Clients as well as Foreign Investors in Institutional investment, acquisitions and, establishment of Nigerian companies; continual interface with Federal and State Government Agencies and MDGs, among others.

Contact him : [email protected]

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