Lottery is considered as a voluntary tax proceeds from various chance-based entertainment activities and has been globally recognized as an important revenue source to governments.
It has funded national defense budgets, infrastructure, and public welfare programs.
In Nigeria, harnessing lottery potentials for Nigerians is the core mandate of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC).
Established by the National Lottery Act 2005, the Commission is responsible for regulating the business and operations of lottery in Nigeria to ensure transparency in the industry and maximize statutory remittances for good causes.
One of the cardinal responsibilities of the Commission is to ensure accountable collection of statutory remittances intended to fund good causes, especially public welfare projects intended to uplift the socio-economic conditions of citizens.
Such programmes whose funding is enabled by the commission result in stimulation of economic activity while promote national development.
However, over the years, misconceptions abound as to the mandate of the commission and the disparity between lottery and consumer sales promotions.
Such misconceptions have marred the effectiveness of the Commission in this area.
Opponents argue that consumer sales promotions are not lottery. They claim that consumer sales promotions are essential marketing tools used to promote goods and services as well as reward customer loyalty.
But these opponents fail to play up the fact that these consumer promotions are basically ‘contests among consumers to win prizes or other valued-benefits’.
These arguments and misconceptions have giving rise to revenue leakages resulting from the non-collection of statutory remittances of lottery revenue generated by lottery-based consumer promotions.
This also highlights the challenge of effective sensitization which the commission must strive to surmount
Unarguably, businesses always push to increase sales through promotions while consumers are attracted to free goods and services. However, the greater societal interest as embodied in the National Lottery Act must prevail and be protected.
In a symposium titled ‘Raising Standards’ organised by Commission and moderated by Barr. OJ Odunna, the Deputy-Director (Legal), the issue of revenue leakages dominated the front burner.
Odunna held that the massive revenue leakages accessioned by resistance by operators of lottery-based consumer sales promotions to the collection of statutory remittances due to government from their operations.
“People may not be aware that lottery includes consumer sales promotions where these promos use chance or other devices, such as lucky dip to randomly select winners of promoted prizes or services.
“This is lottery as far as the National Lottery Regulatory Commission is concerned.”
“We are responsible for ensuring compliance with the national lottery Act 2005 and the regulations made therein.
“Our job is to ensure that the lottery industry is secure and free from illegal or fraudulent lottery activities,” he said.
To ensure compliance, the commissions has shut down a number of operators, including those who operated in defiance of the Federal law, hiding under the cloak of state laws.
With the new trend of sports betting that has gained a lot of popularity, the Commission also takes its responsibility further to ensure that underage children do not participate.
Though a major revenue source for the commission, the importance of regulation must not be neglected, Odunna held.
“Sports betting is attractive it is a booming business in the country because of our passion for sports. However, the activity needs to be regulated.
“Underage betting should be strictly prohibited and any operator engaged in such activity need to be sanctioned. We don’t encourage underage persons to engage in any lottery activity.
“Proceeds from lottery go back to the society to fund sports equipment, hospital equipment and other social causes,”.
He maintained that lottery in any party of the world is used to fund good causes, adding that lottery in itself is a good thing.
He noted however that when abused or when participants are taken advantage of, then lottery becomes bad.
“We are pushing forward new policies to hold operators accountable, help the public understand who we are and what we do, cover the fields to the extent that we reach all those in our industry.