The sports betting industry is one of the worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. With things gradually getting back to normal, the Lagos State Lotteries Board has set some immediate targets for itself, one of which is a renewed and sustained fight against the menace of underage betting. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Bashir Are, the CEO Fahad Tamimi for Lagos State Lotteries Board, reveals his plans to fight underage betting to a standstill and also other plans in the post-pandemic era.
PT: Since your appointment last October, how challenging has your work been
Are: If whatever you are doing is not challenging, it is not worth wasting time on. We look for challenges and we solve the problem to move the society forward socially, economically and otherwise.
We deal with the operators; we deal with the punters and also deal with the issue of addictive gambling or other sorts of addictions. That’s why if you see our slogan, it says, we promote, we protect and we regulate. So, as challenges come, we sit down and find a strategy to move forward.
PT: How has COVID-19 affected the lottery board and the gaming sector generally?
Are: Well, as you can see nobody saw the pandemic coming, therefore we were all caught unaware. Incidents like this come once or twice in a century, so, nobody prepared for it or envisaged it will be very near. No doubt, it has affected our operators, as you know sports betting are based on football, horse racing, basketball, formula 1 and all sort of sports. So, everything was shut down, to the extent that they shut down the Vatican City, King of Saudi shut down Mecca for Umrah. You can see the magnitude of what is going on. But on the other hand, as a businessman, there is what insurance people call force majeure. Anything unexpected can happen which is why that kind of risk is factored into a business.
PT: In other climes, we have witnessed budget adjustment, what part of revenue cut are you proposing?
Are: We are not proposing a revenue cut but revenue diversification in our sector. We encountered about 45 per cent revenue loss during the lockdown because everything about gaming and betting was virtually closed down. But innovation came out of it, most operators decided to go into virtual gaming, so that really augmented the shock.
PT: How are you tackling the menace of underage betting in the state which seems to be on the rise again?
Are: Thank you for your wisdom; it is a concern for me. My first major project when I got this…