The majority of international casino tourists will only think of Africa in terms of South Africa and, specifically, Sun City. There are some amazing locations throughout the continent, but when it comes to casino resorts, the Sun City offering has long sat alongside Las Vegas and Macau. But if we cast our net wider, and think in terms of potential future developments, it is difficult to ignore the country with the largest economy in Africa and the most incredible tourist potential.
A nation blessed with beauty and potential
Nigeria is a nation blessed with beautiful landscape, dense rainforests, grassy plains and hundreds of miles of white sand beaches. Lagos is a cosmopolitan coastal city of over 20 million, with a mix of local and international hotels. English is spoken widely, and there are numerous leisure activities to enjoy. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Nigeria was on the way to becoming a major African tourist destination, with international visitor numbers exceeding six million per year. As the country rebuilds this previously strong position, the current trend for premium quality integrated resort developments may well fit the bill.
Major global brands have toes in the water
In terms of Nigeria’s current casino industry, gambling is popular but operated both legally and illegally across the country. Although there are 36 states, the country currently only has 10 licensed land-based casinos, and all of these are either in Lagos or the capital, Abuja. Major international brands such as Hilton, Sun International, Le Meridien and Sheraton all have casino interests in Nigeria, with the country’s largest casino being the five-star Federal Palace at Sun International in Victoria Island, Lagos.
Legislative refinements may be required
Other African nations such as South Africa, Morocco and Tanzania, have proven adept at attracting tourists to their casino resort developments. Favourable legislative changes have assisted this progress, and in order to attract the levels of investment required to effectively compete at the higher end of the market, Nigeria will need to follow suit. At present, things seem fairly casual, with certain games not technically permitted and yet tolerated within the licensed casinos. Such aspects of legislation will need tightening up.
Amongst locals, as in most of Africa, the most popular form of gambling today is online sports betting, primarily football and pools-type promotions. The lottery and slot machines are also popular, with many Nigerians viewing gambling as a harmless leisure pursuit. But even this form of gambling is too loosely regulated – it is illegal to host an online casino within Nigeria and yet it is legal to play and bet in an offshore online casino. Such a naïve lack of structured legislation not only invites dubious operators into the market, but it also deprives the nation itself of valuable taxation revenues.
The raw materials are ready and waiting
Returning to dry land, it is fair to say that the best amongst Nigeria’s 10 licensed casinos provide an indication of what is possible. These resort hotels are family-friendly and offer all the amenities required for a fantastic holiday or visit. And as a nation to visit, Nigeria has a whole host of features that recommend it, from stunning natural coastlines, incredible national parks such as Gashaka-Gumti and cosmopolitan entertainment and nightlife in the major cities of Abuja and Lagos. The question is, as premium-rate tourism begins to return to these amazing locations, will any bold investor-developer step forward and attempt to take the home of the ‘Super Eagles’ to soaring new heights…?