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Exclusive: Safeguarding Futures: Promoting Responsible Gambling in Africa

In a continent where gaming is flourishing, Oyindamola Michaels, the Country Manager at Betano (Kaizen Gaming) and the former Head of Operations at Gamble Alert, stands as a beacon for responsible gambling in Africa.

Advocating tirelessly against irresponsible gambling practices, he’s spearheaded initiatives, sensitizing underage students across Nigeria about the perils of reckless betting.

With collaborations between the Association of Nigerian Bookmarkers (ANB) and Gamble Alert, this ongoing campaign aims to save lives and promote a safer gambling culture. But why is responsible gambling such a critical issue? In this discourse, Oyindamola sheds light on the imperative need to prioritize player welfare in the gaming industry, drawing lessons from Europe and suggesting pivotal measures to protect players, particularly minors, while fostering a supportive gaming environment.

iGaming AFRIKA: Kindly introduce yourself?

Oyindamola: I am Oyindamola Michaels. I am the Country Manager at Betano(Kaizen Gaming) and the current Head of Operations at Gamble Alert which advocates for responsible gambling in Africa. I have pushed it in most parts of  Nigeria by sensitizing underage students about the harm of irresponsible gambling. It is an ongoing campaign where we want to ensure that people’s lives are saved. 

iGaming AFRIKA: The Association of Nigerian Bookmarkers(ANB) and Gamble Alert are doing a lot particularly in working together to make this awareness against irresponsible gambling campaign work. Why is it crucial  to take responsible gambling matter seriously?

Oyindamola: The operators here in Africa are mostly there to make money but at the same time , they need to protect the players if they want their business to continue thriving . They should show them that they care about their well-being. For instance, in Europe they stopped debit cards from being used on gambling platforms just to protect players against irresponsible gambling. We need to invite both punters  and operators to seminars to educate them on matters of responsible betting.

iGaming AFRIKA: In Europe the gaming industry is very developed on punters protection against illicit gambling. Can you paint us a picture on the differences in laws in Europe and Africa and what lessons do you think we can learn from European countries?

Oyindamola: There are a lot of differences between the two continents. When you go to the gaming sites of the developed European countries, at the foot of the site, you will find a statement that advices players about responsible gambling. There are also some phone numbers they can reach out to when they want psychological or emotional help. Punters can book with the doctors or psychologists. We need to adopt this in Nigeria and other African countries. Putting this information in the gaming websites will be of great help as it will amplify more this campaign on responsible gambling. 

iGaming AFRIKA: As it might not be enough to promote responsible betting through these gaming sites, what other avenues are available to pass across this message?

Oyindamola: Someone who is suffering from gambling addiction will rarely call the customer service personnel of the operator to tell them what problem they are going through or to help them close their gambling accounts. Customer care personnel also are not trained on how to handle such cases. We need to educate them on how they need to approach such cases whenever a client calls for help. This should be the first step. 

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iGaming AFRIKA: November being a responsible gambling month, there was a responsible gambling summit held in Cape Town South Africa in that same month and this was one of the very few gambling summits held in Africa. Do you think this was the right way to go?

Oyindamola: We need more of these summits but we not only need punters to participate in them but also the operators to take part so that they can be part of the ambassadors of responsible gambling to their clients .

iGaming AFRIKA: There was a study done in October by the Nigerian Chinyere Mariam Agbocha and her team. The study was about students of Imo State where 507 of them were examined on the matters of prevalence and determinants in gambling.  The study found out that 77 per cent of the students had gambled in the last 12 months. So this showed how minors are highly involved in betting which is a scary matter. As per your personal view, what are the measures that need to be put in place to reduce underage gambling?

Oyindamola: One thing that has proven to be very difficult for operators to control is the age of the punters while they are gambling online. An underage person might be using their parents or older siblings credentials to register on betting sites. So in Nigeria, the only way to help counter this has been at that time of withdrawing the money when they are asked about the Know Your Customer(KYC) which is a process in Nigeria that all businesses are required to carry out to be able to identify the customers they are doing business with. We have been touring schools in Nigeria to sensitize learners on dangers of underage betting. Basically, education on vices of underage betting needs to be addressed. 

iGaming AFRIKA: Can you highlight on how we can use technology to identify issues of underage gambling and irresponsible gambling?

Oyindamola: The use of KYC has been of great help. Further, there are a lot of  advances such as self-exclusion and the likes. Also, operators need to block them once they realize that they are minors and get excluded from other betting platforms too. This will only work when operators liaise with telcos so that once someone gets blocked by one operator, they cannot open accounts by the other operators. 

iGaming AFRIKA: Do you think that the regulators across various gaming countries are adequately supported in their mission to aid individuals who are in distress of their gambling partners?

Oyindamola: I don’t know about the regulator but the gaming brands support some of these organizations through corporate social responsibility (CSR) or giving them equipment or funding them to facilitate their projects. However, they need support from everyone including the governments, not only monetary support. 

iGaming AFRIKA: How can we help individuals overcome difficult economic times while at the same time address their gambling habits?

The financial challenge in Africa has always been constant. You can only help them by giving them a platform to reach out to. 

iGaming AFRIKA: Lastly, what is your advice to the African regulators and operators to help promote responsible gambling practices and create a safer gambling environment?

Oyindamola: Regulators should partner with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to help them echo the sensitization on responsible betting. 

Key highlights

  • Oyindamola Michaels spearheads campaigns to educate underage students in Nigeria about the dangers of irresponsible gambling, emphasizing the need for responsible betting practices.
  • Collaborations between organizations like the Association of Nigerian Bookmarkers (ANB) and Gamble Alert highlight the collective effort in promoting responsible gambling practices.
  • Emphasizing the importance of player welfare, Oyindamola underscores the necessity for gaming operators to prioritize the well-being of their customers alongside their business goals.
  • Lessons from Europe’s advanced gaming industry practices, including responsible gambling advisories on websites and support services for psychological and emotional assistance, serve as a model for Africa’s gaming industry.
  • Beyond website advisories, efforts to educate customer care personnel and sensitize clients play a crucial role in fostering responsible gambling.
  • The prevalence of underage gambling in studies conducted in Nigeria raises concerns, necessitating measures like robust Know Your Customer (KYC) protocols and enhanced education to curb underage betting.

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