Liberia’s Gaming Sector: A Critical Review of a Rapidly Growing Economic Driver

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Monrovia – In November 2018, President George Manneh Weah submitted to the National Legislature, a Bill to Amend Part III, Section 15.2(a) of An Act to Repeal the Act Incorporating the Liberia National Lotteries Corporation of 1993 and to Enact in Lieu thereof the National Lottery Authority (NLA) Act to conduct, manage, regulate and supervise National Lotteries, Lotto and Games of chance,” President George Weah said in his communication to members of the House of Representatives.

The goal, according to the President was aimed at amending the Lotteries act in a bid to  value to the game of chance.

With the deadly Corona virus’s worst days now behind, the President took a giant step recently to reopen the betting business which was shut down due to the pandemic.

Reviving the struggling economy, especially in the wake of a health crisis was seen a key to reviving the country’s economy.

This prompted the National Lottery Authority to press sports betting institutions, slot machines and others whose operational permits had expired, to regularize their status or face the consequences of non-compliance.

Enacted into law in 2014, the NLA is tasked with serving as a revenue generation platform to improve the lives of those who are vulnerable, physically challenged and or otherwise disabled. 

The Group of 77, under the Vice president’s office is a principal beneficiary along with orphanages across the country. The revenue generated comes from fees paid by Gaming Companies for games of chance. And, there seems to be many gaming companies now in Liberia but, are they really contributing towards the economic growth and development of the country?  The Independent Business Group has been doing a review of the Gaming sector in Liberia.

While there seems to be Casinos, many of the companies have entered into the Sports Betting market, something that now seems to be proliferated, but with little or no financial impact.  For this segment of our review, we put 3 companies under the spotlight: DoxxBet, GoBet and Winners Inc.

DoxxBet

Our review found that DoxxBet has been making an impact positively. We reviewed their payment history with the National Lottery Authority and found that Doxxbet has been current in the payment of their license fees and other financial responsibilities, except a few.  They almost, at all times, are able to pay their customers’ winnings and their employees seem to be satisfied for the most part.  The National Lottery Authority informed us that DoxxBet is cooperative with the Authority and overall, seem to be contributing to the sector well.

A visit to the centers of DoxxBet revealed to us that many patrons were pleased with the services and spoke well of the management. Employees as well shared with our team that except for a few hitches, the management of DoxxBet does its best to treat their employees well.

GoBet

GoBet, owned and operated by Palm Spring Hotel & Resort tells a different story. According to our review, GoBett has struggled to survive since it came into the market a few years ago. It has struggled to pay its employees, evidenced by the numerous times that its employees went on strike; it has had difficulties paying out customers’ winnings evidenced by the numerous ties that rioting occurred due to customers demanding payment of their winnings and many other difficulties.

An official of the National Lottery Authority who spoke to our team on condition of anonymity revealed that GoBet, from its inception, has never been able to pay its license fees at once and would always enter into a piece-meal arrangement to pay for the license which is illegal. The official also disclosed to our team that a review of GoBet’s file showed that it did not even meet the minimum financial requirements for the investment portfolio and wonder why GoBet was even allowed to operate and given a Sports Betting License? The NLA official also revealed that GoBet currently has many outstanding violations and fines that it has yet to meet up with payment into government’s revenue account.

Winners Inc.

Our third and last company reviewed was Winners Inc. Our team has discovered that it is the first sport betting company in Liberia, and it has been operating for over 10 years now. Winners Inc. appears to be the biggest and the most functional and productive in the Republic of Liberia and according to the Survey Lead, Eric Benson, the functionality and productivity of Winners Inc. can be seen and felt by the various interventions it makes in living up to its corporate social responsibility and the thousands of direct and contractual employees and agents across Liberia.

A visit to the gaming centers of Winners Inc. saw customers appreciating the company for paying winnings on time and for being the only company present in almost all of the 15 counties in Liberia.  Our review showed that customers’ satisfaction was seen at all the centers visited and employees spoke positively of the company.

Out team noticed that amidst COVID 19, Winners Inc. was observing strictly all the heal protocols. We caught up with the President of Winners Inc., Mr. Yacob Batshon who spoke with us briefly. ‘Winners Inc. sees itself as a firm Partner with the Government and people of Liberia and when the nation’s health is  threatened either in the case of an epidemic like Ebola or a pandemic like COVID 19, we must stand alongside the government and contribute in meaningful ways towards the national plan. Mr. Batshon said.

Additionally, the Survey Summary noted that in the midst of the spread of COVID-19 in Liberia, Winners, Inc. did not lay off any of its employees though all of its Gaming Centers were closed as mandated by the government, but continued to pay salaries to all its employees, something that only Winners Inc. is noted for doing in the gaming sector.

Employees spoken to all expressed a high degree of satisfaction working for Winners Inc. and spoke of how the Management treats them with respect and dignity and in many instances goes beyond the employer-employee relationship by helping them with family matters.  Says Mr. Eric Benson of the IBG, Winners Inc. is a pacesetter in the gaming industry in Liberia.

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