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Electronic Bingo Machines surge violates Lottery regulation 

Prohibited locations, including gaming in proximity to Churches and educational facilities, are witnessing the surge, with operators of these games allowing younger children below the age of 18 to play.

By Kruah Thompson 

Monrovia, May 7, 2024: Our investigation has revealed that operators of electronic bingo machines are allowing children under 18 to play.

This violates Regulation 001 of the Liberia National Lottery Authority (NLA) Act.

The Act stipulates that licensed operators who knowingly facilitate underage betting are liable for license revocation and fines of up to US$2,500 per offense.

This violation constitutes a criminal offense against public morals under Chapter 18 of the Liberian Law.

Further, it is graded as a first-degree misdemeanor offense that is subjected to penalties. 

Signed by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on 22 December 2014, the act compels gambling operators in Liberia to develop a responsible gambling program and follow the NLA guidelines on gambling addiction and prevention. 

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It disallows running gambling operations in the immediate proximity of Churches, educational institutions, and hospitals. 

However, many of these games are situated in remote and hard-to-recharge places, making it difficult for the National Lottery Authority to regulate them.

This regulation aims to implement Liberian laws and its international obligations regarding ensuring fair play for the ultimate consumer and protecting the industry from infiltration by underaged children.

Contrary to the regulation, our investigation uncovered that various regions across the country had noticed an uptick in the game, with communities, entertainment centers, and even shops and stores located near Churches, educational institutions, and hospitals.

These prohibited locations are witnessing the surge, with operators of these games allowing younger children below 18 to play.

Most of them skip school to play, while some hardly study their lessons as they spend their entire time on the machine.

Our reporter spoke with some residents of the Fiamah and Lapjzee Communities, who revealed that the game is addictive.

They explained that once you start to play, you will want to win at all costs. As a result of this, these children spend their entire time at gambling centers, refusing to go home.

A resident of the Fiamah Community, David Sonkarlay, told this paper that the government hardly sends people to the fields to monitor what is happening in their various communities.

“Some kids go to the extent of stealing from their parents, spending the whole day on the machine. Some can even be in uniforms,” he noted.

However, a phone interview with Preston Nimely, the Public Relations Office at the Liberia National Lottery Authority, revealed that all the electronic slot machines are registered.

But he said they are not regulating gaming activities now because of the transactions in government.

“I can assure you that the vendors of these slot machines are licensed and regulated by the national authorities, and we are putting measures in place,” he explained.

“Soon enough, we will contact them to stop the reoccurrence of these violations,” Nimely told our reporter.

Meanwhile, the electronic bingo machine game highlights several features, including placing Chinese coins, which cost LD$20, into the machine slot.

Winners’ spins can yield up to 200 or more coins, necessitating players to exchange them for larger denominations or Liberian bank notes. 

Because of this simplicity and accessibility, the game has gained a diverse range of motivations from players, especially those in the suburbs of Montserrado, contributing to its recent surge in Liberia.

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