Located on the western coast of Africa, Liberia is the only country on the continent that has never been under colonial rule. Officially known as the Republic of Liberia, the country emerged in the early 19th century when free people of color from the US established it with support and funding by the American Colonization Society.
Liberia was among the fastest-developing countries in the Sub-Saharan region until a series of civil wars destroyed the local economy and severely stunted its future growth. The oldest modern republic on the African continent is presently one of the world’s poorest countries, with over fifty percent of the population living below the poverty line.
High unemployment rates, a crippling national debt, and a struggling economy are not exactly prerequisites for a thriving gambling industry. Liberia has several large landbased casinos only, all of which are located in the capital Monrovia. The country allows for various legal forms of gambling apart from casino games, including sports betting, bingo, raffles, lotteries, and poker.
Operators must apply for licenses before they can legally offer these activities to Liberians in a landbased or online format. In fact, the country was among the first African nations to legalize remote gaming in 1999, although very few operators hold Liberian licenses to our knowledge.
Laws That Govern Gambling in Liberia
Liberians have a choice from a wide range of legal gambling activities, all of which are subject to the regulation of the National Lottery Authority (NLA). The two biggest gaming venues in the country are Palm Spring Casino and Oceano Casino in the Liberian capital Monrovia. The venues feature various gaming machines, along with table games like blackjack, roulette, and house-banked poker.
Licensing Requirements and Fees in Liberia
Gaming Regulation 001 stipulates applicants for casino licenses in Liberia should meet certain financial and technical requirements, starting with an investment portfolio of at least US$1 million or the equivalent in LRD. The investment portfolio of applicants for sports betting licenses should be US$750,000 or more. Either way, entities that apply for permit renewal must prove they have the financial capacity to meet existing liabilities such as wages, salaries, and unpaid customer profits.
2Maximum Number of Licenses
Licensees must sustain a bank balance amounting to at least 25% of their investment portfolios. Applicants should also be experienced and familiar with the gambling industry. Operating casino games is only possible in approved public locations. Section 2.2 of Regulation 001 restricts the maximum number of casino licenses to four.
The permits are non-transferable, meaning that approved operators cannot use them in locations other than those originally approved. Those who attempt to transfer their permits risk heavy fines, suspension, and revocation in the worst-case scenario.
The NLA considers the integrity and reputation of license applicants in addition to their financial background. The regulator must assess each application within thirty days of receiving the necessary documentation. Rejected operators can request reconsideration of their applications within ten days of being denied licenses.
4License Validity and Renewal
Casino gaming permits in Liberia have a very short validity of one year counted from the day of issuance. Current license holders should apply for renewal no later than 45 days before their existing permits expire.
Upon submitting their renewal applications, the licensees must include annual reports with information about staff numbers, their current corporate structure, patrons’ losses, gains, and the overall betting handle.
5Gaming Equipment Requirements
Liberian licensees should use only gaming equipment manufactured by licensed and accredited suppliers. Any changes to the minimum player return percentages of the gaming machines should be immediately reported to the NLA. Entities and persons looking to receive permits for the operation of gaming machines must have at least ten such devices on their premises to become eligible.
6License Fees and Other Levies
The license fees and levies in Liberia vary across the board, depending on the type of gaming activity and the number of gaming machines on the premises, among other factors. Operators who violate the licensing conditions outlined in Regulation 001 will suffer monetary sanctions of at least US$2,500. The exact penalties depend on the gravity of the violation. The license fees are outlined in the table below.
|Gambling License Fees and Levies in Liberia|
|License Application||US$300 (non-refundable for rejected applicants)|
|Licenses for Casinos with up to 20 Gaming Machines||US$60,000|
|Sports Betting Licenses||US$40,000|
|Instant-Win Games Licenses||US$40,000|
|Fees for Registering Extra Gaming Machines||US$500 per additional machine|
|Fees for Registering Extra Gaming Tables||US$500 per gaming table|
|Fees for Raffle Permits||15% of the raffle prize pool|
Social Responsibility and Gambling Restrictions in Liberia
Offering gambling games to individuals under the age of 18 constitutes a criminal offense in Liberia and as such, is subject to penalties. As previously mentioned, licensed casinos can operate only at locations specially designated for this purpose.
Gaming Regulation 001 strictly disallows running gambling operations in the immediate proximity of churches, educational institutions, and hospitals. Licensed gambling premises should be located at least two miles apart from one another.
Similar restrictions are in place for authorized sports betting operators. Such businesses cannot accept wagers and sell betting tickets on the streets or outside places like betting agent offices and booths.
Each licensed gambling operator in Liberia must develop a responsible gambling program and follow the NLA guidelines on gambling addiction prevention. Gaming businesses must be able to identify compulsive gamblers and refer them to a counseling service. Licensed operators who knowingly facilitate underage betting, run faulty gaming machines, or falsify gaming tickets are liable for license revocation and fines of up to US$2,500 per wrongdoing.
Policies on Gambling Advertising in Liberia
Gaming Regulation 001 prohibits the misleading or false advertising of gambling services. All marketing products related to such activities should contain disclaimers that warn the public about gambling-related harm and the risk of addiction.
Advertising materials should not contain elements that aim to encourage disqualified individuals to participate in gambling. For clarification, the disqualified group includes minors, NLA employees, and members of the licensed operators’ staff with access to sensitive gaming information.
Online Gambling in Liberia
Gaming Regulation 001 makes no specific mentions of remote betting activities. Online gambling is nonetheless legal in the country provided the operators have obtained the necessary licenses. The remote segment of the industry is severely underdeveloped, largely as a result of the low internet penetration in the country.
The results of a Household Income and Expenditure Survey from 2016 indicate more than half of the local population, or approximately 2.3 million people, lived below the poverty line at the time. Over forty percent were under the extreme poverty line, living with less than $1.90 per day. Considering these figures, it is perhaps unsurprising that many locals cannot afford internet access.
Gambling Regulators in Liberia
The National Lottery Authority (NLA) has the mandate to regulate the gambling industry in Liberia. The regulatory body first emerged in the early 1980s but the civil war disrupted its activities. It was later reestablished by an act of legislation that passed in early November 1993 (amended in 2014).
The entity is headed by a Director-General selected by the country’s president for a four-year term, with the option for reappointment. His chief functions include overseeing the execution of regulatory policies, speaking on behalf of the NLA, and monitoring the work of NLA departments and their directors. Apart from its regulatory functions, the NLA also has the mandate to act as a mediator in disputes between players and licensed operators.
The NLA has also embarked on a mission to ensure players’ security, preserve the integrity of the local gambling industry, and raise funds through taxation. The NLA has generated over $2 million in government taxes according to its official website.
Most forms of gambling are legal and regulated in the Republic of Liberia, but factors like extreme poverty, high unemployment rates, and low internet penetration have stunted the local industry’s growth. Several online operators hold licenses from the Liberian authorities, with DOXXbet, Winners, and Bettomax being the most prominent brands on the market.
The limited choice forces locals who can afford internet access to take their action to offshore betting sites licensed outside the country. The government is lax in this respect and does not block the domains of foreign operators who accept real-money wagers from Liberia nationals.