Yomi Oketope – Gaming Is One of Most Regulated Businesses in Nigeria

The GAMING WEEK Team recently engaged Yomi Oketope, Managing Director, Sax Innovative Network Limited, owners of the 9Jackpot casino brand. Oketope, the president of the Association of Casino Owners and Gaming Operators, has a background in advertising which helped him to provide very revealing responses.

How did you get into the casino business?

I came into the gaming business by accident. It was not something I planned. The Promatic Group, the owners of Sax Innovative Network Limited, came to Nigeria looking for investors and the possibility of having a gaming business here. There was an Austrian that they met, and they started discussing. Incidentally, that Austrian and I had a joint import/export business. I was managing the business. Eventually, they did their fact-finding and decided to give it a go. They needed a Managing Director to pioneer the business. I was invited, and I met with the directors. They interviewed me and said, ‘Okay, we can work with you. Let’s start’. That’s how I got into the business. The company is in its eighth year.

Yomi Oketope

Talking about the Promatic Group, the parent company of Sax Innovative Network Limited. It is a Polish company, and they have been in the business of gaming for about 22 years. Promatic is the largest manufacturer of slot machines and system solutions for gaming in Poland. So, they were looking for outlets where they could also deploy their slot machines and their solutions. Nigeria was one of the countries that they decided to invest in. We also have a presence in Europe, Latin America, and two or three other African countries.

We have a business model. We partner with agents and partners. Partners are people that own their businesses. Let’s say, you have a hotel, a lounge or a bar, and you say, “Ok, I have this space already, I want to go into the gaming business. You will come to us. We’ll inspect the place. If it is suitable, we will give you the machines at no cost to you. “But you cannot expand beyond that location unless you have another hotel. Those are ones we call partners. We have agents. Agents are people who want to make a business of gaming.

They are not restricted to any location. They don’t even need to have any location of their own. They will go out looking for locations that are promising, they will rent them, and we would supply them with machines. So, they can have as many as 20 locations, but partners have one or two. That is the difference. Of course, 9Jackpot has its cafes which they own 100 per cent. Like the VI branch, it is owned 100 per cent by Sax. We also have it in FESTAC. We have one in Calcutta Crescent, Apapa. We own all those locations 100 per cent. When we work with agents and partners, we do not have interest per se. They run those businesses, and at the end of the month, we do the accounting together and they give us a percentage. That is a model we are running.

How would you describe what happens in the casino business? What do you really do?

When you say casino business, the term is too encompassing. In the casino business, we have two different sectors, though related. In a full casino, apart from slot machines, we have table games like baccarat and poker games. Those are games of skill. Those are full-fledged casinos. We also have slots. Slot machines are purely a mystery game. What it means is you don’t need any skill. It’s a matter of luck because whether you win or lose, it is random. It is a computer that controls it. Nobody can predict when somebody is going to win. But for those table games, there is an element of skill. 9Jackpot is in the slot gaming sector. We deal only with slot machines. Promatic, which is a parent company, is the manufacturer of slot machines. They also provide the software that drives the machine. That is the advantage that we have because the parent firm is both the manufacturer of the slot machines and also the provider of the software. For other companies, you get the slot machines, and you have to get another company that will provide you with the software.

Have you completely eliminated the use of coins on slot machines?

We do not use coins anymore, but in some casinos that deploy slot machines, you can still make use of tokens. Each token has a value which you slot in, but those are few now. The most common now are slot machines that accept cash directly. If you want to play a large volume, there is a key that the cashier will use to key in any amount you want to play. For instance, if you want to play N50,000 and you have N500 notes, it will take time for you to slot in each note. Rather than do that, you’ll use your card to pay the cashier, or you’ll do a transfer. Once they receive it, they use a key to put in the amount that they want to play. You’ll see it appear, and then you’ll start playing.

Lastly, which is very common with most casinos: you have a card system where you pay the cashier, and they will output a card of that value, so once you get there, you will scan it, and then the value will appear on the screen, and you’ll start playing. Once you’ve completed your play and you want to end the game, the machine will print out the amount that you are cashing out. Maybe you won N70,000 now, and you want to end your game. The machine would give you a card, you take it to the cashier, and they scan it and give you the value. Those are the various types of slot machines.

What are some biggest changes in government policies or innovation in tech that you have dealt with?

It is the gaming company that dictates the technology, not the government. The government, most times, is playing catch-up because the gaming companies are always looking at advanced technology to drive the game and make it more interesting and more user-friendly. For example, some advanced countries accept Bitcoin now. You can use Bitcoin to play. In Nigeria, we do not recognise that. What is happening is once there’s a new technology, the lottery regulator will have to understand the new technology. And then if they need to amend the computer. How does the lottery board monitor it? They will ask you to give them access to the backend. You have to provide the back end to them. Whatever is going on online, they are monitoring it.(…)

Read full interview HERE

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