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Home [ MAIN ] FEATURES The rise and rise of sports betting in Nigeria

The rise and rise of sports betting in Nigeria [Babatunde Oshikoya investigates]

by Babatunde Oshikoya

“Today, Manchester United will beat Swansea. That is a ‘sure game’. Chelsea’s game too…against Burnley, Chelsea will win that too. I’m not going near that Liverpool Vs Southampton game though, it can go either way…”

These were the words of Kunle (not real name) as he went on about the games he intends to place bets on in the English Premier League and other football leagues around the world.

Kunle joins a million other Nigerian youths who have turned to sports’ betting as a way of getting extra cash or even as a major source of income. Kunle also has a conventional 9-5 job that gives him a steady source of income, working in the I.T department of a logistics company.

What makes people like Kunle, and a thousand others like him, standout is that he isn’t someone whom you would think would believe so much in making sports betting an ‘investment’ opportunity, even going as far as keeping aside a weekly budget of N5, 000 which he uses to places bets on different football teams and clubs in different leagues, ranging from the popular Barclays Premier League, to the lower leagues such as the English Division 2 and other obscure leagues.

In recent times, sports’ betting has seen a meteoric rise in patronage in Nigeria, with some reports saying that Nigerians between the age of 18 to 41 spending about N1 billion daily on sports’ betting, and a major reason that can be attributed to this boom is the introduction of the online betting option.

This has made it move into the mainstream culture, as people no longer see sports-betting as something left for the doddering old men who spend their pension earnings in pool houses, but rather as an option for the tech-savvy Nigerian youth who wants to hit the jackpot and move on into a life of comparative luxury.


Employer of Labour

Just as football viewing centres sprung up in the wake of the foreign football mania in the country, so also has the rise in sports betting generated employment opportunities for people. It is now commonplace to see shops prominently advertising the major sport betting brands, such as NairaBet and 1960Bet, to mention a couple, with store attendants who receive and place bets on behalf of people who still do not trust the online space enough.

Some enterprising football viewing centers have taken their businesses up a notch by having their own bet shops where their customers can place try their luck with their favourite teams and clubs.

Range of Bets

Sports’ betting is not restricted to football alone, with some placing bets on other sports such as basketball and cricket. Tennis is also a favourite with many. Kunle is a big fan of Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters and always looks out for them whenever he is placing his bets.

The Art of Betting

He tries to explain the process to me, talking about accumulators and such, but he might as well have been speaking Latin. Many people who place bets still employ a throwback from the days of the pool houses; forecasting and trend-watching, keeping up with the form of the teams and identifying the oppositions that have intense rivalries going on between them. These can go a long way in determining the outcome of matches.

Others monitor the injuries to key players, and even if the referee might be hostile.

Not So Rosy

It’s not always sweet tales for the participants of sports betting, despite playing with the odds in their favour. For instance, Kunle lost out on both bets he placed on Manchester United and Chelsea, with United losing the match, and Chelsea playing a 1-1 draw with bottom-placed Burnley.

Kunle had bet that both teams would win, and the results subsequently meant that he lost his 2,000 naira bet. He is, however, optimistic as he has had some amount of success with his predictions, going as far as winning N350,000 with a bet of N1,500. This, he says, is what keeps him going on days when he feels like he might never recoup his investments.

‘Sport betting is gambling, but so is everything in life’, Kunle says.

With bet companies generating up to N50 million monthly, and using betweenN5-N15 millionas payout for winners, it has become a very lucrative industry.


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