These days, finding a sports betting shop in Nigeria is almost as easy as finding a church. In Lagos alone, there are about 40 legitimate online sport betting companies. Betting has been a culture practiced in Nigeria since the first football betting pools were imported from 1920’s Britain. Although they are mostly popular among elderly, retired workers, and the unemployed, other demographics, including young, urban dwellers are picking up the habit very quickly.
The basic idea of sports betting is that customers gamble their money on the likelihood of being able to predict the results of football matches, played across all divisions of the English football leagues in the hope of winning a jackpot of up to N400,000 if their forecasts are correct. The matches are detailed on coupon sheets which are available in pool houses which have now become ubiquitous in Nigeria.
Recently though, sport betting Micro-franchises have taken over these pool betting houses. Micro-franchising is a type of franchising where a company grants part or all their proven business model to another party (MSMEs) for them to replicate elsewhere. Due to the low start up costs, physical betting shops are in abundance all over the country. All these can be attributed to sports betting companies who have made franchising opportunities available to the lower income population.
In 2014, an estimated 60 million Nigerians placed a bet per day across the country. Sports betting has also been afforded growth by the economic dip in Nigeria. The persistence of (surging) unemployment numbers is partly the reason why the youth have turned to sports betting as an opportunity to make an income and also as a source of distraction from the everyday adversities they encounter as Nigerians.
Viewing centers, an almost franchise-like entity, have become like extensions to betting shops. On weekend mornings, young men, alongside a few old ones, gather at betting shops to place bets on the weekend’s football games. They bet on the result of matches of the major football leagues in the world, as well as matches from obscure countries like Myanmar. A few hours later, the stream of football- crazed punters move to viewing centers to watch European football games at very affordable prices. The viewing centers also provide them the avenue to gain in-depth knowledge of the sport. These punters are recognizable anywhere as they are constantly raving about the on goings of football matches and how it affects their stakes while holding up their betslip ━ a receipt/coupon of the bets placed at the shop.
Football is the most popular sport in the country, which has been the major factor in the quick spread of the betting epidemic. With access to the internet evermore on the rise and mobile phone penetration gaining more and more traction, online and mobile phone betting will only become more commonplace among Nigerian youths. Football betting isn’t the only form of betting the youth engage in. Other betting events exist such as dog races, virtual betting and even non-sport activities like the 2019 presidential election.
While betting is seen by some as a morally decrepit activity, others argue against that notion. The advocates for betting argue that apart from the hope and entertainment it provides to the punters, it is also a source of job and revenue. Apart from the people betting, the betting shops also have to hire staff and train them. As advocacy for gender equality and feminism increases, the betting industry stands as one of the few industries that does not discriminate against any gender. There is likely more female staff in betting shops than male. Since most of their customers are male, they adopt the banking industry marketing style. The betting companies also have affiliate partnerships with agents, who earn money through commissions.
It is easy to spot the passion Nigerians display towards football. The betting companies have left no stone un-turned in taking advantage of this fact by offering the massive Nigerian football fan base the possibility of making money while watching football. The youths, in turn, have wasted no time in wholly seizing the opportunity and the employment issues and high rate of poverty mean that the chance to earn a living from sports betting cannot be ignored.
To young Nigerians, sports betting has an irresistible appeal due to the legitimacy of sports betting. While an element of greed might be one of the drivers for these young men betting, their environment has partly enabled this greed. Betting shops and sports betting have become a haven for some of this young men. For some, it might facilitate their graduating from the university by aiding them to pay their fees and for some, it might be a ticket to their next meal. But for the majority, the excitement of being only a sports fan won’t cut it anymore, it has gone way beyond that.