By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
An increased number of Nigerian youths in a desperate bid to survive the impact of economic meltdown, are daily flocking to sports betting centres with the hope of winning money from bets to make ends meet, Business Hallmark findings can reveal.
According to findings, while betting firms are making billions daily by leveraging on Nigerias huge football addiction to big European leagues, such as the English Premier league, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga, millions of unemployed and underemployed youths are now engaged in betting activities in the hope of earning income.
Also, the customer base of betting firms has broadened to include young middle-class Nigerians seeking to earn more money to supplement dwindling income.
Data from Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), shows that mobile penetration increased from 36% to 70% in the last five years, adding to the increased awareness through aggressive expansion and marketing by operators as well as technological improvements in payment platforms.
The rise in sports betting is aided by high unemployment rate in the country which remains remains high at 33.3% (28,764,614) in Q4 2020 from 27.1% in Q2 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), while 15,915,639 were under-employed (i.e., working between 20-29 hours per week).
This singular factor, it was gathered, has contributed greatly to the rise in sports betting, with many Nigerians in sports betting calling it the easiest way to make money through wealth redistribution.
Though, there is no specific official figure, different studies by industry experts indicate that Nigerians spend over N730 billion annually on sports betting and at least two billion naira is generated daily. Data also revealed that over 60 million Nigerian punters spend over 3, 000 naira daily placing bet stakes.
This figure does not include the poor masses who are in the majority, and who spend as little as N100 daily. With a young population of nearly 190 million, Nigeria is a great opportunity for gaming businesses, noted a booking agent with NaijaBets who did not want his identity disclosed.
Nigerians plough about $5.5 million into sports betting every day, totaling an incredible $2 billion a year. Bet9ja, the biggest betting brand in Nigeria, returned a monthly turnover of $10 million as at 2016, said another accounting firm, KPMG.
According to KPMG, NairaBet is also mining gold from gaming, with an estimated turnover of $3 $5 million dollars every month.
During a visit to a gaming shop belonging to Betnaija in Jankara, Ijaiye-Ojokoro, scores of youths were observed trying out their luck either through lotteries or virtual games (dog race and horse race). It was also observed that betting encompasses all sports, including boxing, wrestling, golf and lawn tennis, with football been the preferred game due largely to the fact that most Nigerians are more conversant with happenings in the football world and are trying to play safe by favouring football.
A player, it was observed, can play with as little as N100 to win as much as N100,000. However, findings revealed that only a few are lucky, with many losing their money to the bet companies.
This, however, seems not to deter stakers and would be betters as more desperate youths visit betting centres daily to try out their luck. Betting firms preferred by Nigerians include Bet9ja and NaijaBet, Surebet247 and Nairabet.
While most educated youths tried out their luck with sports betting, the less educated seem to prefer lotteries, or what is popularly known as Baba Ijebu.
Unlike sports betting where a player can stake from N100, those playing lotteries can stake as little as N50 to win on the Premier Bet Lotto or Baba Ijebu platform owned by lotto billionaire, Chief Adebutu Kessington.
Checks also revealed that Nigerians not only patronise local betting sites and firms, but foreign platforms like Skybet and Bet365 in the UK in the hope of winning in foreign correncies.
A staff in one of the branches of Nairabet told BH that most people place their bets on football teams in the big European leagues.
Hardly will you see anyone placing a bet on basketball, horse race, tennis, boxing etc. A few people do though. But this thing is mainly football.
“And people win every day. People also lose. But the losers are far more than the winners”, he said.
Another player, Andrew Ebelo, said without betting, he would committed suicide or have taken to crime.
I am addicted to sports bettng. I just cant do without it. It has become a part of me. I went into it because I dont have a job. If I had something doing, I would have still gone into it for the fun of it because I love football and really know about it. But my situation today is that my life depends on it”, one addict who simply gave his name as said a staker in a Bet9ja shop in ikeja, Lagos.
On the risk of losing money, he maintained: Like every business in life there are ups and downs. You win some and you lose some. But in my own case I have won more than I have lost because I play wisely.”
Another Nigerian youth heavilly involved in sports betting,.Solomon Ekanem, said betting has become a means of livelihood to him.
This is how I survive. I thank God for sports betting. Without it, I am sure many people would have turned to crime for survival. Why dont we look at the brighter side of it instead of bringing out the negative aspect of it?”, the 27 year old graduate explained.
On what will happen at the expiration of the current European football season in May, an agent of one of the betting forms told our correspondent that there is no cause for alarm as other games like virtual matches are available to stakers during off-seasons.
Speaking on the development, the Chief Executive Officer, SOFUNIX Investment and Communications Limited, Mr. Sola Oni, said that people are easily lured to lotteries, sports betting and other schemes like MMM owing to the hardship in the country.
As the economic recession bites harder, it is easy to lure unsuspecting but gullible people to fall prey to these wonder schemes, Oni said.
Meanwhile, the nation’s sports betting industry has continued to attract an unprecedented level of interest, as foreign investors sought to have a piece of the over N2billion daily stakes, BH investigations have revealed.
According to checks, the huge appetite for equity in high yielding and lucrative gaming firms has intensified lately as investors hungry for higher returns see bullish future in the nations gaming industry.
Available data suggests that while more than 50 betting sites currently operate in the country, over 60 million Nigerians are actively involved in sports betting, staking over N2 billion daily.
Some of the sports betting companies operating in the country include Betking, Bet9ja, Nairabet, Merrybet, Naijabet, Sporting Bet, Surebet24, and several others.
According to a report titled, The gaming industry in Nigeria by top accounting and auditing firm, PwC, obtained by BH, Nigeria is the second largest online gambling market in Africa, behind South Africa, with a Gross Gaming Revenue of $58 million in 2018. The report projects that the GGR will rise by 16% over a five-year period.
A lot has changed within the Nigerian gaming landscape since April 2016. The gaming industry has continued to expand, benefitting fron the large and youthful population, improving internet penetration, and the increasing access to internet-enabled devices, the PwC report stated.
One of such companies that has shown interest in gaining foothold in the Nigerian sport betting industry is South African pay TV operator Multichoice.
Multichoice recently announced that it acquired a 20% stake in a gambling company with major operations in Nigeria, BetKing. The value of the deal is worth R1.8 billion.
According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Multichoice, Calvo Mawela, sport betting augments his companys business as sport is major revenue source for the company. He added that BetKing has grown fast in Nigeria and that there are plans to expanding to South Africa.
We have a lot of sport on our platform, and many people that are betting watch more games. They plan to be pan-African and will be entering South Africa at some stage too, Mawela said.
Sources privy to the deal said it is valued at $81 million upfront, with a further $31 million performance-dependent payment possible later.
Earlier in July 2020, BetKing entered a sponsorship deal with the Football Kenya Federation (FKF). The deal is the biggest sponsorship deal in the history of Kenyan football.
Valued at $11 million (1.2 billion Kenyan shilling), the sponsorship deal will end in 2025. According to the FKF, each club in the Kenyan league will receive 8 million Kenyan Shillings a year ($1= 107.85 Kenyan shillings) thanks to the partnership.
In 2018, British online betting firm, Betway, launched in Nigeria to fight for its own share of the market. Likewise, Russias 1XBet and Slovakias DOXXbet have both set up in Nigeria in the last two years while Italys Goldbet was ahead of the trend, taking a 50 percent stake in market leader Bet9ja when the Nigerian firm launched in 2015.
Another sport betting firm that is currently making waves in Nigeria is SportyBet, recently founded by an Indian businessman, Sudeep Dalamal Ramnani. It is an international sports betting and real-money gaming operator that delivers an omni-channel entertainment experience in regulated emerging markets.
SportyBet is wholly owned by the founder who is also the chief executive officer. Sudeep is also an investor in Fintech and mobile payments and an advocate of the growing African internet ecosystem.
On the other hand, a Nigerian owned betting firm, NairaBet, in a bid to reach the more buoyant middle class who are concerned with the stigma associated with gaming in Nigeria, employed the services of fintech giants, Paystack and Flutterwave to provide easy and affordable electronic payment platforms.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of NairaBet, the company added Flutterwave and Paystack as payment options without any fanfare, and within months the company becomes Nigerias second biggest betting firm, with over 4 million regular customers on its website, up from 500,000 in 2013.
There is a gradual shift to online now, that is where the industry is going. The ease of electronic payments, cost of running shops and ability for customers to avoid the stigma of gambling in public meant online transactions has really grown our business, Alabi stated.