BusinessDay

Nigerians turn to sports betting, loans as cost of living crisis worsens

A growing numbers of Nigerians are turning to sports betting and loans to plug the gap between their incomes and spending as prices of items continues to make rapid climbs, BusinessDay’s findings show.

Emeka Obi, a storekeeper at a factory in Ikeja, says his income can no longer sustain him as his rent and cost of living have doubled in the past months.

To survive, he decided to have another side hustle, he says. “I see my friend getting cool cash from sports betting, and most times, I help them predict,” he says.

“I was looking for another source of income, and I say within me, why not try sports betting,” he notes. “Ever since then, I have supported my family from the proceeds I get from sports betting.”

Before inflation started rising to the current level (21.09 percent in October), there were 82.9 million poor Nigerians. The number has since risen to 90.1 million in 2021 and is projected to hit 95.1 million in 2022, according to the World Bank.

Many more poor Nigerians could mean more desperate betting customers. A recent report showed that 66 percent of Nigerians made a bet on a sporting event at least once in their lives.

With this surge in demand, betting investments have multiplied in the country. The list of betting companies keeps growing on a daily basis.

The betting platforms in the country include Msport, 1xbet, Naijabet, Nairabet, Betway, Bet9ja, Sportybet, Lionsbet, Merrybet, Surebet247, Betfarm, Betland, 1960bet, Betking, and 9japredict.

“Betting is the only means people like us have to raise some cash for immediate needs without stealing,” says a 42-year-old man who simply gave his name as Bolaji.

“You can see how prices of everything are rapidly climbing. My income cannot sustain me anymore, and my employer has refused to review it despite the accelerating inflation,” he says.

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“Betting has been sustaining my family since my dwindling income,” he notes.

According to recent research by NOI Polls, Nigerians spend over N730 billion annually on sports betting, and at least N2 billion is generated daily.

The data also shows that over 60 million Nigerian punters spend over N3,000 daily placing bet stakes and at least there are 50 betting sites in Nigeria, with the number growing annually.

Sports betting is particularly the most prominent of the betting segments due to the love for football by millions of Nigerians, and the majority of the games are now done online. Online gaming is expected to grow to a global industry worth $93 billion by 2023.

Annual gross gaming yield (the amount gambling facilities get after payments) has been estimated to exceed $400 billion. And, while it may appear as though the sports betting sector has exploded into mainstream society, this was not always the case, as interviews with many Nigerians show.

Apart from turning to sports betting, some Nigerians are taking loans to survive the cost of living crisis.

Ayo Adetimehin, a 32-year-old teacher, borrows from the school where he currently teaches to augment his spending.

“I currently owe the school where I work a three-month salary because I have to borrow to survive the current cost of living crisis,” he explains.

He says he is looking for extra coaching classes to be able to pay back his debt to the school.

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