• Monday, April 22, 2024
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More Nigerian women take to betting as economic hardship bites harder

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In the face of an escalating cost-of-living crisis in Nigeria, an unexpected trend has emerged— more women are embracing betting as an economic lifeline.

The economic landscape in Nigeria has witnessed significant turbulence in recent years, marked by inflationary pressures, rising unemployment and the erosion of purchasing power.

Read also: Amid economic hardship, Nigerians spend millions on betting

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), headline inflation rose to 29.90 percent in January from 28.92 percent in the previous month. food inflation rose to 35.41 percent from 33.93 percent.

The current reality has put millions of Nigerians in a survival mood as they try to augment their incomes by every possible means.

According to a report published in March 2023 by Orange Business Intelligence Technology (ORBIT), Nigeria’s betting industry reached over $2 billion in revenue in 2020, with over 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 spending $5.5 million daily.

A National Sports Industry Policy from the same year estimated that the industry could generate up to $4.7 billion in annual revenue (AAR), create up to 10 million jobs, and generate between 1.5-3 percent of GDP over ten years.

Also, the sector is one of the fastest-growing in the nation, thanks primarily to football culture. According to reports, the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) and the Lagos State Lotteries Board (LSLB) have also issued over 100 betting licences.

In the past, engaging in gambling was often considered a taboo for women, but the current economic challenges seem to be reshaping traditional norms. Not only are women participating in betting activities, they are also taking ownership of betting shops that have sprouted across the country.

This shift in societal norms reflects the adaptability and resilience of women in the face of economic challenges. Historically, gambling has been predominantly associated with male participation, and women entering this domain signals a departure from traditional gender roles. The economic necessity brought about by the cost-of-living crisis has compelled women to explore alternative avenues for income generation.

Findings by BusinessDay revealed that women across social statuses, from the illiterate and semi-literate on the streets to the highly educated ones in offices, now participate in betting.

Read also: More Nigerians resort to betting amid hardship

While the ones on the streets go for lotto and lottery, popularly known as Baba Ijebu, the educated ones prefer sport betting, which can be easily done on mobile devices.

Social media also contributed largely to the proliferation of betting among Nigerian women. The betting tips and positive reviews often shared online by punters enticed more women to join the industry.

These betting establishments, scattered across the country, serve as both a source of income for the women involved and a reflection of the changing dynamics within the business sector.

More women could be seen manning betting shops in different parts of Lagos, such as Obalende, Mushin, Oshodi, Ojuelegba, Ikotun, Iyana Ipaja, Igando, and others.

However, the increasing prevalence of women in the betting scene raises questions about the societal impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

As women navigate economic hardships by venturing into gambling, it prompts a broader discussion on the need for comprehensive economic reforms and support systems. It also signals a shift in societal perceptions regarding traditional gender roles.

While their resilience is commendable, it underscores the urgency of addressing the root causes of the cost-of-living crisis to ensure sustainable economic stability.

In an appraisal of the sports betting industry, Udukheli Izebuno, a writer and a consultant, via linkedin, said that the sports betting market which has grown rapidly in recent years as a profitable industry in Nigeria, has substantially contributed to the country’s economy and also entertained millions of Nigerians.

“It is critical to recognise the role and potential of Nigerian women in determining the future of the Nigerian sports betting sector,” he said.

He added that the narrative of the sports betting industry being dominated by men is taking a gradual shift as Nigerian women are breaking down boundaries and making tremendous advancements in numerous parts of the industry.

Izebuzo further said that “gender dynamics in the gambling and lottery industry have shifted noticeably in recent years as women are increasingly entering this field due to growing financial independence, shifting attitudes toward gender roles, and exposure to current forms of entertainment, social media and technology.

“Furthermore, there is a growing recognition within the industry that having more diverse perspectives can be beneficial for business and this include targeted marketing campaigns aimed at women, the introduction of women-friendly betting products and services, and efforts to address gender biases within the industry.”

He further noted that “The proliferation of online betting platforms which has made gambling more accessible to a larger audience is apparently another drive that has encouraged the increased participation of women in betting.

“The emergence of online gambling platforms has given rise to a more private and accessible environment for women to gamble. Online casinos, sports betting applications, and lottery websites allow women to participate without the negative stereotypes associated with traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.”

Gender-equality campaign fueling women participation

Some bettors have given some reasons why women engage in staking some money for bigger and better amounts of reward.

Ebube Osinachi said: “Women have a lot of responsibilities both in our homes and the society at large and most of these responsibilities cannot be carried out without funds. Making correct predictions and attaching a little stake, is the most preferable way to get the funds in this kind of economy without engaging in illegal practices.”

Ella Pius, who is also a female bettor, said that “betting addiction” can be controlled, but “money addiction” is almost impossible to control as it is one of the most essential resources everyone needs to survive and that has been the push behind every bettor.

“Women need opportunities to be financially independent and sports betting has given us the chance for that possibility; we have to utilise it. We can lose bets over and over again, but the joy that comes with winning, especially a large sum of money, is so much fun,” she said.

“I think that beyond the economic pressure, the increasing campaign on gender-equality seems to have closed the gap in the things that were thought to be exclusive for men.

“We see the manifestation of gender-equality all over the place. There is hardly anything that the men do nowadays that women are not doing, even those things that were tagged taboos in the past. The gaps are closing so rapidly. If you go to some more advanced economies, you will find women in casinos, engaging in big-time betting and they bait no eyelids to such activities.

“But truth be told, the Nigerian variant is occasioned more, by the unfavourable economic weather, than any other factor,” Elizabeth Ola, an accountant, who spoke to BusinessDay in Ikeja area of Lagos State, said.

A good number of Nigerians have, since the economic downturn, broken their resolve not to engage in any form of gambling.

Know when to apply the brake

For instance, the free money given by a betting company and being propagated by a popular radio station has sharpened the appetite of many people to try their luck.

Sharing her experience how she got drawn into betting, a mother of two, who spoke to BusinessDay on condition of anonymity, said it was the pressure arising from the school fees of her children that led her into betting lately.

“I am a married woman with three children. My husband lost her job last year and has been searching for another since then. So, when in January schools resumed, there was practically nothing. I was worried about how to get the necessary things the children needed and their school fees. A friend of mine visited me and in the course of discussion, she suggested that I should place a bet as was being relayed on a radio station. I did; it was the greatest miracle I have received in all my life! So, we were able to sort out the school things and still have some change.

“The downside of such games is that they have an opiate effect sort of. If you do not restrain yourself, you can lose whatever you think you have won. The advice is, know when to apply the brake,” she said.

It’s contribution to nation’s economy – Lanre Gbajabiamila

In a recent interview, Lanre Gbajabiamila, director-general, National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), said that he had to change the word gambling to gaming for wider acceptability, because of the perception that “lottery is gambling.”

“I changed that word gambling to gaming because I believe it’s entertainment. Lottery’s where you play, where you try your luck either for fun or also for contribution; social contribution to help the government. If you win, good. If you don’t win, you’re still a winner because you’ve done a little bit of charity to the government to use the funds for good causes in all the sectors that it is required for,” he said.