James Ayorinde (not real name) a graduate of Political Science at the University of Lagos, is a football addict who hardly misses any match and monitors updates almost impulsively.
The young man in his early 30s, however, is a compulsive gambler. Ayorinde resumes at a popular betting house in Ikotun, Lagos where he would spend the entire day monitoring different leagues while staking between N1500 to N2000 across different leagues with the hope of becoming a millionaire.
“I have been playing sports betting for over four years now and I don’t intend to stop until I become a millionaire,” Ayorinde told BusinessDay.
“I have won on some occasions but not as big as I would want. On average, I stake at least N1500 and my focus is on the lower leagues. The odds are very high and I take my time to follow them and am very familiar with these leagues.”
When asked if he would quit betting if he gets a paying job, Ayorinde says it would only take an offer from a well-paying job to lure him away from betting addiction. His preference are ICT and oil companies even though he has little professional competence for roles in these industries.
For millions of Nigerians like Ayorinde, sports betting is among the most exciting forms of gambling. 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 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.
The industry is also one of the fastest-growing in the country, driven mainly by the football culture. According to reports, the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) and the Lagos State Lotteries Board (LSLB) have also issued over 100 betting licenses.
Chidi Lemchi, a Business Development & Growth Expert and a passionate football fan said the proliferation of sports betting which Nigeria started with pool houses in the 80s and those who indulge in the act were seen as irresponsible.
“Before the proliferation of sports betting which we are seeing now in Nigeria, we used to have pool houses, and people who indulged in it were considered irresponsible and the dregs of the society,” Lemchi said.
Lemchi believes that the perception of sports betting as a preserve of poor people has changed due to the popularity of the Premier League, Laliga, German Bundesliga, and French Leagues in Nigeria. Today, both the poor and the wealthy individuals participate in betting.
“This vice is so rampant. It’s like a pandemic. Every nook and cranny has a betting cabinet, kiosk, or house. Yesteryears, people hid to engage in pool, today the case is different as people unabashedly engage in this vice,” Lemchi said.
A source at BetKing, who wants to remain anonymous, told BusinessDay the number of Nigerians engaged in the act of betting have increased due to the present economic hardship and the festive period fast approaching.
“Based on the information we have, the numbers have increased, this is the festive period and people are looking forward to the celebrations and you know how things are in the country presently,” the source said. He would not reveal the exact number.
He further noted that youth’s appetite for gambling has increased recently, especially as it ties to the present economic reality as many people are putting their hopes on making millions from betting.
Read also: Time to leash the sports betting behemoth
“Yes, that could be tied to so many reasons, including the present economy. Well, for some, it’s something they love doing, but majorly it could be tied to the situation of the country.
“Unfortunately, there is no data to back up what I’m saying. But there’s been a spike of punters engaging with the platform in the last two months – October, November. And it will definitely increase by December, and, during the Christmas period,” the source said.
He added that BetKing has engaged in several campaigns to enlighten the public on responsible gambling and not just making money.
“For us, it’s not all about making money, it’s about educating the bettors, you know, just telling them that guys, there’s a limit that you guys can go. We’ve done a lot of campaigns around that,” the source said.
Nigerians seek ban on betting over addiction
Last week, a trending video seen on X (formerly Twitter), showed several Nigerians lamenting after losing money in sports betting.
In the Video, hundreds of betting receipts were seen on the floor with many of the people in a state of hopelessness as a result of losing their money.
The players blamed the Nigerian government for the hardship in the country which has led them to betting.
The video generated lots of reactions from Nigerians, with some calling for a ban on betting in Nigeria.
Chinonso Egemba, popularly known as Aproko Doctor took to his X handle @aproko_doctor where he condemned the act of gambling, noting that many lives have been destroyed.
“Yet when I said this, they wanted to cook their uncle. Lives are being destroyed by this habit,” Aproko Doctor said on Wednesday. “Every two steps there’s a gambling kiosk, more marketing than should be allowed. Especially in a poor country like ours where people think it’s a route out of poverty.”
Alpha contents @safiuadewale2 also added that many lives have been badly affected by the addiction to gambling.
“No lies! Many lives have been disorganised by this pandemic called gambling. Nurturing the upcoming grown-ups in the right mindset may help in reducing the effect of this ‘disease’.”
Another X user identified as Sacred Reporter @NifesiCash narrated how he got addicted to betting and used his school fees to gamble before breaking away from the act.
“I was once addicted to betting until I used school fees, handouts, seminars and project money to bet before the semester even began. Nothing can take me back to gamble, no more.”
@NifesiCash said sports betting in Nigeria booms because Nigerians have the mindset of becoming rich overnight, which is symptomatic of greed.
“Another reason why Nigerians indulge in this behaviour is traceable to how we “worship” money in our society. This has created a culture of cutting corners and looking for shortcuts to make money at all costs. It’s a rat race. A case of the end justifies the means.
“A week ago, one of my friends told me he found out his driver is neck deep in debt. When he investigated to ascertain why he was carrying so much debt, he discovered this driver was addicted to sports betting and had in the process borrowed massively to fund this addiction.
“Whilst sports betting is not illegal, the damage to the individual and by extension the fabric of the family should be a cause of concern for all of us.