Inside Nigeria’s sports gaming industry
Nigerians are lovers of sports especially football, and in recent times, it has gone beyond just entertainment but also about making money and losing money in most cases.
The growth in the sports betting industry has been phenomenal across the country, apparently because there is good money to be made and everyone wants to be part of it.
The desire to make additional income, growing youthful population and internet penetration in the country are some of the factors that have helped the growth of sports gaming in the country.
A visit to one of the sport betting shops in Ikeja reveals that the process of placing bets is quite simple. The punter checks the betting board to get the ID of the game(s) he wishes to bet on. In front of the ID, he writes his prediction e.g. (“away team to win”, First to Score”) and submits to the computer operator who inputs it into the system and gives him a ticket. You win, you tender your winning ticket and cart away your cash. You lose, you join the thousands around the world who have also lost that day.
Kennedy, 34, says placing of bets offers him another source of income apart from his daily factory work at a manufacturing company in Ogba.
“This is my side hustle but most times it is only one game that will cut my ticket for the day and sometimes all my prediction will earn me cash,” he said.
Until now due to the high level of financial exclusion in the country, punters had to go through Agents who occupy the brick and mortar shops to place bets. However, in recent times, betting companies have started to partner with telcos to avail bettors of a USSD code which can be used for direct payments into online accounts.
Interestingly, banks, fintechs and investing platforms are also exploring collector relationships with betting companies. The incentive is clear; if these companies are able to help the betting companies collect directly from the bettors, it eliminates the need for agents, and with that, they keep more of their revenue.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), an estimated 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are involved in active sports betting while almost N2 billion is spent on sports betting daily, which translates to nearly N730 billion in a year.
A report by KPMG in 2016 revealed some startling numbers from the sports betting industry in Nigeria. As at 2016, the leading sports betting company, Bet9ja raked in an average monthly turnover of $10 million, while NairaBet made an average turnover of $3 million – $5 million, a 20 – 30% margin on profit.
No doubt, the widespread use of mobile phones in Nigeria has been a positive game-changer for the sports betting business. Every day, it gets easier to pay, play and win or lose. According to figures released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), as at February 2019, there are about 173.6 million cell phone subscribers with over 100 million internet users in Nigeria, with 80 percent of this figure being able to access the internet on their phones.
The 86.9 million Nigerians now living in extreme poverty represents nearly 50% of its estimated 180 million population and supporters of sports betting in Nigeria claim it is a business that offers employment to thousands of young people, provides quick money for ordinary people, generates tax revenue for the government and contributes to economic growth.
Currently, there are over 50 betting sites in the country with each offering a wide variety of services around sports betting. From popular English Premier League games to the unimpressive Nigerian Premier League to little-known European leagues like the Gibraltar Premier Division and Lithuania A-League. There’s always a game to pick out and wager on; online operators capitalize by improving the user experience on the sites and running campaigns to keep users coming back.
Sport betting comes with great risks and with some of these risks come losses including some that could be too much to take. Bettors should always bear in mind that betting relies on uncertainties and one must be able to handle whatever comes with making such decisions.
Sports betting gives its bettors a feeling of pleasure and hope for the “big win”. However, the widespread organic publicity of the very few who get that “big win” makes bettors believe that their “breakthrough” is near
For government adequate regulation of this industry could provide another source of income for the already shrinking internally generated revenue.
Global trends have shown that Sports betting is clearly regulated and is a major sector for the generation of tax revenue by the government. This has however not been the case in Nigeria as the industry remains largely unregulated despite the existence of several Acts.
As such, the issue of multiple taxations and licensing continues to plague local operators.