In 2020, it was reported that around 60 million Nigerians were actively involved in sports betting. The days of stigmatisation surrounding betting are long gone, and rather than being perceived as a vice, it is more commonly accepted as a pastime in this West African country.
Generating approximately N730 billion annually, the industry of sports betting is certainly lucrative and continues to be on the up.
Gambling has been in existence in Nigeria for a very long time, since the British Empire introduced European sports and gambling in the country’s colonial years. Laws surrounding gambling in Nigeria state that sports betting, alongside land-based casinos and the lottery, are all legal. However, roulette, diced games, and non-skilled card games are illegal. Online gambling is a grey area as it isn’t mentioned in the law, and there is no restriction for the people to reach local or foreign online gambling sites.
Sports betting itself was introduced into the country in 2009, and it took off. Attracting online betting sites like Betway, which is one of the most popular and trusted online betting sites in Europe and Africa, only accelerated its growth.
Accessibility and convenience are key to drawing in the crowds, and with the breakthrough in technology and the developments of internet and online payment systems, the popularity of sports betting in Nigeria further grew. Being able to transfer money easily and quickly to betting sites from a mobile device with no location dependency means there’s no limit to who sports betting can reach.
The immense popularity of football in Nigeria also plays a contributory role in the growth of sports betting, as many Nigerian athletes play for a variety of world-class teams across not only Africa, but throughout Europe too. Passion and patriotism have led many Nigerians to show their support for their teams through placing a bet, as well as making the games more exciting to watch.
While the enthusiasm and buzz around the top African and European leagues have made sports betting for Nigerians more pronounced, it is believed that the industry may have heavily profited from an economic slump. Poverty and unemployment, especially among the youth, are major players in taking sports betting to new heights.
In an estimated population of 200 million, it is reported that 87.5 million are living in extreme poverty. You then have staggering figures which show that 65% of Nigerians are below the age of 35, and the youth unemployment rate is around 40%. Put all these figures together, and it’s no surprise that there is a nexus between sports betting and unemployment.
For many youngsters in Nigeria, sports betting is seen as a way to make money, and for those living in poverty, it’s a fast-track way of making some income. While it is seen as an opportunity to win big, it is also a distraction from the idleness and boredom that unemployment brings.
Many young people have seen their lives change for the better through sports betting, and this can be infectious. Once positive and favourable word spreads, it reinforces the belief that betting is a good risk to take. While the unemployed youth may make up some of these figures, it isn’t uncommon to see employed Nigerians, or people from all walks of life, take up betting as a legitimate source of extra income.
Being such a major industry in Nigeria, sports betting contributes to the country’s limited finances. Taxes from it are used to support social services, like the training of local athletes and enhancing their stature in world-wide leagues and competitions. While this is a positive, there’s a fine line between government funds collected and government regulations in place to protect its people.
Government regulators are encouraging betting companies to increase campaigns to persuade people to bet only with disposable income, and to bet responsibly. But while many agree it is a delicate balance between benefits and societal risk, as sports betting continues to flourish, this topic needs to be addressed more to ensure an adequate protection of vulnerable groups.