By Nse Anthony-Uko
(Sundiata Post) –Millions of unemployed, underemployed and middle-class population in Nigeria are turning to sports betting and lotteries in hope of earning extra incomes to survive the financial hardships in an economy coming out of recession.
The gaming industry in the country has seen exponential growth lately as participants in this industry stake through about 45 betting companies and websites, according to BusinessDay reports.
Those seen fuelling the revolution in this over N40billion industry are: Nairabet, Merrybet, Bet9ja, Naijabet, Lovingbet, Surebet247, Supabets, 1960bet, Nairastake, Parknbet, 360bet, Sportybet, Plusbet, Skybetnaija, 9jadollarbet, Visabet, Winnersgoldenbet, Bet365naija, Championsbet, Saharabet, Marsleisure, 9japredict, Superiorbet, Betcomplete, Royalbet, UBCbet, Accessbet, Betdey, Betwaynaija, and R&S Bet.
More Nigerians, especially youths from the age of 18 and 40 years are increasingly embracing this sports betting, making it the most popular emerging form of gambling in the country playing catch-up with what happens in Las Vegas in the US where Casinos and endless entertainment are primarily.
Other operators in the sport betting industry are: Naijagaming, Lionsbet, Megabet, Bigmoneybet, Powerbet, Naija4win, Yangabet, Ebonybet, Fortunebetng, Globalbet, Betwazobia, Betfada, Billionairebet, Lokabet, and Megastarbet.
Football fans who would rather support their teams for free, believe that they can earn money from predicting scores, match results and others.
About 60 million Nigerians between the ages 18 and 40 years spend up to N1.8billion on sports betting daily with an average investment of N3, 000 per day.
Also, the emergence of big brand sports events like the English Premier League, Laliga, Champions League, French Lique 1, Italian Serie A, and the German Bundesliga, among others have aided in fuelling this industry.
“The level of economic degradation in the country has lured many youth into the sports betting business act. The point is that there is poverty in the land, the people are looking for unexpected income, it is the same philosophy of pool, believing that one day good luck or jackpot will come,” said Mitchell Obi, a renowned sports analyst.
Obi, who said the “crushing poverty in the country is really driving the business as everybody wants an escape,” disagrees that passion for the game is driving youths into the sports betting industry.
“Passion is the advert they use in selling the business. Your passion can give you reward, but you must stake some amount by buying at least a ticket to stand a chance of winning, so it is still comes down to the level of unemployment in the country.”
Recent data shows that Nigeria’s unemployment rate ballooned to a seven-year high of 14.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
In that period, the number of unemployed went up by 3.5 million to 11.549 million people while the unemployment rate was higher for persons between 15-24 years old at 25.2 percent.
Mobile date penetration has enhanced the sports betting business significantly in the country as more Nigerians have access to internet at a lower cost.
There are about 149 million cell phone subscribers and 97 million internet users in Nigeria, with 76percent of this figure able to access the internet on their phones.
“This trend has been supported by improved mobile penetration and increased awareness through aggressive expansion and marketing by operators as well as technological improvements in payment platforms,” said the Osere Alakhume-led team of experts at Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC).
“To some extent, the need for additional income in the face of the recent economic recession which has left a number of youths unemployed and underemployed has provided a boost to the base of gaming users – in particular, sports betting and lotteries,” PwC noted.
A public opinion poll by NOIPolls in August 2017 revealed that gambling and betting are becoming very popular in Nigeria, particularly amongst the country’s bulging youth population and sports fans.
Interestingly, a significant proportion of Nigerians polled (77 percent) attested to the high prevalence of betting and gambling in their locality; particularly amongst respondents in the South-West (92 percent) and South-South (91 percent) geo-political zones, which recorded the highest prevalence.
It notes that betting has become a growing trend amongst young people who accounted for the highest proportion of Nigerians who engage in the practice.
Furthermore, in terms of active participation, 36 percent of those polled admitted that they personally engage or have family members who engage in betting; with more than half of this group of respondents (53 percent) engaging in daily betting, NOIPolls show.
Industry sources say over 100 gaming operators have been licensed by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) and the Lagos State Lotteries Board (LSLB) with other states, including Edo, making incursions into the sector.
According to Section 57 of the National Lottery Act (2005) – “lottery” or “lotteries” includes any game, scheme, agreement, system, plan, promotional competition or device for the distribution of prizes by lot or chance, or as a result of the exercise of skill and chance or based on the outcome or sporting events, or any other game, scheme, agreement, system, plan, competition or device, which the President may by notice in the Gazette declare to be lottery and which shall be operated according to a licence.
Folashade Gbenga-Dada, a psychologist links the rising interest in gaming to the economic situation, noting however, that some are habitual gamblers who may have been influenced by their upbringing and lifestyle.
Anibaba Seun, the general manager of Lagos State Lotteries Board, said against the background of the expanding industry, the board is well poised for effective regulation in Lagos, adding that the industry currently employs 50,000 people and still growing.
Information obtained from a 2015 publication on football betting in Nigeria, shows that most bets are placed in bet shops which are readily available in street corners, while an increasing number of customers are taking advantage of mobile penetration to place bets online.
Industry operators believe that as the number of internet subscribers keeps increasing, so will the number of game users, and there may be the need for mergers and acquisitions of fragmented small players in the industry.
“The growing Nigeria’s gaming industry is fragmented, with many small players. As user behaviour changes and spending needs increase, the industry could be forced to consolidate, in line with global trends,” said an industry source.
Quoting Digi-Capital, the Association of Nigerian Book Makers says $30.3 billion in gaming industry deals occurred globally in 2016, including $28.4 billion of mergers and acquisitions, representing a 77percent increase from 2015, spurred majorly by the growth in mobile and virtual reality.
“We expect to see consolidations, as there are currently over 100 licenses issued by both the National Lottery Regulatory Commission and Lagos State Lotteries Board,” the association submitted.
Anibaba of the Lagos State Lotteries Board listed the challenges facing the industry which the board is effectively monitoring as including gaming by underage persons (below 18 years) and illegal raiding of bet shops by security personnel, as well as jurisdictional issues with the national regulatory body.
Niyi Adekunle, MD/CEO of Lotgrand, operator of Grandlotto and FirstBet, said that job opportunities in lottery and sports betting are limitless; adding that the technology aspect of lottery business offers more jobs than one can imagine.
The industry, he said, is wide enough to the extent that it can generate employments for specialists. “The terminals commissioned daily are exposed to wear and tear. These terminals will be out of service someday. They would need repairs. Expertise is required in that area and more jobs can be created as a result”, he said.
Adekunle said that if the sport betting and lottery industry were managed well, it would contribute to the advancement of the economy.
He cited Croatia as a country that in 2015 funded 19 percent of its budget with revenue accrued from lottery. He said that ‘‘the current high patronage noticed in lottery by more Nigerians is not because of the economic recession as it is commonly speculated’’, insisting that the ‘’economic recession is a recent occurrence.”
He listed Morocco, Dubai, China and Singapore and other countries that are frontline lottery nations ‘’and are not in economic recession’’. In Asia, the continent earns billions of dollars from lottery. So it is all about planning and putting in place good policies.”
He explained that with London’s population of 8.6 million people, there are 38 companies running lottery and sports betting. “That is why the 2012 London Olympics Games was solely financed by revenue from lottery.”
According to him, playing lottery has become a pastime worldwide, as it has taken a different dimension in China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. These countries churn out volumes in revenue more than the United Kingdom. “China is not in recession. In our contemporary world, no economy has grown as fast as that of China,” said Adekunle.
By Nse Anthony-Uko