Author: TUALE CHARLES AJUYAH

A quick google search for the most searched websites in Nigeria would present to you Bet9ja as number one. Intriguingly, it is also in the top 50 searched websites worldwide. This gives a microcosm of the extent of the boom in the sports betting industry in Nigeria. 

This piece does not seek to critique the industry nor support it, it seeks to accept it as a multi-billion naira industry, which is a quasi-stakeholder in the sports industry.

What is sports betting?

From the start, it is key to differentiate between gambling and betting. In the former, a player might play based on hopes that their wagered outcome will come to pass. Whilst betting involves a strategic selection of events and outcomes backed by data, research, and the player’s thought process. 

Therefore, sports betting involves the calculated and tactical wagering of money on the outcome or specific occurrences within a particular game or games. To be specific football games experience this boom in the betting industry. Along with fantasy leagues, betting on football games can be argued to be a part of football culture. Every match day, individuals gather at betting shops or as will be discussed later, go on their phones to bet on the games.

Why has Sports betting grown in the last decade? 

It is important to point out that betting is no new concept. People have always gambled on sports or simple things like card games and other trivial items, mostly between friends and colleagues. However, betting was always heavily denounced, mainly due to religious beliefs. 

In the last few years, most bookmakers going digital, along with the rise of the internet and smartphones have resulted in the first major cause of the sports betting industry boom. Individuals can now avoid the stigma of being known as a ‘gambler’ as well as going to their neighborhood bookie, and simply ‘stake’ from the comfort of their bed. Bettors also have the option to stream games on various betting applications. 

The second major cause for the growth of sports betting is the major economic instability the country has experienced over the past decade. The modernity of online betting has led many to believe that it is an ingenious way to escape poverty, and truth be told, there have been tales of people having their lives changed by winning millions on sports betting. This gives precedence for bettors to think each day will be their turn for fortune to favour. 

Why do people bet?

People bet for the aforementioned financial rewards of winning a bet. There is a certain buzz that comes with being financially invested in a particular result. Win or lose. It makes you come back. It is a great feeling when your team wins, even greater when the win comes with financial gains. A subplot to this is when they win, but the bet does not come off, as particular occurrences did not happen in the match. This gives the bettor the ‘better luck next time’ feeling. In another subplot, you have people betting on rival teams and putting sentiments aside for financial gains.

Another reason why people tend to engage in betting is that some consider themselves Einstein of football analysis. Sports betting is a calculated risk. As with every investment, there are possibilities that you do not yield a return on investments. Hence such persons engage in research, sometimes extensive and detailed, in other to understand player and team forms as well as underlying statistics. Such people believe their superior knowledge of the game, would make sports betting a cash cow for them.

Positives from the Industry 

Sports betting has changed the lives of many for the better. This is the major argument used by supporters of the industry, the economic advantage. 

Corporate executives have also seen that the industry increases fan participation, which in turn increases fan culture and engagement, hence it could be argued why 40% of the premier league teams in the 22/23 season are sponsored by betting companies. As aforementioned, sports betting is now ingrained into the sports subculture. The success of one leads to the improved popularity of the other.  The stakes are as high for teams as with bettors. It is no longer ‘just a game’ for bettors. There is a fraction of those who don’t like sports, but would seek advice to place bets to ‘win’.

Sports betting has also served as a means of employment and livelihood. Some individuals work in the physical betting shops, as those workers who design and maintain the apps and those who serve as ‘bet advisors’, all these individuals earn a living from the industry. 

Present downsides with the industry 

In Nigeria, major issues are with the legality of the industry. Yes, it is legal to own a betting firm as provided by the National Lottery Act 2005 and the National Lottery Regulations 2007. A prospective betting firm would acquire a National Lottery License obtained from the National Lotteries Regulatory Commission, and state licenses from areas of operations, however, the regulations are not as watertight as European counterparts who use the industry as a major source of a nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

Also, betting is limited to those legally considered adults (18 years), in reality, there is no enforcement of this, as younger ones who have access to smartphones and the internet can place bets at will.

Furthermore, the increase in popularity does not equate to less stigmatization of the industry, as Nigeria is a nation steeped in religious beliefs in which ‘gambling’ is a sin against the supreme being. 

Conclusion

It is clear that the sports betting industry has grown to be part of modern-day society, as more people are being invested in it. Everywhere adverts are promoting a betting firm. As life and technology keep improving, the industry becomes further immersed in sports culture and keeps building a fanbase that keeps growing. 

Tuale Charles Ajuyah is a legal practitioner, sports administrator, and mediator 

Email: [email protected]                Number: 08139254210

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.