CORONAVIRUS WREAKS HAVOC ON SPORTS BETTING INDUSTRY
By Iwo Bulski
Sports betting is an extremely profitable business in Nigeria, with roughly 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 involved in active sports betting. Reports say on average, these punters spend around N3,000 every day on bets.
A leading report on Gambling in Africa published in 2016 by KPMG reeled out some startling numbers on the sports betting industry in Nigeria. As at 2016, the leading sports betting company in Nigeria, Bet9ja rakes in an average monthly turnover of $10m while the second player in the industry, NairaBet makes an average turnover of $3m to $5m with a 20-30% margin on profit.
NairaBET was the first domestic online sports betting website in the country. Ever since, many more gambling websites have opened shop in Nigeria including Bet9ja, BetKing, Betway, MerryBet, SureBet, GoldenBet, Bet365, Betfair, 888sport, 1XBet, Betwinner, amongst several others.
Truly, the Nigerian sports betting and gaming industry has grown astronomically in the last three years. This exceptional growth can be attributed to the large population of the nation and increased access to internet devices.
The advent of the thriving industry provided Nigerian fans with the opportunity to earn money from what they loved. This ranged from online poker, casino games, and sports betting.
It didn’t matter if you had an idea of the sport; there were guidelines online to help you become a better pundit in the betting industry.
Right now, the popularity of the business has seen sport betting shops spotted in almost every street in Lagos, with new ones propping up daily.
In fact, a betting firm has the second most visited website in Nigeria, according to alexa.com, as bettors flock the various online platforms in search of winning odds and numbers.
But that’s as far as it went before the outbreak of the coronavirus, which led to the suspension of sporting activities worldwide and in extension, the shutting down of business for the punters. For both operators of the betting companies and their clients, it’s been business unusual.
While companies are ruing the reduction in the revenue they accrue from people who visit their sites to place bets, punters, who see betting as a means of increasing their income, are also at a loss. Workers of betting companies and punters who spoke with our correspondents complained on how the inactivity in sports had affected their businesses. A member of the House of Representatives and founder of betting company, NairaBET, Akin Alabi, voiced the frustrations of other stakeholders in the industry when he admitted that sports betting was one of the worst hit since the virus outbreak.
“A business that has been badly hit by this shutdown is the sports betting business. No sports. No deposits. No income. Yes there is virtual sports but it’s only a consolation. I know some companies will have to send staff on unpaid leave very soon,” Alabi wrote on Twitter.
Jamiu Otokihla took care of daily needs through extra cash he made courtesy of betting, but that has been cut short due to the shutdown.
He said, “I normally get some fund from betting every week no matter how small to add to my daily spending but since last week, the odds have dropped, and we can no longer punt well again. If this coronavirus continues it will affect a lot of businesses and movements.”
It’s also a tale of lamentation for Mukaila Ariyo, a vulcaniser.
“The coronavirus has affected me; I can’t stake as much as I do. I remember before the outbreak; I staked a lot to boost my chances of winning,” Ariyo stated.
“I can carry games or fixtures from other leagues and place a certain amount on them, the more the options, the better your chances of winning.
“But, since this coronavirus started, I have not been able to make much, you know, the chances are slim, and one can’t make money. At least if the season was still on, I would have made money but, now no matches, nothing. I don’t know which matches and leagues that are still on, I pray this disease just go, so, that I can make some money.”