HOW TECHNOLOGY IS IMPACTING THE GROWTH OF ONLINE SPORTS BETTING IN NIGERIA
By Chima Azu
Ever since the introduction of sports betting in Nigeria in 2007, technology has played a pivotal role in the evolution of the gaming industry. With majority of punters in Nigeria being youths, smart phones have been the key ‘tool’ used in booking games by the teeming youths. This help the punters in placing a wager on a given sport to derive a favorable outcome. Technology has also helped betting companies in terms of increase in patronage, by creating easier means in which punters can easily place wagers on any sport of their choice; be it dog or horse race, tennis, basketball, football etc.
Why football is the leading sport in Africa and Nigeria.
Football was first introduced to Africa in the late 19th century by the Europeans. The game which was first played in the continent in 1862, spread very quickly through the mission schools, the military and the railways according to Peter Alegi a historian. However, football clubs were established in South Africa before 1900, Egypt and in Algeria during similar period. It is undoubtedly the predominant sport in Africa.
Teams like Al Ahly of Egypt, Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa ,TP Mazemba of Congo DR and Esperance of Tunisia were top teams in Africa with massive supporters, who turn out in large numbers to watch their favorite teams play either home or away. Al Ahly the most successful African football club was founded in 1907, with 108 official trophies (99 domestic and 9 international). This makes it the third most successful football club in the world. Egypt is also the greatest African national team of all time, as they hold the record of most wins in Africa’s most prestigious trophy, the Africa Nations Cup with seven.
Africans are very passionate about football and they give total support to both their national teams and club sides. Football is widely accepted across the continent because it is a uniting factor irrespective of your backgrounds, race, culture or social affiliation. .
For football fans in Africa, the English Premier League (EPL) is king, the ultimate championship. It is the most watched and followed league and the teams in the EPL are the most supported in Africa. The global football brand is followed by more than a billion people and 260 million of these are in Africa, according to BBC. Teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and lately Manchester City are the most popular teams in Africa and they have massive following in the continent. The EPL has also been home to many African football legends, like the likes of Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, John Mikel Obi, Yaya Toure, Kanu Nwankwo, Roger Milla, El Hadji Diouf, Patrick Mboma just to mention a few. Also, African players are still taking the EPL by storm, with players like Mohammed Sallah and Sadio Mane, playing key roles in Liverpool’s success in Europe’s biggest and most competitive football club competition, the European Champions league.
Nigeria is not left out in the love for the ‘beautiful game’. Football is the predominant sport in Nigeria and its national team (the Super Eagles) competes regularly for international honors. Many of Nigerian players also ply their trade in different European leagues. Players like Austin jay jay Okocha, late Rashidi Yekini, Nwakwo Kanu, Dan the bull Amokachi, Peter Rufai and Vincent Enyama are some of Nigeria’s finest football export to Europe. The Super Eagles in 1994 were ranked 5th in the world in FIFA ranking and have won three Nations Cup and the men football team won gold in Atlanta in 1996.
Without mincing words, it is obvious that Africans love football and it’s not surprising that the round leather game enjoys massive followings in this continent. Looking at the height of poverty in the continent and countless players that have made fame and fortune out of football, football has and is still a means of eradicating poverty in Africa. Aside the continuous entertainment derived from it and football being a uniting factor, it is also a source of living for many.
The growth of sports betting in Nigeria
Just like every other country, Nigeria is rich in betting culture and that of sports betting is growing with lightning speed. Nigeria’s first sportsbook was registered in 2007, and ever since there have been no turning back. In 2014, reports emerged that Nigerians major punters were between the age of 18-40 and a staggering N1.8 billion was spent on sports betting every day, and that figure is still increasing. Research also shows that over 60 million Nigerians partake in sports betting daily. The figure amounts to over a third of the country’s entire population and today that figure has risen due to the growth of the internet. As of 2015, more than half of the country’s citizens had access to the internet and with the internet comes easy access to online sportsbooks.
Also with bettors discovering the ease and convenience of online betting, patronage has increased and keeps growing. Back then, punters had to walk some distance to locate betting shops or kiosk but now smart phones and personal computers have made it easier. Though large part of punters still prefer going to shops, many others have become use to betting online which is safe and easy to join. In addition, many of these betting sites now have means for their customers to cash out for ongoing games and also make payment for winnings easy. The increase competitions have made bettors spoilt with choice, with competitive odds and diverse sportsbook to choose from.
Back then Nigeria had only limited sportsbooks, but reverse is the case currently with numerous sportsbooks, betting shops and online betting sites like Bet9ja, Nairabet, Betking, Sportbet, 1xbet, Supabets, 360bet etc. These various betting companies has brought about increase in gaming and that in turn has increased competition between these betting companies, which has also brought about the growth of sports betting in Nigeria.
Movement from land base to online sports betting in Nigeria.
The rise of online betting is attributed to the increase use of smart phones, personal computers, internet speed and increasing easy access to the internet. In 2015, there were 51.8 million Nigerians with access to the internet, but as at 2019 the number has increased to 93 million. However, the major stumbling block to the growth of online sports betting in Nigeria is the high cost of data in the country. Many citizens of the country cannot afford smart phones let alone regular data subscription. Another hindrance to online betting is the fact that a lot of the youths don’t have a bank account.
However, the growing popularity of online sports betting in Nigeria is attributed to many factors and improve technology is one of the reasons. The ease at which anyone with mobile phone can place a wager has led to the astounding number of Nigerians (about 30% of the population) placing sports wagers on a regular basis. Also, the easy access to fund and withdraw from one’s betting account with the use of their phones is making punters prefer online sports betting to land base. In addition many do not want to be seen as ‘gamblers’ when walking into shops to place wagers; therefore, they prefer the online betting. Though many still prefer going to betting shops but with the increase in civilization, reduction and affordable smart phones and data, it is only a matter of time for online sports betting to overshadow land base sports betting.
Gambling in Nigeria is regulated by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission. Lottery was legalized with the National Lottery Act, 2005 and gambling is defined by chapter 22 of the Criminal Code Act enacted in 1990. The federal regulatory body is largely responsible for online registration and regulation. However, the law does not give overridden powers to the federal and there always clashes between the federal regulator and their state counterpart over who has powers to regulate. This confusion has impacted negatively on the growth of the gaming industry. The law also splits the games into two categories: The legal and illegal games. The legal games are lottery, land based casino, and sports betting. Roulette, dice games and non skilled card games are illegal. The law regulates slot machine activities and only licensed operators can provide slot machine game.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian regulatory law is quite on online space and there is no restriction for the people to reach local or foreign gambling sites. Although internet space is not mentioned exactly in the law, the companies are obliged to follow the regulations and laws and it is for the land based casinos. All types of online games are available, except those that are illegal. Also, the gambling age is defined by law, people below the age of 18 cannot wager.
Impact of technology
The impact of technology on online sports betting cannot be over emphasized. As a matter of fact, one will not be wrong to state that there will be no online sports betting without the advancement of technology. It is evident that technology has influenced gaming by increasing convenience for mobile customers so that gaming is accessible at all times. Creating betting accounts, cashing out, funding accounts, staking games, and many more are the innovations that technology has brought into sports betting. Mobile technology has also been a strong driving force in revolutionizing every aspect of the gaming industry. Today, mobile gambling accounts for over a third of the total amount of money staked worldwide, and the amount is growing daily with the advancement in technology.
Customer experience has also improved, all thanks to technology, many sports betting operators now offer personalized services to their customers; Sportybet is a very good example, they have a platform on their mobile app where they offer live chat to customers on areas which they need help or answers to questions. Virtuals are not only played on television screens in betting shops alone, one can place wagers on virtuals on his or her own convenience with their smart phones.
Technology has played a huge positive impact in the gaming world by incorporating the latest technological advancements in providing customers with the best gambling experience. It is without doubt that technology is playing a salient role in the evolution of gaming in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large.
Impact of payment system
The payment system which is the means through which customers easily make deposits and withdrawals on their betting accounts is growing, all thanks to technology. Most of these payments platforms can be done with the use of internet banking: bank accounts are being used to fund betting accounts; investments into E-wallet have increased tremendously in the past five years. Electronic payment platforms like quickteller, Opay, paystack and interswitch just to mention a few of the new innovative payment structures available to punters. Using Bet9ja and Sportybet as case study, they make use of ATM cards to fund their betting accounts and within minutes the customer’s account is funded and same goes when making withdrawals as well.
These various payment platforms have made life easier for customers when it comes to depositing and making withdrawals and It has also afforded punters numerous options to choose from. Some recent research conducted by Paysafe shows that 86% of customers prefer platforms with payments via mobile wallets and casino players are switching to mobile versions too. This means that apart from enjoying the game anywhere anytime, they would have mobile payments options as well. The payment system has obviously brought about positive growth to online sports betting and it is without doubt that the growth will continue with new innovations and technology coming up. This will at the long run or no distance time lead to a paradigm shift from land base which is very popular in this part if the world to online.
Positive innovations that has impacted online betting.
It is true that smart phones and personal computers (PCs) have become virtually everything to us; they perform so many functions that it’s already impossible to imagine our lives without them. Punters these days needs fast and secure payments and this is one of the impact technology has brought to the growing online betting industry. Another impact is cashout in football betting, when a wager is ongoing, a punter can cash out a certain amount fixed by the sportbook. Prior to this time, especially when a wager is not going as predicted, the punter loses it all but now the reverse is the case; before the game ends the bettor can quickly cashout certain amount and not losing it all especially when the punter staked really high.
Negative impact of the growth
With the convenience to deposit one’s betting account and the easy means to place wagers online, this has led to the increase rate of irresponsible gambling. Responsible gaming organizations are springing up in the advanced world but we don’t have such organizations in the part of the world. Gambling addiction and underage betting are prevalent in our society. It is a common site to see young people in betting shops wagering and punters are becoming addictive with no solution in site. Self exclusion and other means put in place to enhance safe gambling by regulatory organizations in the federal, states and betting companies are not adhered to and neither are they promoted by gambling companies. The easy access and convenience which the growth brings can also be of great disadvantage with a negative impact on the industry.
Gains and projections
It is without doubt that technology has brought about growth in online betting and with new innovations; definitely the growth will be continuous. One of the gains of technology in sports betting is live betting, where a punter can place wagers on games that are happening live. Streaming games live is another gain, Sportybet for example has an avenue where their customers with internet access can stream few selected matches live.
The ability to keep up with the changing trends and innovations is what has helped propel the growth of online sport betting to become the multibillion dollar industry that it has turned into today. And with the evolving technological world and new innovations, it is obvious that the future of sports betting can only keep growing positively and number of punters increasing.