Sports Betting: The Unchecked Rise of a Billion Naira Gambling Epidemic in Nigeria


With the massive love for sports – especially football – in Nigeria, the sports betting industry has thrived in the last 10 years. This is because sports lovers have found a way of putting their ‘money where their mouth is’ with hopes of getting ‘a reward’ for their enthusiasm.

And with the evolution of the internet, betting has become more accessible than it has ever been. Smartphones and laptops mean punters can now place bets at any time from anywhere and cash out their winnings without having to go to a physical shop.

This in addition to the high youth unemployment rate and love for sports has buoyed the influx of punters, mostly millennials, into the game. According to reports, 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40, are involved in active sports betting – online and offline.

Fueled by this massive following, prominent bookmakers like Bet9ja and Nairabet record massive traffic on their sites. Bet9ja, for example, is the 3rd most visited site in Nigeria according to Alexa rankings with a monthly figure of 28 million unique visitors on its platform.

And it’s not peculiar to Nigeria. A recent poll conducted across sub-Saharan Africa by the mobile survey company GeoPoll, showed that 54% of millennials (17-35-year-olds) in Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya have tried gambling.

A betting shop in Nigeria. Source: Twitter

This numbers certainly support that online sports betting is growing but there’s no confirmed data on the tole gambling is taking in communities. Hence, it’s not certain that this has had any negative impact. In fact, based on the influx of new players to the N5bn industry and the government’s efforts aimed at assisting the lottery commission to generate money for the federal government – these results are most likely seen as positive.

However, many have raised concerns about addiction to gambling with the youths particularly vulnerable.

Recently, a Twitter user shared a story of why he began speaking out against sport betting. According to him, his mom’s chauffeur attempted suicide and barely survived after running into debts from his betting escapades.

Apparently, he had always had a gambling habit but going to shops to play the bets had restrained him until access to online betting tipped the balance.

This is just one of the many stories of young individuals who have borne the brunt of addiction to gambling.

This has led to governments like Kenya and Uganda suspending the licenses of betting firms as well as banning sports betting sites altogether.

But users on social media, have come out to say this might not happen in Nigeria as many of these bookmakers are in bed with the government.

The truth is, without clear evidence of an increase in gambling addiction having a negative effect along with the increasing punters and bookmakers, it is quite difficult to see the talk of an epidemic as more than media sensationalism.

Nevertheless, addiction is a real concern and compulsive gamblers might need to seek help to stop before they ruin themselves while also exploring other means of investment.

Feature image source:

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