As sporting competitions around the world ground to a halt, sports betting has quickly followed suit as there can be no sports betting without sports. With this reality comes a more worrying situation: a drop in revenue of the operators, their agents and, interestingly, their customers.
Operators of sports betting companies like Bet9ja, NairaBet, BetKing etc are lamenting the current realities on the ground as the spread of COVID-19 has halted sports activities around the world. It has incapacitated sports betting and generally flattened the revenue curve for them.
“A business that has been badly hit by this shutdown is the sports betting business. No sports. No deposits. No income.”Akin alabi, owner of popular sports betting platform, NairaBet
Mr Alabi’s sentiment is echoed by many other operators of sports betting enterprises, especially the agents who depend on commissions from betting to make a living.
“It’s affecting us big time,” Abass Maliki, an agent with Bet9ja said. “Sometimes I feel like not going to work, but then I realize that commission is the only way out.”
But operators and agents aren’t the only ones lamenting the current circumstances as customers who place bets on sports betting platforms are complaining about the drop in their own revenue.
At a time like this when everyone is locked down with too little cash at hand, having a major source of online revenue locked down as well represents a big blow.
What sports betting customers are saying
Many customers who spoke with me think they have been losing money since the lockdown. While their periodic turnovers may not really have been much, they say the money nonetheless goes a long way in solving some financial needs like payment of utility bills etc.
I feel like I’m losing money minute after minute. It may not be much but it pays when you kinda need cash at times.Uthman Abiodun online betting customer
Chinwike, another punter, echoes the same sentiment insisting that sports betting is a huge income generator for him.
“Sports betting is a source of income for me 150%. With sports betting, I am sure to make at least #5000 every week. This money ensures that I don’t need to touch my monthly salary. With this lockdown, I think I have lost thousands of naira already. I can’t wait for this nightmare to end.”
Another sports betting customer, Christian, while admitting the business is too risky to be taken as a regular source of income however puts it in a clearer perspective.
“The lockdown no doubt has really affected the rate at which I bet. Back then I’d put about 50,000 and be sure of making 100% profit or more because there were different markets available to pick from. Though I lose sometimes, the risk of loss was less. But right now you have just a few markets to pick from mostly virtual and zoom. Or you go to their outlets to stake on their different virtual options, and all these options have really high risks of losing attached to them.”– Christian
The sentiments expressed above captures the general mood of sport betting customers.
In a country with a teeming population of youths and adults who are mostly jobless or underemployed, alternative sources of income will always be welcome. Betting inclusive!
Will customers lose interest in sports betting?
When you Match the revenue source to football, a sport that is already the most popular form of entertainment in the country and indeed the world, you have a situation akin to making money while doing what you absolutely love.
For sports betting customers, nothing could be better.
However, with the lockdown, they have lost that necessary luxury. And depending on how long it lasts, I wondered if some may just decide to lose it for good. But the customers insist that won’t happen.
“It’s possible that I may lose a bit of interest in it,” Chinwike admits. “But my love for sports is deep. Sports betting is business to me. I don’t think I will ever stop doing business.”
Adeleke, another sports betting customer says no matter how long the lockdown last, he’s into sports betting for the long haul.
“Even if the lockdown continues for months, I won’t lose interest,” he simply told me.
For Christian, it would take a lot more than just a lockdown to make him lose interest in sports betting.
“It will take more than a lockdown to stop me from betting,” he said. “I’ve not reached my target yet so I’m still sailing.”
In general, sports betting companies like can be rest assured that their customers are not only patiently waiting, they really can’t wait to get back to winning ways.
Virtual sport is an option… Not a real option
When sports betting companies first appeared in Nigeria, they appeared mainly as online betting companies with exactly zero offline presence.
This was due to a number of reasons, one of which was nobody wanted to invest in physical structures for sports betting in a country where public morality at the time dictated that its predecessor, the pool betting, is harmful and evil.
Moreover, many of the platforms were foreign and only had interest in taking all they can from Nigerians without investing much. However, Bet9ja came in 2013 and blew sports betting wide open.
Virtual games were also introduced so that people didn’t need to wait until there was an actual game to place their bets.
The fact that sports-betting in Nigeria is mainly attached to football games also played a huge role. While virtual sports such as virtual football, dog and horse races have been touted as possible replacements to actual football games, agents and customers alike think virtuals are nothing compared to the real deal.
From an operator’s angle, Akin Alabi admits virtual sports won’t be able to sustain sports betting businesses at this time.
“Yes there is virtual sports but it’s the only consolation. I know some companies will have to send staff on unpaid leave very soon.”
From an agent’s angle, without a commission from real betting, their business is under threat. While there is a commission to be made from virtual betting, it doesn’t compare to the commission amassable from the real thing.
Virtual Games are Not Real…
The customers overwhelmingly agree that virtual sports don’t come anywhere near as good as the real deal. Their conviction is mostly based on how risky virtual games are.
“Betting on virtual sports is not an option for me,” Christian says. “It’s a no-go area for me. It’s completely unpredictable.”
Chinwike agrees that virtual soccer is bad for business. According to him, losing to a computer algorithm that you can’t even learn anything that would improve your competence from doesn’t make sense.
“It doesn’t make any sense. I can understand if Real Madrid or Arsenal or even Manchester City cuts my ticket. They are all actual teams with actual players and actual strategies playing against actual opposition. I can learn from the mistakes I notice and make more money tomorrow. But losing your money on virtual games is like actually losing your money for absolutely nothing in return.”
Others like Adeleke believe virtual games are just too addictive and therefore should be avoided. However, Abiodun thinks virtual games are worthwhile because it guarantees quick money.
“I can’t speak for others but for me, virtual sports is not a viable option. The faster the better and it saves me all the stress and suspense of having to wait, sometimes for days, for a permutation of games to finally cut”, Abiodun told me.
In the final analysis…
While many Nigerians have learned the art of playing sports betting on their devices in the comfort of their homes, others throng to betting shops to place their stakes. Whether you play on your device or at a betting shop, sports betting is almost grounded like everything else.
The good news for operators and agents however is that majority of their customers are patiently waiting and are indeed in a hurry to get back to winning ways.
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