As poverty, unemployment grows, more Nigerians turn to football betting

Blaise Thompson regularly reads up his favourite betting website, before leaving his home at Sunny Vale Estate, in Abuja, to stake between N2, 000 and N10, 000 a week, at a nearby outlet.

If there are varieties of top football teams against weaker sides, Mr. Thompson said, he can wager N30, 000 in a week. And if he is fortunate, the returns come in thousands of naira. Once, he won N108, 000 after venturing N30, 000.

“I have won several times I cannot recall the exact number of times I won. My biggest was N108, 000 which I staked N30, 000 for it, and the least amount I have won was N14, 000,” said the final year political science student at Crawford University recently.

It’s not always rosy, of course.

Jonathan Chukwudifu, who studies computer science at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology told PREMIUM TIMES how he has become so hooked to the game that despite losing majority of the time, the thrill of a single win wipes the haunting memories of past losses.

“You won’t believe that I have played this soccer betting with my school fees and lost N50, 000 that was meant for my tuition fee,” he said.

Amid growing poverty and rising unemployment numbers, more Nigerians are investing their lean resources, time and energy in football betting.

The National Bureau of Statistics says unemployment grew from 8.2% in the third quota of 2015 to 12.5 % in the first quota of 2016.

As more people find it difficult to get paid jobs or feed in Nigeria, they are taking advantage of lifesaving opportunities in the booming football betting industry, a sector fueled by an unprecedented craze for foreign leagues such as the English Premiership, Spanish Laliga, German Bundesliga and Italian Seria A.

With the right predictions, a N100 stake can easily return millions of naira.

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“My biggest win was N70, 000 and the least I have won was N10, 000,” said Chukwudifu. “In between, I have been winning amount like N25, 000, N30, 000 and N15, 000 with just one hundred naira. I often play the game week in, week out, there is always a game to play, I play every league; name them.”

Odds of the game

From brands such as Sportybet, Bet9ja, Nairabet, Merrybet, to Winners golden bet, and Access bet, contemporary soccer staking is markedly different from the earlier pool coupon for reasons.

A key dissimilarity is that football bookmaking is now almost real time, with internet and satellite television technologies. Bettors can forecast and stake, with an option of paying at the nearest betting center where an identification slip is issued.

For each game, “odds” that bring bonuses are generated by bookmakers who evaluate the variables of a particular game. A better team playing against a weaker side naturally has lower odds value, and attracts less price money. The reverse is true.

The odds start from 1.00 to as much as 5000.00, and depending on the amount and number of matches one places his bet on, and the generated odds, a N200 can return N5000.

A player can increase his odds by adding more matches to his prediction, and the winning price is displayed immediately you place a bet.

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Besides directly staking money for a win, thousands of Nigerians have also found opportunities in working as agents for the betting companies.

Femi Johnson, who has been in the business since 2012, says his brand, Nairabet, has weekly and monthly plans.

To register as an agent of Nairabet, he said, a person must create an account with the organization and credit it with a reasonable amount of money.

“I operate on their monthly plan, whereby the total stake accumulated for the month is subtracted and the money given out to our potential winners. So at the end of the day the difference is the profit generated for the particular month and is shared equally with the mother company (Nairabet),” he said.

Mr. Johnson, who has several centers in Abuja, says he opens them by 8am to 6pm. At an average, he says at least 1,000 people bet at his centers daily.

Concerns

There are also regulatory concerns, and the most common are complaints that some centers fail to pay winners.

Adolphus Ekpe, the director general of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, which supervises the industry, said the government was improving its ability to provide checks to ensure transparency and accountability.

“We have given notice to all those who have been carrying out these activities that please come and regularise and subject yourself to regulations, so that you will do it in a transparent way and be accountable to the country,” he told the News Agency of Nigeria last week.

But the success stories seem to be more. Many winners tell PREMIUM TIMES that they receive their payments on time.

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Mr. John, the betting shop owner, said there could only be some delays with payment if a win exceeds the capacity of the outlet. In that case, the mother company pays.

“If for example one wins N2 million in a bet and as an agent I cannot pay, nairabet takes full responsibility of the payment which is basically concluded in 48 hours,” he said. “As a shop owner if the mother company pays a winner such amount, then the percentage for that month will not be 50-50 as it is; it shall be way above 50 per cent depending on what was the agreed percentage between you as an agent and Nairabet in my case.”

However the concerns, the sector is growing and only a few prospective bettors —if any – are dissuaded by the prospect of losses.

In 2015, a Computer Engineering professor from the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, won a humongous amount of N58, 945, 553 with just a N800 total bet on 1960BET. That remains the biggest win in Nigeria to date.

The winner, Godwin Ighalo, said he had been betting for over 25 years but he always believed that one day, “luck would shine on me”.

Chidi Eddie, who sells clothes at Gumi market in Kaduna said he would never leave betting after he successfully revived his shop with the N900, 000 he won.

“I have been staking my money on soccer without winning not until I put in my entire savings of N100, 000 to stake on what they call sure bet, that is teams that are reliable to win their games. I was lucky and eventually won N900, 000.”

He said he suspended all soccer betting activities so he could recoup his losses from the previous ventures.

Chukwudifu, the computer science student said he has reached the point of addiction after only three years. But he has an advice.

“My advice goes to those that have not started playing soccer betting they should not engage or even try it at all because when you start, it becomes addictive and difficult to stop,” he said.

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