In the commercial nerve centre in Nigeria, Lagos, shanty wooden structures using several a tv, seats along with a satellite dish are common sight. These sites called 'seeing centres', offer a majority of the football-mad people in the city the opportunity to watch the European football league games, normally for less than a dollar. As the popularity of those matches grew in the early 2000s, thus did the presence of these centres that are viewing.
With enthusiastic fans, these locations are usually packed on match-days rooting for their favourite teams but more recently, a keen observer might find buffs at viewing centres clutching a white piece of paper and athletic replica jerseys - a 'ticket'. Despite the belief that sport betting kicked off in Nigeria just recently, the initial sport betting companies recorded their first entry into the market in 2007.
Typically, sport wagering involves punters forecasting the outcome of matches and getting their bets to correspond with all the stakes. The bets are rewarded with winnings that were stipulated in the event the predictions are right. In Nigeria, where there are millions of soccer fans that were unbelievably enthusiastic, sport gambling has found its proverbial home.
Finally, fans began to research the actual possibility of not merely watching football but also earning profits from these games played thousands of miles away. For fans who watch football the capability to earn money out of it has presented an opportunity too good to pass up.
Cash is the name of the game
Typically, fans are used to hosting heated conversations on the huge weekly wages of the favourite footballers but that dialog on its head has turned. As the sport is now a viable revenue stream, their gains are now discussed by soccer fans from bets. Every other weekend, gaming firms announce huge winnings from bets placed with sums as low as N100 (50 cents)
Of raking in millions from amounts that are meagre, the possibility is motivation for punters across the nation to gamble on a daily basis and because of this, betting firms record numbers that are hugely impressive. CEO of Stakersden, Ademola Adebajo, a top gambling business in Lagos, jobs that stakes that are daily run into billions of Naira.
Punters in the country are seeing this as a source of daily bread and it's also not uncommon to see people appropriating a particular sum for gambling daily," Adebajo said.
Despite the high levels of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria, punters cut regardless of getting abilities across various demographics.
Recently, as Nigeria is becoming a booming marketplace, capture market share to various measures of succeeding and sports betting businesses have sought to latch on.
The default business model finds the firms set up shop in a principal working office while trying to establish a broad network of affiliate agents who start mortar and brick shops where clients may come in to place bets. On the stakes placed in their stores, affiliate store owners, or brokers as they're officially known, earn commissions for their part in the company chain. Sports betting businesses also manage an internet business model manipulating the net penetration in Nigeria while the offline component booms.
The Nigerian Communications Commission declared that internet users in the nation had reached 97 million, last month. With more than half of the country online, gaming businesses understand the need to set up workable online operations. With this function, websites are set up to start personal accounts where they run trades which range from placing stakes, depositing funds into an online wallet and transferring winnings earned from bets to their own bank accounts. While some companies investigate both models sharply, others like NairaBet just elect to stay mostly on-line versions so sidestepping the fiscal and logistical implications of setting up and running a large-scale offline model.
The initial step however, is buying a gaming license at a yearly price of N10 million ($50,000) from regulators.
In reality, the inability to pay up promptly after huge wins continues to be recognized to cause serious embarrassment for betting companies and on some events, eventual closing. Last May, on a weekend that saw few upsets & most predicted results clicking, punters on bet9ja nigeria.com
, the market leader in the sport betting space were said to have garnered up to N700 million ($3.5m) in winning bets. To its credit, Bet9ja paid quickly- a feat that cannot be matched by a few other firms. Yet, weekends like those are few and far between and more often than not, the betting companies make record enviable amounts and healthy gains.
Clearly, the company landscape is changing fast as gambling companies compete vigorously for market share. According Adebajo of Stakersden, gambling companies with real goals of domination can no longer play little to. Companies like Bet9ja have come into the market to redefine how sport betting ought to be performed and every operator is responding to the developments," he said. "The business landscape has went from trying to open a corner store someplace and offer gambling services to folks. The huge companies are continuously innovating and upping the ante in the business. New entrants will need essential start-up capital to measure up."
The need for initiation has found firms seek means to make betting easier and less prohibitive as live phone gaming services are started.
Adebajo says the following stage of evolution will probably be fuelled by foreign investment, while some think the Nigerian market has already been saturated and can no longer evolve. "Foreign firms happen to be licensed to operate here and more are expecting to secure licenses or to partner with local operators. So in the next 5 years, we expect to see foreign companies taking a ball of the shareholding of a few of these businesses to compete."
An improbable solution
Given Nigeria's high unemployment figures, the creation of jobs by the private sector is important and in this aspect, the effect of sport betting has been profound. While other focus on maximizing their reach regionally, the sector has created a large number of jobs directly and indirectly with nationwide operations running. Joseph Chukwu, a store and grad owner in Ikorodu, says sport gambling really has been a lifesaver. "There are not any jobs in the country even for qualified graduates," he said. Initially while something larger came along, I thought of it as something to do but now I am focusing on creating a chain of shops and being a mogul of forms. It might seem silly but I Have gone from searching for work to truly building a business."
Adebajo thinks the employment issues and high rate of poverty ensures that the opportunity to earn a living from sports can hardly be ignored. "Majority of Nigerians live below the poverty line and any activity that can legitimately turn a little bit of money into substantial amounts will always be appealing." The opinions of Adebajo are backed from the numerous instances when Nigerians have fallen victim to fraudulent multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes. Given the legitimacy of sport gambling, its appeal is ostensible.
In under a decade, the sport wagering business has grown vastly and become not just a revenue stream for most Nigerian punters but also big occupation development vehicle. Following and observing football matches are no longer only a simple amateur pastime, a late winning goal scored in the English Premier League or in the German Bundesliga is no longer worth just three points - to get a football fan, it can pay for the following meal.