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Sports betting is one of the mutating aspects of Nigeria’s betting games. Betting in Nigeria dates back to the 70s when pools staking was the order of the day. As it started declining, the operators replaced the outdated system with a modern and sophisticated on-line sport betting, which is a shift from the old to the new order. The new on-line sport betting has the capacity to process a wider variety of transactions which is making the game more popular. Osaze Omoragbon has been diving into the weird, wonderful, and often bewildering world of the new on-line world of sport betting that is revolutionizing the business in Nigeria
Sports bet, once a dying business in Nigeria with the widely known variant, the football pools staking —vocation for the elderly— is seeing resurgence. Rebranded to appeal to the mass of the society, especially the youth, sprawling shops bearing brand names of sports bet companies printed in brightly-coloured banners now dot everywhere. Indeed, sport bet outfits such as 9jaPredict, Naira Bet, SureBet247 and 1960 Bet among others are now household names.
But what is driving sports bet in the country? Daniel Idara of 9jaPredict attributes this to the general love of sports especially football and predicts that the business will in no time take over the whole country. Anifowoshe Azeez, Director 9jaPredict, agrees. “Sports bet business is going to be like banking. Everywhere you go, you will see and feel it just like banks,” he says.
Nigerians are known to be sports lovers particularly football. It is common knowledge that whenever the country’s national teams at various levels are playing matches, the streets are literally empty just as productivity takes a hit during weekdays.
Interestingly, the rebranded business has gone beyond football bet. People are rapidly embracing other sports. Sports such as basketball have seen a spike in corporate sponsorship including electronic ads. Sports loving celebrities also increase the brand value of such sports. The Sprite Triple Slam — a hot mix of music, dance and basketball —a talent hunt show has seen a spike in registration and viewership since it was introduced.
Most critics denounce sports bet on moral and religious grounds. They say it encourages anti-social behaviour such as laziness, drinking, prostitution and breeds a culture of greed. Moreover, religious zealots claim it is against the tenets of the holy books – the Bible and Koran. Though Nigeria is a secular nation, religious values run deep.
However, supporters dismiss such claims, citing its benefits. “If they have their way, the religious establishment will seek a ban on sports bet, but we love it,” says Charles Adeniran, an agent to one of the sports bet companies.
To operators, everyone one way or the other engages in predicting, which is the technical name. “Predicting is just like the probability we studied in school,” 9jaPredict’s Idarra claims. According to him, everyone including clerics have one sport or team they love and support and often try to predict the outcome of a game.
What sports bet companies have done, according to operators, is to create the opportunity to test the knowledge and loyalty of fans as regard the teams they support. In the process, people wager on the outcome of their teams winning. Besides, the business has created job opportunities, boost tax payment, drive sports followership and bring awareness to those who have talent for sport among others.
In the past sports bet was land-based; that is walking into a staking shop to place bet, but today it has gone virtual. Without the need to go into staking shops hence avoiding the stigma associated with it, the online version is driving business. This is good business to operators whose cost will be held down. Moreso, they have devised an agent-based method as in the old, where those who are not internet/computer savvy can do business. To the outsider that is all there is. But a glimpse into the inner workings of online betting reveal a sophisticated network of IT.
The most important component of online betting is the security of the platform. It is not hard to know why: anonymity defines any online business.
Platforms that deal with monetary transactions are prone to hackers who are looking to steal the identity of customers. Any breach will spell doom for such businesses especially if the hackers succeed in taking over the gaming site. To keep hackers at bay, gaming sites continually update their security. Integrity tests are performed on sites to determine the security of the software.
Analysts say sports bet is also driven by the falling cost of pay-per-view cable TV such as Digital Satellite TV which enables fans to have more access to games. This, they say, locks fans into a pattern of fanaticism which encourages betting further.
Whatever the case, the consensus is that the business of sports bet is here to stay. All that is needed is effective government regulation that will ensure a level-playing field for all participants —operators and gamers alike.