Last month, the world marked International Youth Day which aims to spread the awareness about youth and draw attention to issued faced by the youth across the globe. It recognizes and celebrates the contributions of youth to their local societies and studies the issues that affect them. It also examines the position of the youth in each individual country. One such country examined closely was Nigeria.
On International Youth Day 2021, it was found that more young people that ever engage in gambling in this African country. There are currently over 200 million people living in Nigeria, and half of those are young people.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, 60 million Nigerians (4 out of 10) actively engage in sports betting, spending a whopping $5.5 million on the activity every day. A quick calculation puts that number at $2 billion annually.
The typical Nigerian gambler is male, between the ages of 18 and 40. Half of them place a bet at least once a day.
Nigeria is the second largest online gambling market on the entire African continent, second only to South Africa.
Gambling is Not New in Nigeria
Gambling has always been a popular pastime in Nigeria, even before the internet was introduced in the mid-1990s. Betting pools were always very much part of the country’s landscape, but with the internet came greater accessibility to sports betting.
Younger gamblers used the internet – and, later their mobile phones – to access popular betting sites that sprung up like mushrooms in the rain.
Tapping into this new demographic of the average gambler in Nigeria, marketing campaigns took a new turn. Celebrities and sports stars became brand ambassadors for sportsbook operators. Also, betting companies found ways to enter the mainstream of Nigerian entertainment, such as sponsoring reality shows such as Big Brother Naija, which have a huge following of young people.
There are essentially three types of online betting options available to sports fans: placing a bet in a betting shop, directly online at a Nigerian-licensed online betting site or using offshore betting sites. Improved technology in Nigeria means that most of the population have access to mobile devices and affordable internet.
The Darker Side of Online Gambling
An increasing number of young people in Nigeria face economic uncertainty and social exclusion.
Nigeria is only now peeping out of a difficult recession and has an unemployment rate of over 30%. The appeal of getting rich quick by gambling may seem tempting to Nigeria’s average youth.
Some of them have taken to seek ways to make money in a risky way, or even illicitly. In extreme circumstances, the unscrupulous have readily jumped on the bandwagon of quick-rick gambits, including both online gambling sites and riskier investments such as pyramid schemes and novel cryptocurrencies.
Sports Mad Country
Yet most youth in Nigeria simply enjoy engaging in gambling activities, with an emphasis on sports betting. Nigeria is a country that is passionate about sport, and many youngsters find that betting on their favorite sports and leagues is the ideal way to engage with their sports heroes, with the additional bonus of possibly making a few dollars in the process.
Government Eyes Sports Betting Industry
With so much money being spent, the Nigerian government wants to tighten local tax laws and ask betting companies to pay more taxes. Sportsbook operators are obviously not keen on the idea and are doing everything they can to fight the government on its plan to impose tax on betting stakes.
It would be beneficial for all stakeholders to reach an agreement – for the government, for the people of Nigeria (especially the young people) and for the sports betting operators.
Bookmakers create employment opportunities for thousands of Nigerians, with the potential to only increase that number.
Betting companies have formed partnerships and signed sponsorship agreements with Nigerian teams and companies in other industries. Many are title sponsors for some of the country’s biggest leagues such as the Nigerian National League.
The growing popularity of online sports betting has also positively impacted other industries such as banking, telecommunications and payment gateways.
It is clear that online betting among Nigeria’s youth will only become more popular in the coming years. As long as the government issues such as problem gambling, cybercrime and shady investment schemes under control, online gambling could only benefit the country in the long run.