Betting on the odds: A Look at Nigeria’s Million Dollar Sports Betting Industry

The multi-billion dollar sport betting industry is growing astronomically and it’s starting to become a phenomenon across Africa.

Betting companies have capitalized on the football fervor on the continent, and have designed and deployed betting platforms where fans can wager small bets and win big amounts of money. Betting houses can now be spotted in almost every street in Lagos, new ones are springing up daily, apparently there’s good money to be made and everyone wants to be a part of it.

A leading report on Gambling in Africa published in 2016 by KPMG reeled out some startling numbers on the sports betting industry in Nigeria. As at 2016, the leading sports betting company, Bet9ja rakes in an average monthly turnover of $10m while the number 2 player behind Bet9ja, NairaBet makes an average turnover of $3m-$5m, a 20-30% margin on profit.

Perhaps, this is one of those scenarios where we say ‘ignore to your own peril’.

About 70% of sport betting trade has been estimated to come from trading on football, where you can bet on the first and last goal-scorer, the correct score, the half-time score, number of goals, whether there will be a sending-off, a hat-trick, penalty or the amount of corners. Some markets that are time specific go as far as offering odds on whether there might be a goal, card, corner or penalty in the first five minutes of the match, for example.

Robert Matijević, Senior Product Manager at NSoft (world’s leading sports data provider) in an article noted that, “Africans are well known as football passionate and by knowing that a lot of African football players are stars in famous European clubs”. The fact that football bets are the most widespread doesn’t come as a surprise he said.

Recently, the growth of the internet and mobile devices that provides quick access to odds, has made betting generally much more accessible. Satellite television channels and increased coverage of live football matches around the world has increased interest and opportunity.


Supporters of sports betting in Africa claim it’s a business that offers employment to thousands of young people, provides quick money for ordinary people, generates tax revenue for government and contributes to economic growth in African countries.

South African market generates the biggest turnover, while the most populated African country-Nigeria, is already experiencing transition from significant retail market towards online market. According to PWC, those two markets along with Kenya will be worth approximately $37 billion in 2018. However, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana can be stated as markets with biggest sports betting popularization.

According to a recent investigation, roughly 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are involved in active sports betting. On average, these punters spend around 3,000 Naira (about $15) every day on bets. Accordingly, almost 2 billion naira is spent on sports betting daily in Nigeria, which translates to nearly 730 billion Naira in a year.

A poll that investigated why Nigerians bet on football games weekly, revealed that Nigerians bet on football because it is a way to make quick money, distraction from the high rate of unemployment and human greed, among other reasons.

Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria increased to 25.20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 from 25 percent in the third quarter of 2016. Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 19.20 percent from 2014 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 25.20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 and a record low of 11.70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

For most of these young Nigerians, betting seems appealing as most of them are jobless, over 30 million youth unemployed and without a means of livelihood.

Asides gambling, some conservative Africans are of the opinion that betting should be discouraged as it promotes the culture of easy-fast money, laziness, and subdues the importance of hard work as well as the wealth organic growth process where money is been invested and yields profit after a given period.

“I regret the day I started gambling” said Henry, who decided to keep at it after winning 20,000, after which he proceeded to use his school savings of 3 years to bet on games without winning anything.

Without doubt, gambling comes with great risks and with some of these risks comes losses (some that could be affordable and some that could be too much to bear). Bearing in mind always is the fact that betting relies on uncertainties and one must be able to handle whatever comes with making such decision.

Football betting for some, has been more of a blessing in disguise, to them a big win after several trials. They believe the pain and losses of yesterday is worth it.

Clinton , 27, an unemployed Nigerian youth with a Masters degree who resides in Lagos Nigeria, experienced his big win when he won 6 million Naira after staking 1,000 Naira. For Clinton, betting was just the ultimate.

When asked what he used the money for he said, “I took my guys out for a treat, sent part of the money to my folks at home and used the rest to by stuffs I need at home”.

“It was an amazing experience” he tells TheNerveAfrica. “It felt like a dream until I checked multiple times and saw the money in my account. One of the best times of my life so far” he added.

Due to the easy-fast money making nature of sport betting, proceeds from such activity are often squandered without any form of accountability or a thought to invest the proceeds into something substantial.

Sports’ betting serves as a source of income for most people that participate and it provides an extended source of entertainment to sports lovers, despite the anxiety that comes with it. Channeled appropriately, it can promote domestic sports.

As an individual seeking to be a sports’ betting operator in the betting industry, it is a lucrative business to tap into with wonderful investment opportunities that comes with it. However, caution needs to be taken by vulnerable Nigerians who are in the danger of gambling addiction.

Considering the level of the industry’s growth in Nigeria, there is need for proper regulation of the industry as policies of checks and balances have to be in place.