The cancellation of sports events around the globe due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused by the coronavirus has thrown Nigeria’s sports betting industry into turmoil. Bookmakers and operators reported that revenues have dwindled while bettors also face a loss of income due to lockdown.

sports betting nigeria
Source: Emilio Garcia on Unsplash

According to reports, the Nigerian sports betting industry was worth approximately 730 billion Naira ($2 billion) before the lockdown. On average, Nigerians spent 2 billion Naira ($5,457) on betting every day. However, as the coronavirus continues to spread, bookmakers are lucky if they make any money at all. 

The timing of the pandemic could not have been worse, as the world’s top football leagues have cancelled their seasons. The popularity of the sport means that Europe’s football season is a peak period in which Nigerian sports betting operators traditionally see their revenues spike. That will not be the case this year.

Staff Face Unpaid Leave

In March, Akin Alabi, the founder of NairaBET and a member of the House of Representatives, posted a short analysis of the situation on Twitter. According to his tweet, the industry was hit hard by the lack of sports, which in turn led to lack of deposits, which ultimately means a lack of income.

He admitted that virtual sports were a minor consolation at the time. Alabi also predicted that some operators would be forced to place staff on unpaid leave in the near future.   

Huge Financial Losses

A 2016 Gambling in Africa report by KPMG stated that, at the time, NairaBET saw an average monthly turnover of between $3m and $5m with a profit margin between 20% and 30%. The same report stated that Bet9ja saw a $10 average monthly turnover. 

Those brands are only two among many others. Among them are bookmakers such as Bet365, Betfair, BetKing, Betway, Betwinner, GoldenBet, MerryBet, SureBet, 1XBet, and 888sport. Each of them is in a precarious position due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ultimately puts jobs at risk.

Speaking to media, a Bet9ja shop owner who gave his name as Emma Japan said that his shop had been closed since the lockdown began. According to Japan, he has had to use his savings to survive. 

Winnings Prior To Lockdown

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the Nigerian sports betting industry was not all about bettors spending money on bets. The industry also turned many Nigerians into winners.

Amon them, truck pusher Arinze Cosmas Ezeanyanwu won 36m Naira in 2017, and Saheed Oniloyi and Olashile Ali placed a 400 Naira bet together; a bet that resulted in an overall win of 8 million Naira. How long it will be until Nigerians can once again bet on their favourite sports remains to be seen.

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