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Sports betting continues to grow in Africa’s largest nation

As the most populous country in the African continent, it is little surprise that investors are looking at the gaming sector in Nigeria as a significant source of growth in the coming years.

A member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria has a long association with British-born sports such as football. Dozens of Nigerian footballers have played in the English Premier League over the last 20 years, and the Nigerian national team continues to perform well at international competition, driving up interest in the sport at home. And it is this support for the game that in part drives the growth in the sports betting sector.

Recent statistics show that as much as $25 million (£20m) is gambled every day in the country and whilst football is popular it is the rise in access to the internet across the country over the last decade that has made the growth in the sector possible. Just as the growth in smartphone usage has driven the rise in online gambling in Western nations, the same has been true in Nigeria, with reliable mobile apps and websites revolutionising the once opaque industry. Many international gaming firms have launched Nigeria-specific brands to compete against local companies, creating a competitive market where players can rely on fair practices.

Gambling has become a particularly popular trend amongst young Nigerians aged between 18 – 35. According to a report by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), about 60 million Nigerians between the ages 18 and 40 years spend up to N1.8 billion Naira (£4m) on sports betting daily with an average wager of N3,000 Naira (£7) per day.

The growth has also been aided by a gambling-friendly regulative climate, with gaming legal in all 36 states, which is in strict contrast to many other African nations that continue to impose strict laws or bans on the practice. As a result, up to a third of Nigerians are believed to gamble during any year, placing bets on matches in both local leagues and popular competitions around the world such as the UK’s EPL and Italy’s Serie A.

The Nigerian government sees gambling as a good source of revenue that can be used for infrastructure projects in a similar way to how the National Lottery funds are used in the UK. In an interview with the Nigerian News Agency (NAN), deputy-director of Public Affairs at the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), Magnus Ekechukwu, said that sports betting had greatly contributed to the country’s socio-economic development, saying: “The money obtained through sports betting that reaches the government is returned to society so that everyone benefits, whether they play the lottery or not. We bring good projects to schools; we take to hospitals; We take communities and so on. Therefore, the benefits cannot be easily quantified in this way.

“If you have read our law, the law is defined to include and cover sports betting activities. I mean the lottery is defined as including sports betting activities. Lottery and games have been used around the world as a tool for social-economic development, wealth distribution, empowerment, poverty reduction, and so on.

“But beyond that, lottery turnover and sports betting, we are providing what we call good courses in Nigeria, which is the government’s intervention in the development of the country’s infrastructure.”

He continued: “Sports betting has come to stay, it’s a global phenomenon, it is happening all over the world and people are participating in. And countries also benefit income from it to help themselves in their development projects and in what we do in Nigeria”.

Photograph by Paul

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