With the terrible economic situation in Nigeria, the sports betting phenomenon isn't going away anytime soon.
A rough, screaming voice rented the viewing shack as two European football teams, Tottenham and Juventus battled it out for their place in the next round of the most prestigious club competition Wednesday night.
‘Se oloriburuku niyin ni (Are you people unfortunate)?’ was all Sir Kay kept barking at the television screen mounted high up a table in a poorly ventilated football-viewing shack in the Ipaja area of Lagos.
In Sir Kay’s hand was a long, white slip with names of very many unpopular football clubs and random numbers with decimal points.
To many, his tantrums were unbearable and making the football match less enjoyable.
Other football lovers at the viewing centre were simply amused by the barely clad man’s tantrums at the team in white, but he didn’t seem to care.
It didn’t take long before the reason for Sir Kay’s anguish was known.
He had placed a bet of a ‘win or draw’ outcome in favour of the team in white – the one which was losing at the time.
By the time the final whistle went off, beads of sweat had formed on the forehead of a now shirtless, calm, and dejected Sir Kay.
He feebly dropped the slip, known in common parlance as ‘ticket’, and that was when the initially amused crowd became sympathetic – and angry.
Sir Kay was supposed to win a sum of N2.3m if the team in white had scored one more goal to bring the score level. The bus conductor had put a stake of N300 on the ‘ticket’.
Lamentations, plus words of encouragement for the dejected man, followed.
Sir Kay’s reality is many Nigerians’ today, as neither young nor old are alien to the betting phenomenon.
The sports betting business affords hope where there was none – the aftermath of a non-functioning government and economic epilepsy.
A chat with one Oladipupo by with a Newsroom Daily correspondent puts in grim perspective, the reason for the increasing rate of bet players in the most populous African country.
Oladipupo, an Electrical & Electronics Engineering graduate from the Lagos State University, has been jobless since his completion of his National Youth Service almost two years ago.
‘My brother, this bet thing keeps me going o, at least for now,’ he told us.
‘I fell ill when my ‘ticket’ of N500,000 was spoiled by Real Madrid about a week ago. As it was the last result I was expecting on the ‘ticket’, I had hope it would ‘come’ and I planned to use it to facilitate my travel plans out of this country.’
Like Oladipupo and Sir Kay, Qazeem, a 30-year-old aluminium windows installer, said he depends on his luck in the games to feed his two children as no jobs were forthcoming.
‘I don’t joke with it daily,’ he told us.
‘I lose some money but I don’t care because I only play with N100. I know people who play with as much as N500. There was a time I won N56,000, all my friends were happy for me and I gave them out of it. I bought nice clothes for my children and some foodstuff,’ he said wryly.
Qazeem was not exaggerating with claims that some people bet more – Sola, a banker with one of the new generation banks, had staked N30,000 on a ‘sure ticket’.
‘That is even small na, compared to what I’ve seen some put on games,’ Sola said, when our correspondent probed if it was worth it.
‘I lose some, I win some. I only stake such huge monies on games I’m quite sure of the outcome, and I’ve been lucky a number of times.
‘I know a bros that celebrated his baby’s naming ceremony with money won from betting,’ he added.
Many Nigerians have become millionaires through this betting phenomenon, and both moral and religious teachings against gambling of any sort have been lost on all bet players.
Some dismiss putting money on the unpredictable football matches as not being the kind of gambling God warned against.
‘Though my pastor hasn’t explicitly said betting on games is sinful, God will understand,‘ Oladipupo said.
‘I intend to put a stop to it when I make headway with my life. Man needs to survive.’
But this betting phenomenon is addictive, our findings have revealed. Some bet players can barely break free, even when they have decent sources of income. Some go as far as borrowing money to play.
Despite the appalling economic situation in the country, bet platform owners are feeding fat as they ‘provide’ an easy way out of poverty for young, old, men, women, and even masquerades.
Participants in this industry stake through about 45 betting companies and websites.
According to Business Day, about 60 million Nigerians between the ages 18 and 40 years spend up to N1.8billion on sports betting daily with an average investment of N3,000 per day, and with the current economic situation plus the hope it offers, the phenomenon is definitely not going away anytime soon.
This piece was first published on Newsroom.ng.
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