Betting on sports is older than some civilizations. This practice has been going on for well over 2,000 years. First it was the Greeks who were known to have placed bets on sports events, particularly the Olympic games. Then the Romans were recorded to have placed bets on Gladiator duels and Chariot racing too. The Dark Ages (5th - 15th century) in Europe saw the advent of pedestrianism, which was the act of wagering on how long it would take to walk, run or hop a given distance, and then shin-kicking which involved men kicking each other’s shins till only one man was left standing.
Throughout the years, sports betting has evolved from majorly horse racing, to the coming of the Internet. The single most important factor that increased the growth of sports betting was the coming of the internet. The first online betting platform was Intertops in the distant 1996. Since then the online betting landscape grew rapidly. Nigeria had to wait until 2009 to get its first licenced operator - Nairabet.
Like the rest of the world, sports betting in Nigeria is a thriving and complex industry employing several thousands of people including economists, statisticians, data scientists, journalists, accountants, business administrators, and even lawyers and engineers. Betting companies today are paying huge taxes to the government, and the federal, state and local levels, thereby contributing to the growth of the economy. Some of the biggest sociocultural events in Nigeria are also being sponsored by betting companies, as a means of promoting social cohesion. Even the biggest superstars like Davido, Naira Marley, PSquare and Don Jazzy are now getting paid from the industry. Sports superstars are not left out. The likes of Nigerian Legend Daniel Amokachi (betBonanza), JayJay Okocha (BetKing), Joseph Yobo, (WesternBet), and others are also on the payroll of betting companies.
In Nigeria, we have established operators like Bet9ja, and Nairabet, and fast rising operators like betBonanza who are redefining the game top to bottom. Recently the customer research unit of betBonanza undertook a study of the betting patterns of Nigerians, and their findings expose some interesting facts.
Football is the most popular sport to bet on, as 90% of all sports bets placed are on football alone. The next most popular sports among Nigerians is Basketball, while Tennis comes next. Examining the football data closely, the team discovered that the 1X2 bet option, (which offers players the option to bet on that any of the two opposing sides will win or the game will be a draw) is the most popular among Nigerian punters. Closely trailed by Double Chance (Either of the teams to win or draw) and Over/Unders (The goal range of the game).
The behaviour of the average Nigerian punter still tends towards making the most of the least resources at their disposal. Statistics show that over 70% of all sports bets are placed with 5 or more game selections, which would normally yield more winnings. When a punter selects more games in his ticket, he will get more bonuses, and this is why Nigerian punters love it; they get more for less. On average, punters stake the sum of ₦350 to ₦450. This could mean that contrary to popular opinion, the Nigerian punter is not exactly irresponsible when satisfying his gaming appetites. But he certainly is open to change and receptive to new trends. During the sudden disruption in the sports world occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nigerian punter turned his sights to Virtuals and eSports, and his enthusiasm for these was sustained even after the return of real life sports.
The sports betting industry seems resilient and dynamic enough to adapt to sudden changes in the business landscape. When the pandemic halted virtually all real life sports around the world, the Nigerian punter turned his sights to Virtuals and eSports. With the variety of offerings now available to the Nigerian punter, the projection is that Nigerians will continue to get world class entertainment comparable to the rest of the world, in satisfying their gaming needs.