The COVID-19 coronavirus has taken center stage around the world, especially with major North American and European sports leagues suspending their seasons. But this has had a particularly harsh effect on the Nigerian sports betting market, as they are seeing record losses due to the pandemic.
Leadership, a Nigerian newspaper, reports owners of sports betting outlets and football viewing centers are reporting massive losses following the suspension of all major sporting activities across the globe. A lack of European football has had the most dramatic impact of all, with all of the five major leagues having suspended operations until April.
Nigerian viewing centers and gambling establishments have remained open in Lagos, Abuja, and other regions. However, even with these facilities open, they are seeing a decreased number of visitors.
Ibrahim Omofaderera, an agent for betting operator Bet9ja, discussed visiting viewing centers only to find them nearly empty. “I have a match viewing center that is now vacant. So, this is really affecting our business. Although there are virtual soccer games that can be played but they are only just computer programmed games and can’t be compared to staking bets on teams you have knowledge of and how they perform.”
The National Lottery Commission (NLC) reports that commissions remitted to the agency have declined drastically. “The coronavirus has affected sports betting business because people are no longer betting, they only play computer games which as a result has affected what betting company remit to the commission,” a source explained.
This is dramatic turn around for an industry that looked set to take off. In January, 1xBet gained a local license for online sports betting, which would be fantastic if they could offer a wide range of sports to wager on. But now, with only more obscure leagues to pick from, wagering might fall dramatically.
With no real idea of when the pandemic will subside, there’s not much the local industry can do but hope for change. Explained Mani Muhammadu, a viewing center owner, “All of us doing the viewing center business have folded our arms. We are praying and hoping something reasonable will happen and everything will be normal again.”