The Nigerian multi-billion-naira sport betting industry is growing astronomically to confirm a 2016 report of PwC, which projected that the industry would grow at an annual rate of 16 per cent each year to $147 million in 2019. Raheem Akingbolu writes on the new culture of betting and its impact on the nation’s economy
Four things have helped the nation’s betting industry to soar in the last five years – economic instability, increasing sports culture, large population and the unbridled growth in internet penetration and widespread use of mobile phones.
Specifically, the online gambling industry has flourished in recent years, adapting their brick-and-mortar presence to the internet scene, and spawning popular sites such as Bet9ja, Merry bet or Nairabet.
But despite the growth, it has been difficult to quantify the market size in numbers or the scope of the industry. Of course, the business has also remained one of the most attacked industries by a cross section of Nigerians, who either criticise based on religious conviction or ignorance of the operations and opportunities in the industry.
To this end, industry analysts have consistently urged players in the industry to intensify awareness campaign to educate Nigerians on their operations and opportunities in betting. The players have also been advised to try as much possible to let the public know the difference between gambling and sport betting. Above all, with the testimonials in some quarters on how lives are being changed for better through sports betting, the players have also been advised to direct their industry campaign at playing up the economic advantages of sports betting.
With regulation struggling hard to keep up with the growth of the industry and leaving both customers and operators potentially exposed, contrary to international market experience, where a well-regulated sports betting industry, has become a significant revenue generator for the government, Nigerian operators are daily been charged to blow their own trumpet. Through a subtle campaign, it is believed that the industry will suppress the ongoing issues around taxation and licenses that is holding back the industry.
Over the years, the operators have lamented that taxation remains a sore topic in the industry and that what constitutes net gaming revenue or taxable income is unclear and inconsistent in the country and that it has impacted the value-added tax that can be charged by the government.
A leading player in the market and the Managing Director of Bet9ja, Mr. Ayo Ojuroye, in a recent interview with THISDAY clears the air about the misconception around sports betting, arguing that most of the campaigns against the industry were as a result of ignorance. He also spoke extensively about his company and why Bet9ja is championing ‘More than a Bet’ campaign.
Ojuroye, who admitted that the widespread use of mobile phones in Nigeria has been a positive game changer for the sports betting business, said the industry has continued to empower Nigerians economically to achieve dreams of enhanced standard of living.
He said: “Over the years we have and continue to empower Nigerians economically to achieve dreams of enhanced standard of living. Through our platform and operations, we have created jobs, supported citizens to live better. Besides, our employment generation and creations direct and indirect is over 40,000,”
Narrowing down the conversation to Bet9ja, the managing director spoke glowingly about the company’s strategic partnership with government agencies, especially the EFCC on the maiden edition of anti-corruption marathon in Abuja, which according to him, is in line with our commitment to operate with integrity, we partnered EFCC on the maiden edition of anti-corruption marathon in Abuja. He also disclosed how the company has continuously supported the growth of football development in Nigeria, through partnership with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to promote grassroots development.
On diversity and inclusion, Ojuroye pointed out that Bet9ja has through its operations; contribute to enhancing diversity and inclusion in Nigeria, stating that the company has women in its pool of employment and as beneficiaries of winning on the platform.
“Innovation is a key to success in our industry. As an organization, we are continuously seeking opportunities to give our customers and citizens more value to earn on our platform. The outcome of one of these was when the introduction ofa state-of-the-art virtual dog race into the market and it became an instant success.
To further elucidate the ‘More than a bet’ campaign, he spoke personately on how a single ticket of N100 people enable customers on Bet9ja platform win millions of naira that changes their story.
“With N100 only, we empower our customers economically and enable them to support themselves thereby living a better life and support people around them, families and friends. People see our platform as a credible means of alternative source of income. Our agents across the country have incredible stories of zero to hero transformation of life. Through our platforms they have become employers of labour contributing to reducing unemployment in the country. What else should one hope for than touching lives positively? Meanwhile, through our giving back to the society where we operate, we are changing lives everyday too by deploring through responsible initiatives.
Perhaps more than any other player in the market, Bet9ja appears to have invested more in partnership, CSR and sponsorship with the aim of increasing its share voice in the market.
Shortly after a former partner of Multichoice Nigeria on the Big Brother Naija show, Payporte ran into troubled water over failure of its Chief Executive Officer, Eyo Bassey, to pay salaries of workers, Bet9ja was quick to move in as headline sponsor of the forthcoming season of the show. The move has been described as a smart one that will further boost the profile of the brand.
Considering the way Payporte used the platform to increase awareness of eCommerce in the country while it retained the sponsorship, many observers believed the new comer will also go a long way in promoting the Nigerian sports-betting industry as well as positioning the Bet9ja brand. As done in the previous editions, when Payporte supplied housemates with many of their glamorous outfits, which served as models to promote the brand, the new sponsor will join same advantage as the housemates, in turn, would make viewers aware that sports betting is the in thing.
Confirming the partnership, Ojuroye said: “We are the lead sponsor of Big Brother Nigeria 2019. Our sponsorship is to enhance and make participants achieve their dreams of becoming valuable players in the Nigeria entertainment industry. We will support housemate to engage in corporate social responsibility through donations to orphanages.
Our support will influence the winning prizes and it will boost the entertainment industry. The big brother platform is to amplify our More Than A Bet campaign of how we are touching and changing lives positively everyday.”
Speaking further, he mentioned how the company is supporting the IDP camp in Bauchi state, promising that it will do more as a business. He also disclosed the safety initiative being championed by Bet9ja for transporters and the company’s contribution to sports development and tourism nationwide.
“We have provided safety training and equipment for transporters – motorcycle and tricycles riders in different parts of the country s part of our efforts to contribute to the reduction of incidences of accidents. In the area of sports, we have supported women in sports and we are the sole sponsor of Nigeria League. Also, we are the sole sponsor of Seyi Akinwunmi charity tournament in Ogun State as well as supporting Ogun State under 20 cup. To promote culture and tourism, we support Olojo festival in Osun State and Afribeat,” he added.
Bet9ja brand at a glance
Speaking on competition in the industry and how Bet9ja has fared, the managing director emphasised that the company is Nigeria’s preferred sport betting operator and that it has grown to become the widest spread bookmaker in the country. He pointed out that under the leadership of the Charmain, Hon. Kunle Soname, the Bet9ja brand has become a staple in Nigerian sports entertainment.
“Operating with a National Lottery License from the National Lotteries Regulatory Commission, and various state licenses from each area of operations, Bet9ja has its foothold in all states of the federation; employing over 40,000 Nigerians directly and indirectly.
“Our wealth of experience and understanding of the industry, products and marketplace is what makes us stand out from the rest and remain a market leader over the years. From our live sports offerings to the online casino, virtual football and racing (Virtual Dog and Horse Racing), we offer the most exciting and rewarding experiences to our customers with the best odds, best bonus and fast payout of winnings,”
With a singular objective to provide customers with a fun experience, Ojuroye said integrity and commitment in ensuring provision of the best service remains the most critical asset of the company.
“Just as integrity and commitment are our most critical assets, we also take our corporate governance extremely serious as a business. Our code of business principles represents the standard of conduct of all our employees and agents. We are subject to the Nigerian government’s rules and regulations regarding the effective running and regulations of the betting industry.
“Finally, the company constantly keeps its corporate governance arrangements under reviews; we pay all taxes and levies due to the government and its regulatory agencies as part of our commitment to ensure compliance.”
While stating that the company conducts its operations in accordance with internationally accepted principles of good governance in Nigeria, he added that the company doesn’t encourage underage betting on its platform.
“No underage person is allowed in our outlets as players. Any agent caught with underage betting is sanctioned appropriately and if not stopped out rightly dismissal of such agent on our platform is applied,” he said.