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Betting on football may create problems among young Nigerians, but the solution is not a ban.

Betting on football may create problems among young Nigerians, but the solution is not a ban.

Disclosure Statement
Saheed Babajide Owonikoko does not work for any business or organisation benefiting, advising, owning or receiving funding from this post, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliations beyond its academic appointment.The popularity of the European football leagues and increased internet access are making football betting among young people attractive in Nigeria. By Catherine Ivill / AFP From Getty Images

In Nigeria, football betting has a long history that can be traced to colonial times, when pool¬† UFABET¬† betting was common , especially among older adults. Since then, more young people have taken up betting on the results of football matches, such as European League games.The nation has many betting outlets where a bet can be placed manually by people. They can also open an online betting firm account, use a debit card, and place bets on a website or app.A study revealed that about 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are interested in active sports betting. They spend nearly two billion dollars a day on sports betting. This translates to about 730 billion annually. In an economy where the national budget for 2020 is approximately ~ 11 trillion, this is immense.Two factors are causing the increase in football betting among young people in Nigeria. One is the production of poverty and joblessness. Of Nigeria’s total population of approximately 200 million people, about 87 million are said to be extremely poor. The youth unemployment rate was placed at 36.5 per cent in 2018.

29.7 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 34 were unemployed in the third quarter of 2018, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Betting can appear to be a way of making quick money, either as a betting operator or as a gambler.The second factor driving and facilitating football betting in Nigeria is the increasing use of the internet and smart mobile phones. In 2017, 84 percent of Nigerians had mobile phones. The number of internet users in Nigeria is 122 million, based on Nigerian Connectivity Commission figures. This is more than half of Nigeria’s total population. The increase in internet users in Nigeria can be attributed to the affordability of internet access; less than 100 (less than US $1) are guaranteed for internet connectivity. It is fast and simple for people to make bets online using their mobile.

I was interested in the possible consequences of this situation for Nigerian culture, and for young people in particular. I wanted to know if the ease of online betting for economically hard-pressed young Nigerians produced any social problems such as competition, crime and addictive behaviour.From in-depth interviews with fans of European football teams, better, parents and guardians of fans and better, security personnel, betting outlet owners and operators, and football viewing centres in Lagos, Ibadan, Oyo State, South West Nigeria, and Yola, Adamawa State, North East Nigeria, I collected data for my study. In addition, I observed betting activities and collected data from recent online news stores and other publications. I noticed that from the numerous interviews conducted and my observation, there was a connexion between football betting by young Nigerians and a perceived rise in violence and illegal activity. The solution, however, is not, in my view, to prohibit such betting, but to tackle the unemployment and insecurity that drives people into it.

Conduct surrounding betting

My field interviews and results show that there is a question about teenagers gambling to fund their football betting. I was at a security meeting in Adamawa State where parents complained to the police that an unprecedented stealing of their money to fund football betting had been discovered by their teenage children / women. One parent interviewed in Adamawa Province explained that:I noticed that money in our home was being lost on a daily basis. At first, I thought it was clearly a misplacement. Later, I started to hear complaints about the lack of money in their homes from my neighbours as well. We later learned that our sons were the ones who stole the cash to play football betting because we still see them with bet receipts and we know they don’t have business where they can get betting cash. Experiences with these teenage profits mean that they spend on daily betting between $1,000 (about $2) and $3,000 (about $7). Yet the jackpot never arrives. Customers at football watching centres are constantly warned of combat. One of the Yola viewing centre managers told me:Recently, we have seen cases of violence among our viewers. Some of these wars are over long-standing, unresolved disputes. Football betting, particularly the use of “good luck charms,” may also also encourage ritualism, also due to anger caused by significant losses in football betting. Football betting can also encourage ritualism. I referred to one of the gamblers who was saying:You should not actually go and put a large amount of money into betting without any form of spiritual enhancement that will guarantee and insure you. You can only offer your money on an ongoing basis if you do that without spiritual development, to bet companies with their managers and employees to feed on fat while you stay broken. Betting business owners often use divine power to ensure that their customers do not win …. There have been calls from moralists, particularly in religious circles, for the government to criminalise betting, especially football betting. I observed two such discussions during an Islamic prayer in Yola, Adamawa Province. In fact, one state has been urged to take the first step. I believe this is unlikely to be successful. It would only push betting into the background and make it more difficult for the government to control and track it. Instead, more attention should be paid to chronic poverty and unemployment by politicians.