Growing up, I had this wild idea that bet shops were like social clubs for men — think school JETS club type— because no day would pass without my finding a crowd of sweaty men throwing terms like “over 1.5” as if they were trying to solve a math problem.

Obviously, now I know what sports betting is, and that it isn’t limited to a particular gender. I also know it can be a problem. A documentary on sports betting recently started an online conversation, and I just had to ask: why does it have such a strong pull on Nigerians?

I spoke to eight sports betting lovers, and here’s what they had to say.

“I have nothing to lose”

— Dare, 32. Male

I work in a school and only earn about ₦18k monthly. My salary never lasts a week, especially with a wife and two kids at home. It’s better for me to set out like ₦5k to bet because even if I don’t, the money will still finish. At least with betting, I have hope of multiplying my money. I sometimes lose, but I sometimes win the odd ₦10k.

“I can get lucky at any time”

— Kola, 30. Male

No one knows what’ll happen tomorrow. Even if I lose ₦10,000 today, I know it’s very possible for me to win ₦100,000 tomorrow — which will even cover what I previously lost, so I just keep trying. Who knows when my luck will shine?

“I do it for fun”

— Ope, 27. Male

It’s a way for me to relax after a hard day. My favourite hangout spot is a bar with a betting shop close by, and it’s normal for us guys to talk about games and place bets. Sometimes I get carried away and bet more than wisdom allows, but it’s like a bonding thing with my guys.

“It’s just something you do”

— Wumi, 23. Female

Almost everyone I know plays Baba Ijebu. What else is there to do when you struggle to make ₦1k last a whole week? At least, if you remove ₦150 to play a game, or even the lotto game we call “two sure”, there’s hope you can make more. Even if you lose, it’s just a part of life. I’m not sure I can stop.

“I usually have a good chance at winning”

— Sunday, 29. Male

I spend a minimum of ₦15k every week on sports betting. I’m a good football game analyst, so I started as a way of putting my predictions to good use. I used to win a lot in the beginning, but now the thrill has taken over and made me lose more. I think it’s also because I hardly think it through these days. But when I focus more, I usually have a good chance of winning.

“I’m not sure why I do it, honestly”

— Joe, 31. Male

I typically play virtual games, and if I’m being honest, I’ve lost far more than I’ve ever made. I’ve been betting for six years, and the most I’ve made at once was about ₦80,000. The money finished the same day I won it because of previous debts and the compulsory drinking with friends to celebrate.

I don’t know why I bet, honestly. I just know that any day I don’t visit the betting shop doesn’t feel complete.

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“The search for a big win never ends”

— Nonso, 28. Male

I know betting is bad for you, but for me, the search for a “big win” never ends. Imagine booking live matches, and only one game spoils the ticket. You never stop thinking about how close you were to winning something huge. The only big win I’ve ever had was in 2019 when I won ₦120k. I’ve seen people win ₦500k, even ₦1 million. It can be me one day, so I keep playing.

“I love the thrill of it”

— Peter, 22. Male

Every bet I place increases my excitement level because you can never tell the one that’ll change your life forever. And with how things are in Nigeria, one will just die of depression if you don’t do things that get you excited.

Of course, losing money doesn’t excite you, but I try to reduce my loss by not being too greedy. Some people will place bets up to 20 times at a go, hoping to recover the money lost. But if I play and lose like seven times at a shot, I give up and try the next day. I’m not sure how much I bet monthly because it really depends on how the games look.

*Responses have been slightly edited for clarity.

ALSO READ: “I Was Asked to Pay ₦450k for a ₦55k Job” — 5 Nigerians on Job Racketeering



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