Owners of sport betting outlets and football viewing centers across Nigeria are recounting their losses following the suspension of major sporting activities around the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic.
They lamented that the cancellation of European football games have dealt a big blow to their businesses, describing the impact of virus on sports betting as terrible.
Stressing that the situation has become far more demoralising to their trade when compared to off-season periods which witnesses less sporting activity, they called for drastic measures to arrest the situation.
Top five European leagues as well as UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup matches have been suspended until April after some players and officials tested positive to the virus, leading to a handful of football clubs forced to self-isolation.
LEADERSHIP Sports checks reveal that betting and match viewing centres in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country have recorded fewer customers.
Even Nigeria’s most popular betting brand, Bet9ja was not spared as most of its centers which hitherto recorded high bettors for virtual games, casino games, including English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, amongst others, witnessed low patronage.
However, a source at the National Lottery Commission (NLC) disclosed that monies been remitted to the commission by the betting companies have reduced drastically since the emergence of the deadly virus.
“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,” the source said.
A Bet9ja agent, Ibrahim Omofaderera, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sports in Lagos, lamented the drastic drop of business in the sports betting industry on account of coronavirus. He however expressed hope that health agencies and ministries would find a cure for the virus so that football leagues can resume.
Omofaderera added that they are not making profit anymore noting that the income made before the cancellation of European football games is what they have been operating on.
He added that they now find it difficult to defray costs of running their business like fueling their power generating set.
He said, “I have a match viewing centre 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 performance.
“Everywhere is boring, the business is in its most challenging times. Only a few customers play virtual games, and 80 percent of customers that come here only stake football games. The other 20 percent play virtual games which can also be dog racing or baby soccer,” Omofaderera lamented.
Musa Usman who manages a betting shop in Gwagwalada, said he can longer boast of making 10 percent of what he used to make before the cancellation of league matches because of the coronavirus.
“Before the matches were suspended due to the virus, we used to make over N250,000 per day. But now we hardly make 10,000 because there are no games for people to bet. We only survive on those who come to play virtual games of which the turnout is very low compared to real game betting,” he said.
In the same vein, Fego Agarry, stated that “Coronavirus has affected me personally as far as sports betting and watching my darling teams play during weekend, are concerned. The weekend is now boring and I hope the authorities find a cure soon so everything returns to normal soon.”
Another bettor, Lincoln Joseph said the cancellation of football matches in Europe is “a big blow to the betting industry, cashiers and agents.”
He disclosed that he has a running ticket staked with a large amount of money for over a week in his Bet9ja account. He however lamented that there is no option of cashing out on it at the moment.
“It is the first time large amount of bill will be voided, the money could be stuck but I’m hoping that it will be changed soon. The situation is really affecting those of us who bet because these bets are how some of us survive. And it’s even more painful knowing that this suspension football events will last till April, that will definitely have an impact,” he lamented.
Mani Muhammadu who owns a viewing center in Kaduna said he has since closed his viewing center, noting that the suspension of the European leagues has been bad for business.
“I don’t do anything apart from managing my viewing centre. This weekend is the worst for me. Nothing to show. Many of my patronizers have been asking me if there will be matches to show,” he said.
Muhammadu added that he loses about N50,000 daily as a result of the suspension of the English Premier League and other European leagues.
“For every match, people pay N100 each to watch. Show up to 10 matches on Saturday and Sunday, including other days when there is champions league and Europa League.
“Even during the holidays when the season has ended we still have matches to show at the weekend but now coronavirus has caused a total lockdown for us.
“All of us doing the viewing centre business have folded our arms. We are praying and hoping something reasonable will happen and everything will be normal again,” he said.