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Sports Betting and the psychology of patrons in Nigeria

Features By: Victor Akhidenor | 20/01/2017

It’s been said again and again that being a football fan in Nigeria is a lifelong occupation.

Now we know that’s incorrect.

It’s longer than that especially for football fans interested in the game for passion and for pocket. Sports and betting are now Siamese twins for many Nigerians.

According to Section 57 of the National Lottery Act (2005), sports lottery or sports betting as it is most commonly referred to, is any activity of predicting sporting results and placing a wager on its outcome with the hope of winning a set prize.

Origin of sports betting

A website dedicated to sports betting, www.onlinecasinoadvice.com, traced the history of the pastime to the Greeks.

“Sports betting is the oldest known form of gambling on the planet. In the early days, it was played only as a simple pastime activity; nowadays it’s a multi-billion dollar business.

“The first recorded betting events ever to be held in history were in the time of the Greek city states more than two thousand years ago. The Greeks were known as true sports lovers, and events like the Olympic, Corinthian and Delphic games were great occasions for people to bet on their favourite athletic competition.

“The Romans soon adopted this habit from the Greeks, and they turned it into a real business. The most common betting activity in the Roman times was on the famous gladiator games. But after the end of the Roman era this splendid habit survived and was adopted by the early medieval kingdoms.

“In the middle ages, several European rulers tried to outlaw sports betting, but no matter what measures they introduced it persisted and continued to be played underground. This habit became especially popular in England where it’s most famous branch was horse racing. Eventually, the English colonists brought sports betting into the USA, where it quickly spread out and became a favourite to many. Today, however, it’s only legal in a few US states.”

In Nigeria, though, it is legal in the 36 states and Abuja.

The companies operating the business of sports betting in Nigeria and prospective companies are expected to obtain a sports lottery permit from the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), the regulatory body.

According to the commission’s website, a sports lottery operator is “anybody corporate that holds a sports lottery permit for the operation of a sports lottery on an inter-state platform in Nigeria”.

The sports lottery (betting) operators are expected to confine their business to the boundaries of sporting activities.

The commission gives two categories of licences. One is to all companies currently operating the business of sports betting either with or without state licence or permit and the other to any registered company with the intention to operate the business of sports betting beyond the physical boundaries of the state, including but not limited to online activities.

A company willing to operate would have duly satisfied a pre-grant and post-grant licence permit procedure.

The requirement for a pre-grant licence and permit are: a formal application letter addressed to the director-general of the commission for expression of interest in a named lottery business; obtain the prescribed application form with a non-refundable fee determined by the commission; on return, the completed application is accompanied with Certificate of Incorporation, a copy of Memorandum & Article of Association, particulars of directors (Form CO7), organisational profile, evidence of capital base from bankers, bank guarantee, technological evidence to play online lottery, details of accounting, administration and security system, evidence of clearance from relevant agencies (Corporate Affairs Commission, National Broadcasting Commission), details of rules of intended lottery game.

The post granting of licence, though, comes with lesser hurdles. The prospective company would have to establish a prize fund account for the named lottery outfit and also make a statutory payment of 20% of proceed or value of prizes to National Lottery Trust Fund.

Sports betting in Nigeria

Sports betting is not new in the country.  What is new is the clientele.

Then, pool houses were the norm and were mostly patronised by retirees and adults who were mostly men.

The exercise was based on predicting the outcome of league games in England. Patrons pick a slip which has the match fixtures and tick the games they expect to end in a draw.

Sounds easy, right? But then there are two plans – perming and napping.

Perming, which is a preferred choice, involves selecting possible numbers from a subset of numbers which could end in a draw. Confused? Let’s try and explain.

You could perm (pick) three numbers against four (selected likely numbers of draws) or perm four or more numbers against five or more numbers. And you win when your number is among the number of draws. Hope, we have not compounded it?

Napping is more straightforward to understand and play but more difficult, though far rewarding, to win. Here you select three games which you think would end in a draw. You only win when all the selected numbers draw.

Pool is still being played by few Nigerians but patronage is declining for pool operators. And it could be linked to the emergence of sports betting.

Unlike pool, sports betting on football is not restricted to the Barclays Premier League. The Nigerian Professional Football League, other major and minor leagues across the globe as well as international games involving clubs and countries are on the card.

Nowadays, students, young and upwardly mobile men and women – yes, women –  dominate the customers of Nairabet (the first online sports betting website in Nigeria), Supabets Promotion, Winasbet, Mars Leisure, Betland, Surebet247, Stakersden, Merry Bet, NairaStake, GoldenBet, Betcolony, Bet2win, Bet365naija, Bet9ja, 1960bet, 360bet, 9jaPredict, Winners Golden Bet.

The companies offer sports betting, virtual dog racing, virtual football league and virtual horse racing. The sports they have available to bet on include football, Aussie rules, darts, baseball, basketball, beach volleyball, bowls, boxing, cricket, cycling, ice hockey, tennis, handball, volleyball.

Punters bet in shops, over the phone and online, using different local or foreign sports books as guides if necessary.

There are different packages on the sports betting platforms.

There’s the straight bet or single bet where a punter bets by picking a side that will win or draw. The odds always favour the weaker side of the two and the payoff is bigger when David eventually defeats Goliath.

There’s what is known as Parley where a better picks more than one game and predicts the winners. The higher the games picked the higher the payoff as long as all the outcomes are spot on.

Then there’s preposition, where a patron could bet that a side will score up to a specific number of goals, or that both sides will score certain number of goals, or that the home or away team will win, lose or draw.

One could also bet a direct winning for the home or away team, half time draw, or full-time draw. Or one could bet on more goals in the first half than the second half and vice versa, or on first or second half draw, full time draw however your fantasy and pocket direct.

A win-win business?

“It was the thrill of winning that hooked me to sports betting,” Lanre Oluleye (not real name) told sportsng.com when we caught up with him in a betting shop in Ikeja, Lagos.

Unsurprisingly, people like Oluleye are not uncommon.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), quoted by www.nairaland.com, said that “60 million Nigerians between 18 and 40 years of age spend more than N1 billion daily on sports betting”.

The report also revealed that “a betting company can generate up to N20 million monthly and use between N5 million and N7 million to meet winners’ obligation in terms of payment”.

And according to a Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, cited in Awake! July 2002, “gambling used to be considered a moral and social evil”. Today it’s, in a way, a socially acceptable pastime.

Identifying one reason for this change in public attitude, the paper said: “The image makeover is the direct result of what may be the most expensive and most sustained government-funded advertising campaign in Canadian history.”

Established in 2005 by the federal government to sanitise and regulate the business in Nigeria, the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), though, is still finding it hard to change the majority of Nigerian’s attitude to any form of lottery.

“There are societal beliefs, there are religious beliefs that have bias against lottery because some of them are ignorant because they believe lottery is gambling,” Adolphus Joe Ekpe, the director-general of NLRC, said.

“In 2005, the general public was hardly aware of the existence of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission or its sister agency, the National Lottery Trust Fund. Even after five years, the public perception of lottery was still negative,” he said.

“We are happy to note that all the enlightenment efforts have helped in changing the perception of the general public towards lottery business, as it is now viewed as a tool for national development.”

With their returns on sports betting investment, Oluleye and other patrons are already using it as a tool for personal development.

The Wide Weird World of punters

We visited many betting shops that dot the famous Computer Village, the largest market for computer accessories in Nigeria, for an on-the-spot assessment. We were not disappointed.

At a shop on Otigba Street, Oluleye, who works in Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, spoke to us along with few patrons who also didn’t want their names in print, and naturally, their faces.

“I have been playing this game for many years now and I must confess it has had a positive impact on my finance,” 28-year-old Israel Jacob, said.

“Only last week, I played with just N50 and won N20, 000.”

Joseph Mpamugo laughs at the “paltry” sum his “partner in betting” mentioned.

“It has been a viable business for me since I started playing in 2014,” the telephone accessories seller, said.

“I remember winning over N100, 000 the first week I played the game and since then I have been hooked. Overall, I have won more than I have lost. But luck is a key factor.”

Kingsley Paul, though, is not that lucky… at least for now.

Since he lost his banking job four years ago, the 42-year-old has been “hustling” to make ends meet and also cater for a wife and two kids. He now puts his hopes on sports betting.

“I have spent over N80, 000 on this game but the highest amount I have won is N5, 000,” he said.

“I have seen somebody win N3, 500, 000 and he doesn’t have two heads. The game has not improved my economy ‘YET’ but hopefully, it should sooner than later. It has been a viable business for some but for me I hope for a better fortune. It is definitely a good income stream if one understands the concept. I am putting all my effort into it and soon Lady Luck will answer my prayers.”

As there are social drinkers so are social gamblers – people who can take it or leave it. One of such is Ibukun George, a freelance journalist.

“I now play the game as the spirit directs,” he said.

“This is my first time in the past two weeks to play the game. I am yet to win something big and neither have I lost something big. When I eventually win big, I will quit the game.”

There’s always that one friend who learnt how to drive before you did. In sports betting, there’s also that one friend who started playing the game long before you did. And our respondents agreed that that friend’s habit became contagious.

“A friend introduced me into it last year and my first major win was N38, 000. It was timely because it sorted out home needs,” Oluleye said.

Mpamugo had the same experience.

“I started playing sports bet this year after a friend won some money,” he said.

Jacob couched his experience in humour.

“My friend introduced me to the game. I won on my first attempt and got hooked. Call it love at first try.”

That elicited laughter from everyone.

High Tech High Bets 

Advanced technology has turned betting into 24-hour-a-day, a 7-day-a-week national pastime for many fans. Patrons can now place bets non-stop over the internet through their iphone, ipad, and other mobile devices, ignoring the high risk it attracts.

Cell phones are no longer phones either. Advanced models allow users access the internet, send and receive e-mail and text messages, watch TV, listen to radio, take photos, and yes, place online bets.

According to a report in the Washington Post, cited in Awake! November 2009, a multimedia smartphone “now has more processing power than did the North American Air Defence Command in 1965”.

“There is now one cell phone for every two humans on Earth and at least 30 nations have more cell phones than people. Indeed, we are witnessing the fastest global diffusion of any technology in human history.”

So, how has technology aided your placing bets?

“It has made sports betting easily available and convenient for me,” George said.

“But sometimes I don’t have data on my phone so I still come around to the shops to play. However, nothing beats the experience of the shops. You get to see some interesting scenes from some people and also no man is an island. I could stumble on some results here.”

“Technology has made everything so easy. I play on my phone or laptop in the house or office and at times in the church,” Oluleye said.

“I check team stats, form guides, injury lists on my phone and it helps in deciding teams to place bets on. I also track games via Livescores.com; sometimes watch 2-3 games simultaneously on it.”

Fuelling the habit

A survey in the United Kingdom cited in Awake! July 22, 2002, found that among adolescents who gambled, 46 per cent stole from their family to support their habit.

We were then obliged to ask our respondents if they indulged in such practice. They all categorically dismissed the act but not Israel Jacob.

“Well, if you place your purse carelessly, I could be tempted to take a few naira notes,” he said.

“Actually, it’s not stealing because I can always replace the money after winning!”

Addiction

With the growing interest in gambling, Sports betting is now a booming business in Nigeria.

Lottery tickets, online gambling, casinos compete with sports betting for the gambler’s attention. The book, Internet Gambling, says it is “almost a universal vice whose appeal has spread like a bushfire”.

Following a study of gamblers’ responses to winning and losing, Dr. Hans Breiter noted that “a monetary reward in a gambling-like experiment produces brain activation very similar to that observed in a cocaine addict receiving an infusion of cocaine”.

“For every millionaire that is created from lottery winnings,” states Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, “there are millions of others who have lost their money!”

In the book, ABC’s of the Human Mind by Readers’ Digest, getting high on risk was seen in the same light as getting high on drugs or alcohol which is at the heart of compulsive gambling.

“Win or lose, the compulsive gambler craves the action. As one put it, ‘I don’t feel alive unless I’m gambling’,” the book wrote.

B.F. Skinner’s work in the 1950’s was cited. The behaviourist’s experiment with pigeons showed that “persistence (addiction) develops when reinforcement (winning) is so variable as to be unpredictable”.

“Almost all compulsive gamblers have had at least one big win and believe they’re bound to have another – soon.”

According to the book, psychologists put compulsive gambling in the category of an “impulse disorder which has the following chief symptoms:

1) an inability to resist an impulse

2) causing harm to oneself and others because of this impulse,

3) increased tension prior to the action and

4) gratification and a sense of release at the time of the action”.

A person with impulse disorder “tends to dislike rules and responsibility. Guilt or regret may or may not be part of his emotional makeup”.

“He may appear sociable, but he seldom forms deep attachments. He needs recognition and adulation. He lives for the present. He’s often superstitious, prone to believe in signs and omens, and refuses to think about consequences.”

Twin Rivers, a South Africa-based addiction treatment centre, quoted by venturesafrica.com, says gambling addiction “ruins thousands of people and has been correlated with other psychological disorders such as substance abuse, depression and anxiety”.

The centre said the act was in its purest form is as toxic and as life threatening as any hard drug.

In gambling, money is wagered against the odds, with the outcome highly dependent on chance, and it is based on the hope that sooner or later things will turn out well.

Countless numbers of people, determined to wager only a small amount of money or try their hand on gambling just a few times, have become entangled and unable to escape the addiction.

In Britain “housewives in growing numbers are becoming hooked on internet gambling sites, spending hours every day running up thousands of pounds in debt,” reports London’s Sunday Telegraph as cited by Awake! May 4, 2004.

Women who naturally will hesitate to enter a betting shop find the comfort of their phones less intimidating. They now easily fit online betting into their daily chores of work, attending to the family, and going to places of worship. In the process, many are becoming addicted. But because of the stigma usually attached to female gambling, they often do not admit to having a problem.

“The trend reflects a mass cultural shift that is taking gambling out of the casino and into the home or workplace,” the paper quoted Professor Mark Griffiths, of the University of Nottingham.

“If you are a problem gambler, the chances are that you will get barred from casinos or betting shops. With the internet, there is no gatekeeper.”

But addicted players are the “foundation for this line of business,” says the daily Suddeutsche Zeitung.

According to the German paper, 56 percent of the income from slot machines is said to be derived from addicts. In casinos the rate is 38 percent; and in online games, 60 percent.

Akin Akinlehin, an agent with Nairabet, knows this for a fact.

The 42-year-old sells computer software and hardware at the famous Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos. He dabbled into sports betting after attending a training to become an agent. And thus far, he’s not regretting his action as there are more addicted players than addicted buyers of computer accessories.

“I just started the business this year but I am not regretting it one bit,” he said.

“Though I will keep what I make on a daily basis close to my chest but what I can tell you is that it’s a rewarding business with little capital to start. All you need is an open space, a right environment where different forms of activities take place, and prompt payment of winnings.”

Sule Ahmed, who had been nodding and shaking his head during our discussions with other punters, found his voice when the topic switched to addiction.

“No doubt the business is good for agents but games like visuals and dog race should be banned because they have a negative impact on youths,” he said.

“It should be banned. It has turned the youths to beggars because within minutes they lose their money yet they keep giving them the feelings their lost investment can be recovered. Also, those two games have been pre-programmed to favour the agents. The youth addiction will drop for such games if they have to wait every weekend before placing a bet like in football.”

Akinlehin disagrees with him.

“No game on the sports betting platform is pre-programmed,” he said.

“To me it is a matter of choice. If you are not too comfortable with a particular game, try others. There are lots of fishes in the ocean waiting to be harvested.”

But the Times of Zambia, cited in Awake! October 2002, sees things differently, saying that aggressive advertising has misled many poor people into believing that they will escape poverty by gambling, although the chances of winning any meaningful amount are actually very small.

“Lottery advertising stimulates fantasies of wealth, luxury and an instantly problem-free life while the tiny odds of winning are rarely mentioned,” the paper said.

“No matter what argument one gives, gambling is daylight theft and should be outlawed in any morally upright society.”

Yahaya Maikori, the president of the Gaming Association in Nigeria, begs to disagree.

“Sex can be right or wrong depending on how you do it. Drinking can be right or wrong. Even the Bible is against gluttony. The biggest churches in the world were built by betting money and money from bazaars,” he said.

“When the crown was in control of the United States, there were many countries that were running lotteries in different parts of America. In fact it was a civic responsibility to buy lottery tickets. Lottery was a civic responsibility in those days. You were buying it for the common development of the people. You have to look at it from that context. Pakistan and Egypt which have a huge Muslim population run lotteries. Even the Catholics partook in lottery. We use it to the benefit of the people. When it comes to gaming, people are scared about it. They do not want to talk about it. However, lottery started from the church.”

Maikori insists that it is a wrong perception because there is a difference between people who are gambling and people who are placing bets.

“If you go to a stock market to buy shares, you take risks. Everybody gambles. You have to make choices. Some people invest themselves into penury. Stock is seen as investment even though you have lost money. The game industry is seen as gambling. There is no difference between gambling and investment in stock market. It started from the church. It is a benign way of entertainment. Betting can be used for employment and we just need the right mechanism to manage these things.”

Let’s talk business

According to a report published in 2015 by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), gambling revenues performed well in Africa despite the challenging economic environment in the continent.

Gross gambling revenues posted their largest annual increase over the past five years, with bingo gross gambling revenues rising by 86%, sports betting by 19.3% and casino gambling by 10.5%.

Gross gambling revenues for limited payout machines (LPMs) rose by 25.7%. Overall gross gambling revenues rose 13.4% in 2012. Gross gambling revenues as a whole are expected to expand from R20.9 billion in 2012 to R29.8 billion in 2017, a 7.4% compound annual increase.

These were some of the findings from PwC’s second annual edition on the gambling industry titled, ‘Betting on Africa: Gambling Outlook for 2013-2017 (South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya)’.

Of the three countries, South Africa has the largest overall gambling market as well as the biggest land-based casino gambling market. Gross land-based casino gambling revenues totalled R16.4 billion in South Africa in 2012, compared with only R310 million in Nigeria and R180 million in Kenya.

“The overall casino market in Nigeria is limited due to the low number of licences in issue reflecting the high cost of investment in casino operations versus the limited size of the gambling market. Consequently, the casino market in Nigeria is only a fraction that of South Africa,” Nikki Forster, PwC Gambling Industry Leader for South Africa, said.

“In Kenya, gambling laws are much more open than in Nigeria or South Africa. Gambling is considered a leisure activity that generates tax revenue.”

In the South African “gambling market, sports betting and horse racing gross gambling revenue totalled R2.6 billion in 2012, the second-largest category behind casinos. Bingo was the fastest-growing category with its 86% increase, the result of the introduction of bingo into Mpumalanga. Gross gambling revenue for LPMs rose to R1.5 billion”.

“South Africa has the most mature market and we expect it will be the slowest growing with a 5% compound annual increase in casino gross gambling revenue to R20.9 billion ($2.1 billion)in 2017,” Forster said.

Taxes and levies

The PwC report revealed that “gambling taxes and levies totalled R2.1 billion in 2012, up 14.3% from 2011, benefitting from the 13.4% increase in gross gambling revenues and a slight increase in payments. The increase in payments refers to the percentage of gross gambling revenue accounted for by taxes and levies. In 2011, that percentage was 9.953% and in 2012 it edged up to 10.032%.”

“The proliferation of sports betting shops and online wagering are driving this component of the market. It is expected that sports betting will surpass horseracing within the next five years,” Forster said.

Casino gross gambling revenues in Nigeria “grew at double-digit rates in four of the past five years, including a 19.2% increase in 2012 to $31 million, according to the report. Gross gambling revenues are expected to expand at a projected 16.3% compound annual rate to $66 million in 2017.”

Gross gambling revenues “totalled $18 million in Kenya in 2012 compared with $31 million in Nigeria. Fuelled by a rebounding economy and continued growth in tourism, casino gross gambling revenue is projected to rise to $33 million in 2017.”

“The gambling industry is usually associated with glamour, wealth. As a business, however, the margins are low, a large portion of the costs are fixed, regulatory compliance is stringent and profitability depends on volume,” Forster said.

“The industry continues to contribute significant tax revenues to provincial and national government. It has created jobs and contributes to social and infrastructure spending in the areas in which it operates.

“The outlook for the industry remains positive and the further rollout of limited payout and bingo machines and the possible introduction of online gambling will further contribute to the expected growth in revenues.”

Watch your back SA!

With the increase in awareness and better regulation, Nigeria should dominate this industry and leapfrog the Rainbow nation.

“Nigeria has the right population. The population is a very young population. They have access to the internet on their phones. It is a games number. There is no marketing with almost N10 billion turnover in a year. There is a margin of about 15 per cent. The competition and the entry fee were so low between N200 and N300,” Maikori said.

“Gaming alone is worth N40 billion a year in Nigeria. PWC says betting is going to grow at 10 percent next year. Gaming is the generic name for all the other areas. Betting constitutes about 70 per cent of the gaming industry. It is a huge industry.”

But according to investorguide.com, the questions of whether gambling is morally wrong and how strictly it should be regulated are important.

The director-general of the NLRC agrees completely.

“We are in a country that has very high religious and moral values. There are certain things that fall into the realm of pure gambling that both Christianity and Islam will frown at,” he said.

“I believe that was the position of the National Assembly when they were enacting the law. They did not enact the law to regulate gambling but lottery. Lottery is the socially acceptable form of games and activities, unlike gambling that is hard to our culture and diversity. Before you can regulate, you have to come up with rules and regulations. We want to come with a national gaming policy which I believe will include issues of casinos. Because our society is very sensitive, we have to do certain things in careful manner. We don’t need to go into certain things with haste so that our actions will not be misinterpreted.”

FIVE ‘BONUS POINTS’

Sports Betting Psychology According to ‘Saint’ George

There are some “Did you know?” not worth knowing. Like the knowledge that stripes on a British tie run from top left to bottom right while the stripes on American ties go in the opposite direction.

Ibukun George has the “Must know” in sports betting and was gracious enough to share them free of charge. Well, a few bottles of beer “encouraged” him to speak about it as we left the others at the betting shop.

“These rules are not originally mine,” he said.

“I read it somewhere when I did a research on sports betting before I started playing the game.

“Betting on sports is like the stock market so you must have it at the back of your mind that you’re going to win sometimes, and you will lose sometimes. Consistency and longevity should be your goal. Sports betting is not 100 metres dash but a marathon.”

He empties his glass of beer and pours the remaining content in the cup. I beckoned at the attendant to replace his drink. That drew an appreciative nod from him. He continues the knowledge sharing session.

“I am a journalist but I approach sports betting as a job too,” he said.

“It cannot be a pastime or hobby, and you cannot go about your business like that. Each game is a business deal that you’ll either do, or you’ll pass on. A knowledgeable businessman should research each deal on its merits and then take a decision. Going into a business deal without knowing anything about the teams, like the research you mentioned, usually results in bad business.

“Also, instead of one bet on four teams, put your money on the four teams separately. That way when 3-out-of-4 wins, you walk away a winner instead of cursing John Terry for that stupid own goal.”

Chelsea fans in the bar threw a “how dare you” glance in our direction but George was too engrossed in his “lectures” to notice.

“I never fail to pick the games I’m going to bet on ahead of time, bet them, and then walk away,” he said.

“I don’t compound my problems by trying to double it or win it back by betting on a game I didn’t want to bet on in the first place. It is the hardest rule to follow sometimes because it goes against the gambler’s blood that flows in your body. But if you want to win, and win consistently, you have to follow it.

“A lot of people, especially JJCs (Johnny Just Come which has the same dictionary meaning with Johnny-come-lately) fail to heed this next one. When they are winning, they brag aloud to everyone, gloat and do everything to annoy the god of betting.

“You need to also see them when they are losing. They cry in their beer, like that guy over there (that part was said in low tones as he points surreptitiously to a teenager in the bar) and moan. When you win, act like it’s a normal occurrence and when you lose, be mad with Chelsea but determined to do better next time, unlike their current form.”

A fan of the Blues hissed paid for his beer and left the bar. George, who is on his fourth bottle, is not about to leave any moment. He continues.

“I suspect that that Chelsea fan must have broken this next rule,” he said.

“Never, and I mean never, bet on your favourite team. If you are hoping to make money from this venture, you have to remain unbiased at all times. A large percentage of the time your judgment is clouded when you bet on your team. It’s better to lose money betting on other teams than to lose your money, heart and mind betting on your favourite club.

“The last advice is quite difficult to follow especially for addicts. Since you’re treating betting like a job, whenever possible take a vacation from it. Take a week off, like I am doing now, every now and then to rejuvenate your system. You must pick and choose the best times of the year to step aside and take a break because you will not become a millionaire in one night betting on sports.”

The sermon was worth all the two hours, four bottles of beer, and a bowl of snail!

Why psychology when you can come from Edo state

The two biggest recorded wins from sports betting were achieved by two people from the same state of origin in Nigeria.

Edo state, in the south-south of the country, seems blessed by the betting gods.

In 2014, a professor of Computer Engineering at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo state, Godwin Ighalo, became the proud winner of N58, 945,553.00 – the biggest payout in the annals of sports betting in the country.

The sexagenarian accomplished the feat after placing bets through 1960bet on two bet slips of different amounts (N500 and N300). On the N500 ticket, the don won N36, 840,971.25, while the N300 slip won him N22, 104,582.75.

In December 2015, Osasebo Uwadiae couldn’t better the feat of Ighalo but the 40-year-old won N11 million on the coupon of Winners Golden Bet.

Uwadiae, who had been jobless since November, played the bet with the sum of N30, 000.

“This is the second time I would play sports betting,” he said.

But we suspect it might not be the last time. Like his compatriot, Ighalo, who said his strong interests in probability played a key role in his elevation to the millionaires club, won’t quit the game just yet.

“Since my childhood days, I used to have strong interests in probability, relationships and spatial intelligence. All these with adequate sports betting research I conducted over the years, helped in making it possible,” he said.

“I won’t stop playing despite this huge win.”

Weird things done to get numbers

Much madness is divinest sense

To a discerning eye

Much sense – the starkest madness

It is doubtful if Kingsley Paul has read this poem written by Emily Dickinson. But the ex-banker believes that divine sense resides in the hot heads of madmen after disclosing he gets pre match results from them.

“It’s quite funny, I agree but I believe most of these mentally challenged people see things we can’t see with the naked eyes,” he said.

“I normally assist some of them with food and water and inadvertently they mention some numbers which I quickly memorise and adopt for betting. It’s just my lack of faith that makes we wager a little amount which ends up as winners. But when I use statistics of the teams to predict I end up losing.”

George also attests to using the mentally challenged to know if Manchester United will defeat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He declined, though, to elaborate on it.

Many gamblers develop a belief in lucky numbers or lucky charms. Some even offer prayers to God, asking that He help them win their chosen game. Many even base their bets on personal superstitions, astrological tables, seers, and dream books that list numbers corresponding to names, dates, and dreams.

Some also engage in random selection of numbers they come across in the course of the day. So don’t be surprised if you see someone jotting number plates on vehicle, on the uniform of police officers, on advertising billboards and the like.

Numbers on recharge cards is the favourite of Oluleye.

To the uninitiated no sense can be made from a 16-digit number like 9377 7275 3537 2262 but not so with the happily married man.

“If I am to play six games, I get six different recharge cards either the ones I bought or those I picked on the ground,” he said.

“I can see two results from the card you showed me. I see 3-2 which even appears twice and 2-2 which also appears two times. It’s now left for me to decide which one to pick. The current form of the team playing at home and the results of their last 10 games influence my choice.

“I have since stopped predicting results using recharge cards after I started losing money. The losing streak coincided with when I disclosed the secret of my success to a third party.”

Mpamugo started attending midweek church services to get match results for the games he hopes to bet on the preceding weekend.

Opening to the book of Mathew 5: 1-3 reveals the outcome of a game to the 36-year-old trader who has been betting on matches since 2010.

“When the pastor tells the congregation to open any Bible passage, I note the verse for spiritual and betting reasons,” he said.

“Well, some might see it as sacrilegious but it hurts no one. In the course of the service over five books of the Bible are read and that’s over five match results for me.”

Some punters even enlist the services of their children to get results of matches.

“I normally write the weekend games I intend placing a bet on and give it to my two kids, who also love football, to predict the outcomes of the matches,” George said.

“Afterwards, I use my experience to match the two sets of results with current form, home advantage, previous head-to-head to arrive at the likely outcomes. I have won and lost but I have won more than lost.”

However, Akinsola Akinlehin, the agent who owns the betting shop laughed off the assertions of bettors who claim using any of these means to place bets.

“Well, they can use any weird methods if they like but a game is a game and no two games are the same. They will come up with more weird methods which are fine as long as it keeps them playing the game and keeps someone like me in business,” he said.

And as all experienced gamblers know the odds favour the house – whether casino, racetrack, or sports betting.

Know the game, win the more? 

Sports betting patrons seem to think that they are the smartest of all gamblers. They assume that with experience and knowledge of player’s statistics, teams’ strengths and weaknesses, home advantage, manager’s tactics, results of previous head-to-head meetings, weather conditions, and stadium capacity they can predict the outcome of a game better than the average person.

But in a study published in the Journal Psychopathology, Prof. Pinhas Dannon and Dr. Ronen Huberfeld of the Beer Yaakov Mental Health Centre determined that neither betting experience nor knowledge of the arcane details of the game is connected to successful betting outcomes.

Indeed, the two most successful gamblers in their study had no prior experience in gambling or knowledge of the sport in question.

“These results indicate that sports gamblers are operating under an illusion of control and power unrelated to real-life outcomes,” Prof. Dannon said.

For their study, the researchers focused on the field of soccer betting. They recruited three groups of participants, including 53 professional sports gamblers, 34 soccer fans who were knowledgeable about the sport but had never gambled, and 78 non-gamblers with no prior knowledge of soccer at all.

All participants were asked to place bets on the final scores of the 16 second-round matches of the UEFA Champion’s League. This model mimics how gamblers actually put their money on the games, where they need to bet on exact scores to win.

Although those who had prior knowledge of soccer were expected to have a higher success rate, the researchers discovered that, in fact, their success rate was no better than those of the other two groups.

Interestingly, the two participants with the most successful record, correctly betting on seven out of the 16 games each, hailed from the group with no prior understanding of the sport.

“This doesn’t indicate that there is an advantage to inexperience,” Prof. Dannon said.

“Many others in the third group were unable to predict any of the results correctly. But the outcome exposes the myth of knowledge as a powerful betting advantage. The sense of control that encourages sports gamblers in their betting is just an illusion.”

Forty-one-year-old George has been following the game “for as long as I can remember”. While not completely dismissing the findings of the researchers, the freelance journalist said prior knowledge of football can come in handy in the business of sports betting.

“What drove me to the game was my love for football,” he said.

“I don’t know of someone interested in stocks without knowledge of the business. Granted, some people dabbled into placing bets because it is lucrative and could offer an escape from poverty. But the difference between someone like me and such a person will tell eventually.”

Pocket over heart

Support can now be bought and sold. Gone are the days of blanket support for a team – fans are now thinking of their pocket as well as their heart.

We posed this question to the patrons of soccer bet: “If your team needs to win a game to give them the title but if you bet against them you win N500, 000. How will you bet?”

We got some of these responses:

“I usually bet against my team when they are not doing well.”

“I usually bet for my team. I would bet both ways if I am to make money should my team lose.”

“I don’t bet on my team. My emotional attachment to my team won’t aid rational forecasting.”

The most shocking answer came from a fan of Arsenal. Considering that his team has not won the Barclays Premier League since 2004 one should have expected his heart to rule his pocket. But alas, he overwhelmingly voted for his pocket – personal gain over “collective” gain. Pocket trumps the heart. And according to him, it will trump it over and over again.

“I bet in favour of my team most times but the scenario of them losing the title for my economy to improve is straightforward…I go for the money. We can always win the title 5 years or 10 years’ time,” Mpamugo said
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