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A bet shop in Nigeria. Photo source: Dozilla.com
Over the last few years, sports betting in Nigeria has undergone a sharp transition from physical betting shops to the online space.
When sports betting first arrived in Nigeria, virtually every bettor used to visit betting houses to carry out their betting activities. They would stand in long queues, patiently waiting for their turns.
Punters could spend hours in betting houses before being attended to.
Those were the days when betting slips were very popular. Bettors would religiously study their print-outs, monitoring and ticking the selections as they happen while maintaining hope that all their games would turn green!
Betting agents would process all betting operations on a large desktop computer in their shops, and would handle all forms of request, including registration, deposits and even withdrawals.
However, things have changed drastically in the last decade.
With mobile penetration getting much better; and internet connectivity improving all the time, a large percentage of punters have moved on from betting houses to the online space. It is estimated that over 80% of Nigerian bettors now gamble on their mobile phones.
Understandably, bookies have also jumped on this trend, with many operators now having mobile betting sites and mobile apps.
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Players can now perform every betting function on their smartphones and tablets. Online registration can be completed within a couple of minutes, while payment options like cards deposits and online banking make funding very convenient.
Withdrawals are also very straightforward, with bettors being able to withdraw money directly from their betting accounts into their bank accounts.
The rise in online betting has naturally led to a reduction in the number of physical betting shops.
However, while online betting remains the more beautiful bride, it is very important for betting operators not to totally abandon the concept of physical betting shops.
Betting shops remain very beneficial to betting companies and bettors alike.
For the operators, brick-and-mortar shops give them more visibility and top-of-the-mind awareness. By having shops in strategic locations within the country, betting companies are constantly in people's faces. This directly leads to an increment in the number of customers they attract, both online and offline.
This is one of the main reasons behind the early and continuing success of a betting site like bet9ja.
The bet9ja site is great, but the company also has more physical betting shops than any other bookmaker in the country. This combination of online and retail marketing has proven to be a winning formula for the company.
Another site following this template is BetKing; and it is clear from their figures that physical betting shops still work.
Having betting houses is also a way of providing job opportunities for people in the community. Many young Nigerians have made decent income by managing these betting shops.
As much as online betting is the dominant form of sports betting in Nigeria, there is still a small percentage of bettors that don't have access to great internet or mobile devices. Betting houses take care of this group of the population.
For the players, betting houses provide a great location to socialize and unwind. Not only do they get to bet and exchange ideas and tips, they also watch big football matches, and discuss the latest trends and topics in football, politics and the society in general.
Some betting houses even go as far as adding extra attractions like games and mini bars to the overall package.
It is easy for betting companies to get carried away by the profitability of online betting and totally abandon the concept of having physical betting houses.
Operators will generate decent revenue from online betting sites, but small details like betting shops could be the difference between being an OK betting site in Nigeria and being a great betting site in the country.