Bettors in Nigeria are furious. This is consequent to local sports betting company MSport changing its odds overnight. The move seemed to be a blatant attempt by the company to avoid paying numerous outstanding bets. The backlash has been immediate amongst bettors, with many accusing the company of fraud.
The story starts with a Twitter account called @MayorofTwitter. The account is widely respected in Nigeria as a sports betting hub. @MayorofTwitter sends out what is referred to as “Sure Game.” A Sure Game is a betting prediction that is almost certain to win. Or at least whoever makes the predictions is seen as almost certain. @MayorofTwitter gives Sure Game prediction away to followers as a means to grow a reputation.
A recent Sure Game went viral, and an online betting code for MSport. The end result was MSport having to pay out an enormous number of bets, each worth N5.5 million.
The Policy Changing Scam
MSport changed the game’s odds, reducing payouts from N5.5 million to N1.5 million. Some will point out that online bookmakers aren’t uncommon to change odds. The difference here is that the change was made after the match concluded.
#MSportScam was born and began to trend immediately on Twitter. The company did not respond, and bettors soon started to express anger. Only after the hashtag trended across Nigeria did the government sit up and pay attention. The National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC) made a Tweet. The message declared that MSport would be paying out all winning immediately.
An NLCR representative met with Funmilola Akingbelu of MSport. Soon after, winning bettors began to receive their payouts. Director General Lanre Gbaja promised that an investigation would be conducted.
Fraud Not Tolerated
Gbaja declared that there is no room for fraud in Nigeria. He stressed that an amicable agreement had been reached and that various stakeholders were happy. He emphasised that the NLCR will always work to resolve fraud and illegalities.
In this case, the matter was resolved. However, in other cases, fraudulent companies have managed to get away with similarly blatant fraud. In Cameroon, a bettor managed to win $22 million. Online sportsbook 1xBet refused to pay, resulting in a violent riot.
Another incident took place in Nigeria earlier this year. SportyBet changed its terms after it was forced to pay out N7 million. The company quickly reduced the maximum amount it would have to pay from N30 million to N25 million.
Sports Betting a Big Issue
It isn’t surprising that online sports betting is a hot topic globally. Germany has been struggling with policies for years. In the United States, policies are decided by individual states, and many states have chosen to keep gambling illegal. In the United Kingdom, the debate rages constantly. It was declared that UK football players and coaches may not participate in betting.
The question is why equal policy measures aren’t being established in African countries. Online sports betting is exploding across the continent, yet governments seem indifferent. Little has been done on a state level to keep players safe. When regulatory watchdogs are assigned, they seem toothless, doing little to help the consumer. African bettors everywhere are starting to get irate.
Thankfully it seems as if changes are starting to occur. At least in Nigeria.
NLRC Finally Taking Action
The NLRC’s stepping in on the latest issue with MSport is unprecedented. Calls for justice with betting companies have previously gone unheard. Thus it seems as if regulators may finally be paying attention.
Another popular Twitter account in the betting community spoke up; LouieDi13. Louie declared that the voices of Nigerian bettors have finally been heard. He continued that all locals want is a fair and safe gambling environment free of cheaters.
A Long Road Ahead
Although seeing the NLRC step up was lovely, there is still plenty of work to do. Nigeria still has a severe lack of policies leaving plenty of room for fraud. Simply put, online sportsbooks need to be held accountable. The problem is that without appropriate laws, no one has the power to bring them to justice.
The NLRC may be stepping up, but it remains to be seen if they follow through. Hopefully, this will sign that they are starting to get the ball rolling. In the meantime, MSport may think twice about changing the rules after a game has been concluded.