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Game of Hope: Pool Betting in Nigeria

(This story appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of World Policy Journal)

Football betting pools, a cultural import from 1920s Britain, are popular among Nigeria's elderly, retired workers, and the unemployed. Gamblers risk their money on their ability to forecast the results of 49 league matches played across all divisions of the English football Leagues. The matches are detailed on coupon sheets. The promoter of these football pools are mostly Lebanese or Syrian immigrants who operate with licenses issued by the Nigerian federal government. Pool agents are the link between the promoters and bettors. They are always Nigerian. 

Pool houses can be found everywhere in Nigeria. Gamblers arrive at the crack of dawn and often stay until dark, in the hope of wining the jackpot of up to 400,000 Naira ($2,515)—the equivalent of the average annual wage among workers in Nigeria. "Pool is a business of luck," says one pool agent, Akinode Adikole. "When you win, you rejoice; when you lose, you are sad and you accept your fate." Adikole, quite a successful businessman, has had his fair share of luck, allowing him to rent a house and buy a TV, sound system, and various other trappings of the high life.

Andrew Esiebo is a Lagos-based photographer who has chrnoicled the rapid development of urban Nigeria. Selected for the Road to Twenty Project to form an All-Africa Dream Team, providing alternative stories from the South Africa World Cup, he is also co-organizer of "My Eye, My World," a photography workshop for children in Nigeria.

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[Photos courtesy of Andrew Esiebo]  

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