The State of Sports Betting in Ethiopia

The sports betting wave has spread its wings in many African countries. It has made its presence felt in Ethiopia popularly known as the horn of Africa. Ethiopia is a land locked country that was never colonized having defeated Italians in the battle of Adowa and its national language is Amharic.

Regulation of sports betting in Ethiopia

The National Lottery Administration was established in 1961 through a proclamation no 183. Initially, it offered lottery games as a sole operator but was later restructured in 1981.
The restructuring saw it tasked with the responsibility to license and regulate gambling games such billiards, poker, bingo and casino. It also collects license fees from bookmakers looking to set shop in brick and mortar casinos. Dagoo Sports Betting Company was the first one to be established in 2012 but later closed after a short stint. Currently 22 betting firms have a legal license to operate.

A common form of gambling in Ethiopia is the Lottery. A variety of lottery games available to the Ethiopian locals include: Lotto, Tinsae, Medebanga, Tombollo, Leyou and the Edil. It is worth noting that the National Lottery Administration (NLA) does not have an online platform for the lottery games. Ethiopian locals are however free to try their luck in international lotteries and sports betting firms based online. Games offered at the physical casino include slot machine, baccarat, roulette and black jack.
Gambling laws in Ethiopia prohibits persons under the age of 18 from engaging in any gambling activities. A number of online gambling sites accept players from Ethiopia and include: Omni slots, 1xbet casino, King Billy casino and Bet 365 sportsbook just to name a few.

Internet penetration has helped open up Ethiopia. As of March 2020 internet penetration stood at 17.8 percent. As a result, locals are able to watch a variety of games through satellite television and become fans to some of the games. This has also widened the reach of online gambling sites to Ethiopia as more and more people get connected to the internet. Gamblers are now able to place bets at the touch of a button, through their mobile devices thanks to technology.

Has the NLA managed to carry out its mandate?

In the past serious allegations of corruption have been raised against the body. The body has been accused of licensing unscrupulous companies which make away with gamers money without according them a chance to win from wagers placed. Players feel safer staking in international owned sites as they are more confident of being able to cash out their winnings. Locals feel foreign operators have repute in minding the welfare of their players.

Uproar against betting in Ethiopia

The Ministry of Women, Children and Youth has in the recent past been on the forefront demanding revocation of sport betting licenses. It argues that the youth are wasting away in betting dens in bid to make quick money. The youth are increasingly becoming addicted to gambling as they seek to recoup lost wagers. Betting has been reported to cause psychological harm to the young able bodied men and an alarming level of engagement in petty theft. Betting shops have been blamed for flouting age restriction rules when accepting their players. Students donning their school uniform have been spotted in betting dens. The Ministry has suggested that the addition of procedural rules be enacted or betting be banned all together.

Is it the end of the road for betting firms?

Betting firms have not been silent on the plans to revoke their licenses. They maintain that their operations are legal as they are licensed by NLA and they have not ignored their social responsibility duty. Betting firms argue that closing shop would translate to loss of jobs for about 1800 people. The government would also lose out on revenues generated from betting activities. Such revenues consist of a 15 percent tax which is deducted from a player’s winnings. A further 20 percent of earnings is given out in form of donations and the beneficiaries would suffer if betting firms ceased operations.

In a recent press conference betting firms have urged the government not to make hasty decisions on banning gambling but rather to give dialogue a chance. Yonas G. Alemu the executive director at Vegas Sport Betting has refuted claims by the society of ignoring social responsibility. The media has highlighted rising concerns from locals who feel gambling should be barred.

The NLA head of communication Tewedrays Neway also sent out a statement stating the betting firms in full compliance of their requirements would be licensed to operate in Ethiopia. He reassured the locals that he was aware of concerns raised against betting firms and informed them a taskforce had been formed to gauge the undertakings of betting firms. The way forward would be dependent on the findings of the taskforce.

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