The rapid growth in gambling and betting in Ethiopia has necessitated new regulations for the industry. The Ethiopian National Lottery Administration, which governs this section of the market, has put new measures in place, seeing some betting companies’ operations called to a halt for now. This is partly because of safety concerns in the North and the Administration Security Council’s attempts to address these. 

As many as 50 branches of popular betting companies have been closed in Bahir Dar and Billiard halls have been shut down too. This action follows in the wake of the NLA’s new directive being approved. Their injunction places stricter requirements on industry operators due to the surge of young people wagering. 

Similar crackdowns on firms seen as security risks were undertaken in other Amhara Regional State towns. Gondor Town Administrators closed Hookah and Khat venues in January 2022, stating that the youth was being corrupted by their operations. Regional authorities have stated that these businesses are a source of propaganda regarding the Northern Ethiopian civil war. And Dresse Sahilu, PHD, Bahir Dar City Mayor, felt that this widespread action against bookmakers addressed the security threat they held. Speaking to local media agencies, Mayor Sahilu said that gambling was turning the town’s young people into good-for-nothings.

No one is allowed to be armed within city limits and unofficial military training is forbidden. Activities in and around the city’s trade centers and bars have also been restricted. Speaking to the press, Bahir Dar City Mayor Sahilu explained that maintaining order in the municipality would not be possible without the suspension of these activities. Once the situation is more balanced, the measures would be reconsidered.  

Higher Operative Costs

Companies need to have at least 1.5 million Br in their bank accounts to keep their doors open and winners are no longer allowed to receive more than 1 million Br. The new ruling has also raised the cost for a license, from 400 Br to 500 000 Birr and renewals will cost 100 000 Br. The legal gambling age is now 21-years.

NLA Officials Perplexed

The closures have NLA executives bewildered because they have received no complaints from any betting companies. They have been made aware of the widespread shutdown but have no reason for it. 

Dessie Dejene, Director of Licensing and Regulation at the NLA, says there are no grounds for closure. All operators are legally allowed to offer their services if their permits are in order. While highlighting this industry’s impact on job creation and tax income, Dejene said that betting on sports is not illegal in any way. 

On the other hand, a well-known sportsbook’s Senior Manager stated that no prior notice of closures was received, and they don’t know what’s going on. The anonymous source said that these shutdowns would have a very negative effect on the economy and wants to know why licensed bookmakers are appearing on the list of unlawful activities. This company fully intends to take the matter further.

No matter how hurried and baseless measures to maintain law and order may seem, governments have the right to enact them. This is according to legal expert and part-time Addis Ababa University Lecture Liku Worku. Bettors are still able to wager online, however.

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