Ethiopia Enjoys Sports Betting Boom
Betting on sports has been rapidly growing in popularity all across the African continent, driven largely by the increase in mobile device use and Internet availability, and the emergence of mobile money services. South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya have thus far led the way, with each of these countries boasting gambling industries worth millions.
However, until very recently, Ethiopia lagged behind its counterparts, thanks to a politically charged history regarding the gambling issue. During the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie bettors could wager at a hotel-casino in Addis Ababa, the country’s sprawling capital, but Derg, the Marxist-Leninist military party in the ‘80s shut the casino down.
The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front followed the Derg and had a similar attitude towards gambling, so it was not until 2013 that the country issued its first betting license. The market remained relatively empty until roughly 3 years ago, and international organisations are still banned from operating in Ethiopia today.
The fact that the country’s telecommunications organisational structures have improved so vastly helps to explain the sudden expansion of wagering options. The Internet is allowing bettors access, and the ministry has become less rigid about sports betting and gambling overall. This is thanks in part to the election of a comparatively open-minded Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018. Gambling companies are now able to advertise on both radio and television, and casinos may also soon be permitted to advertise too. The motivation for this new stance is the potential for additional tax gains, as a flourishing locally based gambling industry could bring in millions in tax revenue for the country.
What it Means for the Average Bettor
Increased access to online and mobile betting sites means that Ethiopians can finally place bets at any stage they please, and they don’t have to rely on underground, illicit bookmakers or other less than legal or safe options. A more relaxed attitude also makes betting activities more socially acceptable, and this has driven bettors online.
Many people are already pocketing a tidy sum with what is quickly becoming the country’s favourite pastime, betting on soccer. Across Africa, soccer betting attracts the most attention, and is the most popular betting option overall. Top Leagues to wager on include the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League, and Italy’s Serie A, but African-based matches are also very popular, and markets for these matches are also increasingly becoming available online.
A Golden Goose for Bookmakers and Bettors
Companies like Bet251, 22BET and 1XBET are putting their money on betting continuing to be a source of profit in Ethiopia if handled correctly, and plan to open at least 100 sportsbooks in the capital over the next 6 months. They will face stiff competition however, with at least 18 other bookmakers being granted licenses over the last 12 months.
For sportsbook operators the market is clearly a very attractive one and for Ethiopians it is a case of simple economics. Sports betting and gambling offers a quick and enjoyable way to win extra money relatively easily. It’s a win-win situation all round.