Is is only recently that sports betting has come to Ethiopia. The companies are often owned in a joint venture with foreigners and their customers are mostly youth including students below 18. Some African countries are considering blocking sports betting in a bid to protect youth but the business is flourishing in Ethiopia. Betting is common all over the world, but the English Premier League is the most popular.
Mesfin Kebede, 37, a father of two daughters is an accountant. He works at one of the private commercial banks. During his lunch break, Capital found him waiting in line at one of the Axum Sports Betting branches around Addis Ababa Stadium. Axum Sports Betting, a subsidiary of a Turkish-based Company was launched three years ago. Now it has nine branches in Addis Ababa. This center caters to customers betting on world sports. “EPL, Spanish league and champion’s league matches have mainly gotten the attention of people, weekdays are the busiest days as most European clubs have their day game,” a receptionist at Axum Betting told Capital.
At Axum Betting, the minimum bet is 20 birr and you can win up to 14,000 birr. People can win as much as 300,000 birr.
“I have become very addicted to betting. I visit up to three days per week. I spend more than 2,000 birr a minimum per month but, since I started betting last year I have only won one time and that was just five thousand birr,” Mesfin says.
Currently there are over ten betting firms operating sports-betting services from the National Lottery Administration.
The betting companies have branches in regional states, each company has over 30 branches on average.
“I always bet whenever Manchester United plays. I never miss a single game and get a fraction of coin, Mesfin says.
Henock Woldie, is a senior football analyst at R&D consultancy. The company conducts deep analysis on soccer world-wide and for Ethiopian Premier league clubs such as St. George using analytics.
“The chance of winning from betting is less than 10 percent as the system allows you to try every detail like the winning team, goal difference, first scoring team, name of scorer, minutes of scoring etc.” Henock says.
Therefore, it narrows the chance of winning which broadens the betting companies advantage. They make huge profits from it, he adds.
Yodit, her name has been changed upon request, works in one of the betting companies as a reception and casher. She said that her company collect 50 thousand birr on average from the 70 branches in Addis Ababa and regional branches daily.
Mengistu Yirga in his early 20’s was also lining up at another sport betting company around Megenagna to bet on a weekend match.
He was writing his prediction on a piece of paper, but now he uses a computer. “I bet in any nearby betting company as long as Manchester United has a game” he said.
“The thing is more than an addiction for me; I go late to bed as long as I bet that day. I stalk on my smart phone to follow the match results online,” Mengistu says.
Even though, the law allows sport betting above 18 years old, Capital witnessed students with uniforms standing in line to bet during the middle of the week, when the European champions’ league game took place that night.
Hulu Sport Betting PLC, a company fully operated by Ethiopians, includes Ethiopian Premier League matches in their betting.
“It’s not gambling, rather it’s trying your chance through knowledge as the system puts every detail of the teams’ past matches, the current status, and the last match performance,” Abrham T/mariam Deputy Manager of Hulu Sport Betting says.
The maximum winning lottery at Hulu Sport Betting is 64,000 birr by 20 birr, though the maximum winning cap is 300,000 birr.
The number of sport betting companies in Ethiopia is low compared to other African countries.
As the business needs an Internet connection, sometimes, the network affect us, Abrham says.
According to an agreement with the National Lottery Administration, all betting companies are obliged to disperse 20 percent or more from their net profits to sport institution or clubs, however none of those betting companies have been discharging their corporate social responsibilities.
“Yes, we made such agreement in written form, but Hulu Betting has not been profitable since entry, that’s why we haven’t done that,”Abrham says.
In neighboring Kenya, there are more than 20 local and international firms who opened their doors to betting services, making it the third-largest market in Africa next to South Africa and Nigeria.
The combined size of the gambling industry in Kenya, Nigeria, and South African is projected to be worth 37 billion USD in 2018. In Kenya alone, a 2017 study found that an estimated two million individuals are engaged in mobile-based sports betting.
It’s estimated that by the year 2022, the global gambling market could be worth 635 billion USD, according to new findings by Dublin-based Research and Markets.
“You have no idea, my friends and I have started closely following other European leagues apart from EPL for the sake of betting,” says Mengistu.