Sports Betting: A New Business Finally Comes to Ethiopia

These days, for sport fans around the globe, emotional stress is not the only negative impact of watching one’s team lose a game.  More and more joe-sport watcher joins the ranks of those who bet on different sports as sport has become more than just a hobby. It will not take long before Ethiopian sport fans could join this growing international scene.

A new company, Dagoo Sports Betting PLC, is on a promotion campaign to introduce a new business in the country. The company has established the first betting platform for Ethiopian football fanatics to wedge on their favorite international teams. It also plans to include local games in the Ethiopian Premier League in the future.

Four years after its first application to the National Lottery Administration, the responsible governmental body to control lotteries and bettings, the company was established this year with an initial capital of ETB100,000 by a group of five friends who saw the presence of a growing appetite for entertainment and sport. The company will officially launch betting fixtures on August 17, 2013, when the new European football season starts.

“As football fans watch international games, they can get additional entertainment by betting on the teams they are rooting for,” said Ameha Nigatu, one of the founders who is also coordinating the establishment process of the company in an email response to Ethiopian Business Review.

The betting starts with what the founders said to be three folds betting, a betting game over three games selected by the clientele priorly. For starter, the company focuses on what it called Match Betting, which is based on guessing which side wins or losses. They are, however, planning to  include additional features making it more specific including who will be the goal scorer, number of yellow and red cards, or even the player who picks the cards.

“Most of what is being done abroad doesn’t fit to the Ethiopian context if copied directly,” says Ameha. “So we are working on tailored methods that will be user friendly for our Ethiopian clients.”  

Anyone who wants to bet over any one of the three matches after the launching date is only expected to register online or visit the Company’s office in Addis Abeba around what is commonly known as Lagare. Online betting is perhaps the simplest way of playing a betting game. One opens an account on the Company’s website, then transfer amounts online through one of the banks that provide mobile banking such as Dashen Bank and Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, tick on the matches on which one wishes to bet on with predicted winner and wait for the results with fingers crossed.

The winner goes away with an amount of money according to the amount one wedges, based on odds calculations. The Company has plans to make betting as affordable as possible, with a minimum amount  of ETB20. “We don’t want to encourage large bets which go into the range of several thousands for that would take the fun out of betting,” Ameha says.

An establishment of a betting company in Ethiopia is good news for people like Birhanu Ashebir, 49 and a physics teacher. Birhanu has been one of the loyal fans of Liverpool F.C. with unwavering support for his team through ups and downs  for the last 30 years. Even though his team may not be as strong as it used to be back in the days, Birhanu still looks forward to the commencement of the first betting scheme. “The relative weakness of my team will not stop me from betting; I also have other friends of mine, reputed fans of Liverpool. We are going to enjoy it together,” Birhanu shares his feeling about  the new betting scheme.

National Lottery Administration, which needed to adopt a new proclamation to issue a sport betting license for Dagoo Sports Betting PLC, is also the governmental watchdog of the new business. With more plans of involving mobile SMS services in the betting game, the Company expects to participate more than 50,000 customers and be active in regional states as well, according to Ameha.

Betting in Africa is no recent practice; it has been practiced for decades though no exact time could be traced as to when it started. In Kenya, for instance, betting at the racecourse has been practiced since the 1950s. Lately, betting on international games such as golf, tennis, football and other sports has become available for sport fans in the country  through companies like Gaming International.

In recent years, losing or winning as much as USD1,200 in sports betting have become very common in Kenya, according to Business Daily Africa, a Kenyan business daily. Ghana, Uganda and South Africa are also some of the African countries where betting is common.

In South Africa, any sort of gambling was officially banned by the Gambling Act of 1965 except betting on horse racing. In 2004, another National Gambling Act revoked the Act of 1996. In 2008 The National Gambling Amendment Act was introduced. Betting on horse races is controlled by Saftote and operated by Gold Circle in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape and by Phumelela in the remainder of the country.

As long as there was winning and losing in the sports arena, betting has been complementary. When it comes to promoting  public betting, however, much of the credit goes to Greece, the origin of the Olympic Games.

Thousands of years ago, athletic competitions were held in Corinth, Delphi, Nemea, and Olympus. Events included footraces, hurling the discus, long jumping, throwing the javelin, wrestling, boxing, and a form of free-style fighting. Contestants would dress in full battle array, including body armors and helmets, and prize money was awarded to winners. But there was even more to be gained in the viewing stands at these events, where excited spectators wagered on the outcomes, sometimes gaining or losing entire estates in the bargain.

By the 19th century, bettors began focusing on the more organized sports games. This was due to the establishment of different sports associations, unions and leagues to organize each sport game. The 20th century saw expanding betting practices over organized sports with the introduction of governing bodies for professional sports, as well as the rise of distinctly American sports, such as baseball, basketball, and American football. New opportunities to bettors are still being added all the time, from mixed martial arts, volleyball, handball, Aussie Rules football, Gaelic football, and Foot Sal to winter sports like bobsledding, curling, downhill skiing, and speed skating.

Sports’ betting is becoming one of the growing business transactions all over the world. William Hill Betting and Gambling Company, a British betting company  for example had about  16,883 employees in the UK, US, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria The Philippines, Israel and Gibraltar alone,  and have collected close to USD2 billion in revenue in 2012 alone.

Mikias Merhatsidk

EBR staff writter

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