Launching event of Abyssinia Betting on January 25, 2019. Founders of the company Micheal Dmessew (right) and Ashenafi Nigusse (left) are shown briefing the press.

The first of its kind, Abyssinia Bet, an online sports betting platform with both a mobile application and website, was launched last week. The application allows users to place their bets and collect their winnings electronically.

The online sports-betting service offers users a choice of teams and athletes to bet on in Amharic, English and Mandarin. Customers make deposits and cash out their earnings through the Hello Cash mobile payment system.

“Anyone can play and bet anywhere and at any time without coming to our office,” said Ashenafi Nigussie, managing director of Abyssinia Bet.

The service acquired an application and online-based license from the National Lottery Administration, established over half a century ago to regulate all gambling-related activities, last October.

“We plan to excel in the business beyond the fact that we are app based by offering better odds than our competitors,” Ashenafi says.

The platform enables players to win up to one million Birr each week by placing bets that start at a minimum of 10 Br.

There are currently six firms with licenses, and another five in the process of obtaining licenses for sports-betting services from the Administration, which takes 15pc of their profit as a fee.

The two-year-old Habesha Sports Betting is in the process of setting up a similar system, where cash transactions can be made through Hello Cash.

“When we started, it was difficult because the public’s awareness of sports betting was not as deep,” said Misikir Hassen, CEO of Habesha Sports Betting, which has expanded to 23 branches since its establishment.

"Nowadays it is getting better, and our clients are asking us to make the service more accessible."

This is a seasonal business since sports competitions are not available all year round. The most popular betting games are the English Premier League and the European Champions League, according to Misikir. Both games are off season during the summer months, which dries up business for the betting companies.

"The sports betting business is in its infancy here in Ethiopia," says Aweqe Abraham, a sports journalist with over a decade of experience. "The number of users is very small when compared to other African countries like Kenya and Uganda, but in recent years public interest to participate in sports betting has shown a significant increase."

By 2017, Kenya had 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 ugly side of this business is that it could lead to match-fixing by parties involved in the games once the business thrives,” according to Aweqe. "As long as the betting is done on games of other countries, this should not be an issue though."

PUBLISHED ON Jan 26,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 978]

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