Ethiopia edging towards youth protection sports betting ban

Ethiopia’s National Lottery Administration has partnered with Ethio telecom, a telecommunications firm, to launch a digital lottery service via telebirr and 605 SMS
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The Ministry of Women and Social Affairs of Ethiopia has given the go-ahead for a blanket ban on sports betting as pressure groups seek to protect young people and avoid an economic crisis.

Ethiopia’s state broadcaster, FANA, reported that Abebe Haymanot – a representative of the Ministry focused on ‘Youth Development’ – had notified “that work was underway to get sports betting banned”.

Haymanot claimed that the Ministry carried the support of “various movements and discussion platforms” that seek to stop the “degradation of sports”.  

The Ministry outlined that it had conducted a series of surveys that highlighted the threat sports betting posed to Ethiopia’s youth, including “reducing productivity and causing psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and suicide”.

At the start of the year, the Ministry had led calls for the government to impose a ban on sports betting, however were put down by local betting operators who argued that “betting is not gambling”.

Supporting an outright ban, the Ministry pointed to its investigation into betting shops that had flouted age restriction rules, citing that “students donning their school uniform have been spotted in betting dens”.

“The Ministry has suggested that the addition of procedural rules be enacted or betting be banned outright.”

Despite enforcing new rules on licensing and tax in 2020, the Ministry claimed that the gambling regulator National Lottery Administration (NLA) did not have the resources to police Ethiopia’s betting shops.

Legislative changes in 2020, saw the NLA ordered to separate sports betting from lottery licensing, as betting firms were ordered to secure individual licences.   

The NLA responded to criticism of its inaction, stating that it had achieved its policy objectives of licensing Ethiopian bookmakers and ensuring that operators pay a 15% tax on monthly winnings and a 0.5% contribution allocated towards social welfare contributions.