Online gambling (gaming) law
The legal regulation of online gambling varies substantially from nation to nation, state to state. Therefore, it is important to understand the legality of online gambling in your territory before attempting to play via the internet.
Click on the interactive map below to find the gambling law of any given country.
- Legal for foreign visitors only
- Legal in limited localities only
- Unknown / Grey market
- Legal for domestically licensed operators only
- Unknown / Grey market
- Illegal, penalty rarely enforced
- Legal for domestically licensed operators only
- Some casinos restricted
- No restrictions
- Some transactions restricted
- No restrictions
Gambling is officially illegal in Afghanistan. When the country was taken over by the Taliban, most forms of entertainment were outlawed as un-Islamic. The Taliban regime has now fallen, but gambling remains illegal and there are no legitimate businesses in the nation where gambling is practiced. Nevertheless, certain activities – including a game called ‘kite fighting,’ where competitors with kites attempt to cut one another’s strings, as well as blood sports like cock fighting – are wagered upon in an informal fashion.
Online gambling is also a criminal offence in Afghanistan, although many Afghans choose to chance their arms playing at international gambling websites via proxy servers. The size of the underground market in the Muslim-majority world has led to an influx of Arabic-language casino websites that specifically target players from regions where the law forbids gambling wholesale.
Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Albania was a communist state wherein no legal gambling was permitted. However, legal betting markets (in the form of sports betting and lotteries) quickly emerged after the iron curtain came down. Today, the country boasts a casino of its own, the Regency Casino in the capital of Tirana (opened in 2005). The Regency offers players slots and table games and holds a 15 year operating license from the Albanian state.
Additionally, there are many slot parlours and gambling halls available across the nation, with ten licensed operators providing games to thousands of players. Furthermore, there are six sportsbook operators, four bingo operators and a national lottery. Presently, domestic expenditure on gambling in Albania is in excess of $100m, while around €700m is wagered via foreign online casinos. This is all in spite of Albania containing a 70% Muslim population.
The government has lately begun to crack down on widespread illegal gambling activities, which allegedly cost the state around €1.8bn in missed tax revenue. Part of this campaign has involved an attack on online gambling. While gambling via the internet is not illegal in Albania, the state has been making efforts to block foreign-based websites, which have been accused of taking cash away from domestic businesses. This means that Albania will likely begin bestowing online licenses to local companies in the near future, following the implementation of an online monitoring system in 2016.
Recent changes in the law have hiked up taxation on domestic casinos, while legislation to limit the social harms of gambling has made it possible for Albanian citizens to have relatives banned from gambling establishments on request.
As a Muslim-majority country (98.5% Sunni Muslim) all forms of gambling are illegal in Algeria. However, as with other countries where gambling is prohibited, many players continue to wager online regardless at international casino websites via proxy servers. Some casino operators target this illicit market by translating their sites into Algerian Arabic.
Despite being considered a ‘microstate’ by the international community, Andorra is one of the richest regions in Europe, largely on the strength of its highly developed tourism sector. Until very recently, gambling has not been legally permitted in Andorra, but all that might be soon to change. The Andorran government is said to be laying down the legislative and infrastructural requirements for a competitive gambling sector, in the hope of drawing in even more tourists and bolstering the nation’s already enviable economy.
It is not presently clear when legal gambling will be brought to Andorra; currently, only one physical casino is due to be constructed. While ‘traditional’ gambling is considered a priority for the Andorran state, it is suspected that online gambling will be officially regulated by the end of 2015.
Angola is an interesting case. There is no official legislation on gambling, but there are no gambling establishments in the entire country, which leads many to assume that gambling is tacitly outlawed. However, by the same token, there is nothing to prevent online gamblers from enjoying games at international operators. Additionally, many popular card games – including Lerpa, Vinte e Um and Sete e Meio – are informally played for money by native Angolans.
Antigua and Barbuda was the first territory to officially regulate online gambling operators and betting services in 1994, making it the birthplace of the modern internet gambling market. Today, the online gambling industry provides a great deal of employment to the small Caribbean nation in the form of operators, IT workers and marketing teams. Over 150 gambling sites are currently regulated out of Antigua and Barbuda. Unsurprisingly, all forms of gambling are permitted in Antigua and Barbuda. Despite being a rather small country, it boasts six physical casinos and an extremely healthy gaming market.
The country was also the centre of a dramatic legal dispute with the United States, following the arrest of Jay Cohen – owner of the World Sports Exchange – who was found to be in violation of the anti-gambling Wire Act. Cohen, who had been operating out of Antigua and Barbuda, spent time in a Las Vegas Federal prison as a result of this ruling.
Subsequently, Antigua filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation, arguing that the prosecution of one of its citizens under American law was illegitimate. A WTO panel ruled in favour of Antigua in 2004, finding the U.S. to be in violation of international treaties. Despite an American appeal in 2005, the ruling was upheld and the U.S. was ordered to amend its laws. A series of other disputes followed in the intervening years, culminating in Antigua demanding $3.44bn in compensation from the United States – at present, not a penny has been paid. The case, to all intents and purposes, goes on.
Argentina has one of the largest gambling sectors in the world. It also provides possibly the greatest range of legal forms of gambling on the planet, with everything from casinos, dog and horse racing, lotteries and pari-mutuel betting shops being permitted. The country represents the largest gambling sector in South America and there has been some talk of nationalising this powerful, lucrative industry at some point in the future.
Online gambling is legal in all parts of Argentina except for the capital (Buenos Aires), although technically this is only true of domestically-regulated operators. At present, only a handful of licenses have been issued, meaning that the majority of Argentinians play at foreign sites. Despite attempts to block access to offshore betting websites and even to ban online gambling altogether, the Argentinian government didn’t manage to generate the necessary traction to pass these measures.
Physical casinos are permitted in Armenia, with a handful of fairly small establishments available throughout the nation. Online gambling licenses are not provided by the Armenian government, but it does not appear that online gambling is specifically legislated against, making Armenia a grey market.
Australia has one of the biggest legal gambling scenes in the world, being home to more than 400 gambling establishments (casinos and racetracks, mostly), while Sydney boasts two of the world’s biggest and swankiest casinos: the Crown and Star City. The country has also produced major poker stars including Joe Hachem. Furthermore, the yearly Aussie Millions tournament offers some of the biggest buy-ins in the game.
As it happens, Aussies lose quite a bit of money to gambling. On average, an Australian will drop about $1,000 (AUS) annually on gambling activities, meaning Australians lose more money per head on gambling than any other nationality on earth, outstripping expenditure on any other cultural activity, including sports and cinema. Fixed-odds poker terminals (known colloquially as ‘pokies’) are also exceptionally popular.
While it is not illegal for Australians to gamble online, it is illegal for offshore companies to provide casino products to players physically located in Australia (effective following the Interactive Gambling Act, passed in 2001). Players will therefore never be prosecuted for gambling at an international website via a proxy server, but operators could get in trouble for advertising their wears down under. Sportsbooks and online lotteries are considered extensions of land-based businesses, and are therefore considered fully permissible.
Land-based gambling in all its forms is permitted in the state of Austria and there are many physical casinos situated within its borders. The country also offers horse racing via the Magna Racino track, based 20 miles outside of Vienna and a state lottery is run by Osterreichischen Lotterien. However, Austria is probably best known for its thriving poker scene, to the point that this country is known in some quarters as the ‘poker capital of Europe.’
Online gambling is legal is in Austria; however, the law permits access to licensed, Austria-based companies only. Furthermore, only Austrian nationals are allowed to gamble via the internet at these websites. However, nobody has ever been prosecuted for gambling at international websites from Austria inside via a proxy server. The European Union has previously investigated Austria for its restrictive policies on online gambling, which prohibit foreign companies from advertising on Austrian soil.
Until fairly recently, Azerbaijan had a sizable gambling industry, with 12 casinos in the city of Baku alone operating in 1997. However, the 1998 election of President Heydar Aliyev forced all of these casinos to close, rejecting gambling as contrary to ‘traditional Azerbaijani values.’ Ironically, this followed a major scandal wherein Aliyev’s son lost over $6m at a Turkish casino and was forced to put up a diplomatic mansion in Baku to cover his debts…which promptly became a gambling den and hotbed for money laundering. Whoops.
You can to attempt to gamble at an international casino website from an Azerbaijani computer, using a proxy server, of course, but you could be prosecuted and face jail time if you’re caught.
Land-based gambling is permitted in the Bahamas, but only within the confines of casinos licensed by the Gaming Board for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The Bahamian gambling industry actually has a long and fascinating history, beginning with the opening of the nation’s first casino – The Bahamian Club – in Nassu in the 1920s, followed shortly by another establishment on the island of Cat Cay.
However, it was not until 1964 that the first major casino opened in the Bahamas, The Monte Carlo, located in the Lucayan Beach Hotel. This was followed by a swathe of large, luxurious gambling establishments, opening and closing in quick succession due to the high competition of the seasonal tourism market. Today, there are five casinos in the Bahamas and punters flock from around the globe to enjoy top-notch gambling entertainment in the glorious setting of this island paradise.
The Bahamas does not officially legislate for online gambling, so it is presumed to be permitted. However, the lack of official licensing and the fact that any gambling activities conducted outside of casinos are technically unlawful means that this region is considered a grey market.
As an officially Islamic nation, gambling is legally prohibited in Bahrain. Until recently, hotels were able to provide gambling activities to patrons, but this practice has been clamped down upon in recent years. On and offline gambling are both banned and players face prosecution if they are found attempting to gamble via international operators.
Bangladesh, despite being a Muslim-majority country, does permit some forms of gambling. Bangladeshi gambling law dates all the way back to the 1867 Public Gambling Act, which is still in effect and prohibits all forms of gambling with the exception of lotteries and betting on horse races. In the latter instance, all bets must be made on the day of the race, at a track and with a licensed bookmaker. ‘Games of skill’ (an ill-defined term in Bangladesh) are also exempt from the general gambling ban but are only run for charitable purposes (as is the state lottery).
Bangladesh does not issue online gambling licenses, but there is nothing to stop foreign websites taking bets from players in the region. In effect, online gambling is legal, but the lack of clear legislation means that Bangladesh is deemed a grey market.
Physical gambling in Barbados is limited to slot machines and a national lottery. Slot games can be played in the country’s lone casino and a handful of bars, arcades, pool halls and hotels. In general, legal gambling has crept into Barbados rather slowly. One of the biggest developments in recent memory has been the installation of 2,500 video lottery terminals in the country. Online gambling is not specifically legislated for in Barbados, but there is no evidence that anyone has ever been prosecuted for playing online, meaning the country is considered a grey market.
As a former Soviet state, Belarus hasn’t had much time to develop its gambling sector since it became independent in 1991. Nevertheless, Belarus facilitates gambling within its borders in the form of casinos (concentrated in the capital, Minsk), in addition to national and local lotteries. However, the Belarusian government forbids online gambling companies from offering services to its citizens. That being said, players have never been prosecuted for playing online, so many simply gamble at offshore sites via proxy servers. Very few online gambling companies legitimately accept business from players based in Belarus.
Gambling is fully legal in Belgium, with an abundance of casinos and other gaming activities available within the country, including dog and horse races, slot machines and a national lottery. The two biggest horse racing tracks in Belgium (the Hippodrome de Wallonie a Mons and the Hippodrome de Waregam are internationally renowned.
Internet gambling has been legal in Belgium since 2002. Shortly after this concession, the online gambling market in Belgium increased to around 25,000 players, wagering through €27m a year. In recent years, it is assumed this number has increased significantly. In general, Belgium is one of the most active and varied gambling markets in Europe with a vast player base.
Belize has previously permitted gambling but at present there isn’t much indication that gambling activities are occurring within the state. Disputes over Belize’s sovereignty and independence from Guatemala means that the country has been too concerned with diplomatic and political problems to develop a proper leisure sector. Nevertheless, online gambling is not illegal in Belize, so players based in this region can at the very least access games via the internet.
Gambling is fully legal in Benin, although its gambling sector is rather small. The country boasts a single casino (in the Benin Marina Hotel) with a handful of table games, as well as a national lottery, established in 1967. This lottery is rather different than that of other nations, given the variety of games it facilitates, including sports betting. This lottery contributes significantly to the country’s social, cultural and sports organisations. Online gambling is also legal for players based in Benin – so if you’re in this territory, you should encounter no problems accessing your favourite internet casinos and sportsbooks.
Gambling is fully legislated against in Bhutan by legal statute 393, which states that all citizens or visitors in the country will be prosecuted for wagering something of value on a ‘contingent event’ or ‘contest of chance’ not under the person’s ‘control or influence’ in an arrangement of common bargain with another party, where the person stands to gain something of value based on a particular outcome. This very specific law essentially outlaws all forms of gambling conceivable and anyone found to be in contravention of this law can be subject to a jail sentence of up to a year. Therefore, gambling is strongly discouraged for all visitors to the nation.
For a brief period, India’s Playwin lottery was permitted in Bhutan, but was closed in 2007 given the exorbitant taxes imposed upon it by the state in an attempt to prevent gambling from finding a foothold in the kingdom. Online gambling is also illegal in Bhutan, falling under the same legislation that prohibits physical gambling.
The Bolivian gambling industry has experienced a complicated history, to say the least. Gambling was illegal in Bolivia for much of the past century, with bans enforced in 1930 and 1938, resulting in a significant underground gambling market. This scale of this black market ultimately forced the government to legislate for a limited, legal gambling market in 1996, with 200 licenses issued to slot machine parlours and casinos. At this time, gambling in Bolivia was placed under the control of the National Lottery Commission of Charity and Health. Since 2011, a Gaming Control Board has been established in Bolivia as the only government entity with the authority to license, tax and regulate gambling in the nation. In spite of these concessions, a large black market still operates in Bolivia.
There is no specific legislation for internet gambling in Bolivia, making the nation a technical grey market. As far as is known, the Bolivian government has never taken any legal action against an internet gambling company or any of their players, so it is assumed that online gambling is, to all intents and purposes, fully legal.
Many forms of land-based gambling are legal in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although obviously the tragic events that afflicted the region in the ‘90s significantly damaged its leisure industries. However, these have recovered substantially in recent years. Presently, the country facilitates casino gambling, sports betting and a national lottery.
Online gambling in the region has experienced a very different story. Internet play was not legislated for at all until 2013, at which time the Bosnian government proposed and attempted to impose a ban on accessing offshore gambling companies. However, under severe pressure from the international community, the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (RAK) was forced to retract this amended gambling bill, which was seen to constitute internet censorship.
The Republika Srpska, a political entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, licensed the nation’s first domestic gambling website, WWin. However, players not from Bosnia and Herzegovina are forbidden from signing up. It is not presently illegal to gamble at foreign-based websites from a Bosnian IP address, but the ambiguity of the law in this area means the region is considered a grey market.
Casino gambling is the only legally permitted form of betting in Botswana. The country does not even offer a national lottery. This was in spite of attempts to update Botswanan gambling law in the early 2000s. Botswana, along with other African nations including Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe Swaziland and South Africa, falls under the Gaming Regulators African forum, a pan-African regulatory body.
Most forms of gambling in Brazil were prohibited in 1946, including casinos and sportsbooks, although lotteries, bingo and horse betting were spared the chop. The result of this harsh treatment of gambling has paradoxically been the rise of a large and exceptionally powerful black market; a hotbed for organised crime. Video gaming machines have also been legally operating in the country since the `1990s, with most of these concentrated in bingo halls.
Online gambling is technically banned under the 1946 act (although it is obviously not mentioned in that bill) and Brazil has not licensed any gambling operators of its own. Nevertheless, Brazilian players commonly gamble online via foreign websites. A government proposition to block credit card transactions from Brazilian accounts in 2012 is still under consideration, but at present there is no way for the Brazilian government to prevent players from accessing casinos and sportsbooks online, making the country a grey market.
As a Muslim-majority country, all forms of gambling in Brunei are prohibited for religious reasons. This also extends to online gambling, for which citizens and tourists can be prosecuted and imprisoned.
The development of gambling legislation in Bulgaria has been tumultuous, to say the least. All forms of gambling in the nation were illegal until 1989, after which games were limited to hotels and were offered to tourists only. However, in 1993, gambling was officially legislated for, permitting the introduction of lottery, bingo and casino games for players over the age of 18. In the following years, the gaming market evolved substantially, especially following the Gaming Law of 1998, which introduced a proper licensing system and taxation methods for a legal gambling market. Under this law, only fully-licensed establishments were permitted to operate in Bulgaria. The law was further refined in 1999 and still stands today, legislating for 11 casinos and a myriad of ancillary gambling activities in the country.
In 2008, online gambling was also fully legalised in Bulgaria, with an official regulatory system introduced in 2012. However, various anti-competitive stipulations make Bulgaria an unpopular market for internet operators. For starters, the government runs a monopoly on sports-betting, with the Bulgarian site Sports Toltalizor offering half its proceeds to Bulgarian sports teams. Furthermore, turnover on online gambling was formerly taxed by the Bulgarian state at a flat rate of 15%, which was considered extremely high. In 2013, Bulgarian Gambling Reform Bill amended this to a one-off license fee with a 20% tax on the difference between wagers made and winnings paid, which was seen as more reasonable but still rather tough. The Bulgarian government is also very strict and proactive when it comes blocking and blacklisting unlicensed sites, so there’s little hope of internet companies getting around these rules.
The Burkina Faso economy cannot really support a gambling industry – there is no evidence of legal gambling in the country and the nation’s large Muslim population makes it likely that all forms of gambling are, at the very least, tacitly prohibited.
Burundi is one of the world’s poorest and most unstable regions, meaning its economy cannot support a gambling industry. As a result, it is presumed that on and offline gambling are both technically prohibited.
Gambling has a rich historical tradition in Cambodia, but was completely banned by the Khmer Rouge dictatorship in the 1970s (along with all forms of currency). However, after the fall of Pol Pot’s regime, legal casino gambling returned to Cambodia in the 1990s, mostly catering to Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese gamblers, given a 1996 ‘no locals law’ (which is weakly enforced by the Cambodian government). Vietnamese players are particularly prevalent, as gambling is banned in neighbouring Vietnam.
The law concerning online gambling in Cambodia is rather ambiguous, but it would appear to be illegal and there have been arrests made for players caught accessing foreign casino websites.
Despite fairly steep levels of taxation, gambling is entirely legal in Cameroon. In 2005, the country passed a Finance Law that imposed special taxes on ‘games of chance.’ This so-called ‘value added tax’ was intended to collect additional revenue from gambling establishments. The country also operates a ‘screen license’ tax, covering video slots and poker machines. Finally, players in Cameroon are taxed on their winnings. Recently, Prime Minister Philémon Yang has ordered additional reforms to ‘clean up’ Cameroon’s gambling sector, targeting unlicensed gambling operators in the country. At present, it is uncertain what form these reforms will take. Online gambling is legal, but is similarly subject to strict regulation and heavy taxation.
Canada’s gambling legislation has undergone a process of gradual evolution, starting with the banning of gambling under the Canadian Criminal Code in 1892. This was followed by the exemption of charitable games, including bingo and raffles in 1900, then horse racing in 1910, through to the permitting of gambling at agricultural fairs and exhibitions in 1925. A national lottery was legislated for in 1969, while Canada’s first legal casino opened in 1974. Slot machines were legalised for non-casino premises in 1985.
Today Canada’s gambling laws are comparable to those of the United Kingdom and are notably more liberal than those of the neighbouring USA, for example. Each of the ten Canadian provinces is allowed to individually legislate for and tax gambling activities at their discretion, meaning that the legal age for gambling varies across the country. Online gambling is also legal in Canada and players are not taxed on their winnings.
As a small, isolated nation located off the coast of Africa, Cape Verde doesn’t have the resources or infrastructure to support a gambling industry. As a result, gambling law in Cape Verde isn’t clearly established.
Despite being mired in a great many social, political and economic difficulties, the Central African Republic does appear to have legislated for gambling. The only evidence for this is a 2006 document that stipulated a special tax on gambling activities. At present, there is absolutely no evidence of state legislation for online gambling. This ambiguity would position the Central African Republic as a grey market.
This small, desert nation does not provide any legal forms of gambling, largely owing to its mostly-Islamic population. However, it is possible that informal wagering occurs on sporting events such as football, basketball and wrestling, which are all popular in Chad.
Chilean gambling laws are some of the most permissive in the world. Chile offers a wide variety of legal gambling activities, including a number of sizable casinos, sports betting and a state lottery. The Chilean gambling sector is still well behind that of Argentina – the real gambling superpower in South America, but it is expanding at a steep rate. Chile also legislates for domestic gambling operators in addition to permitting Chilean players full access to offshore gambling websites.
Gambling is officially prohibited under Chinese law. However, the incumbent Communist Party regularly raises revenue for the state coffers by allowing citizens on the mainland to gamble on state lotteries. Moreover, most Chinese citizens will come into contact with the People’s Republic’s extensive black market in one form or another. This underground gambling scene represents one of the largest gaming markets in the world.
China’s Special Administrative Regions (SARs) are a wholly different story. Most famously, the SAR of Macau recently overtook Las Vegas as the largest legal gambling hub in the world, raking in $44.1bn in 2014 alone. The SAR is absolutely rife with organised crime and is an international centre for money laundering. This has led to a crackdown on excesses and illegalities within the Macanese gambling sector in recent months.
Online gambling on the mainland is illegal and punishments for citizens or tourists caught playing via the internet can be very severe. However, some state licenses have been issued for companies based in China’s SARs. Furthermore, the size of an illicit Chinese market of online gamblers has led many operators to deliberately target this market by offering their content in Cantonese. A number of foreign operators also target Chinese players based outside of China with live games hosted by Asian, Cantonese-speaking dealers.
Gambling is wholly legal in Colombia, mostly evident in its casino sector and state lottery. However, the Colombian gambling industry is, at present, comparatively underdeveloped, partly owing to the corruption and incompetence of the former state agency for gambling, ETESA, which was replaced by the public entity COLJUEGOS, in 2012, which went on to perform a major investigation into the nation’s gambling industry. In particular, the licensing information of Colombia’s various gambling establishments was reviewed extensively.
Online gambling is also fully permitted in Colombia and the country even hosts an annual online gambling expo. However, the state does not presently hand out licenses to localised operators.
Comoros is a rare instance of a Muslim-majority country (98% Sunni Muslim) that permits gambling – albeit on casino premises only. There are only two casinos presently operating in Comoros. Online gambling is illegal.
This former French colony in Central Africa is too small and too badly afflicted with war and poverty to legislate for a proper gambling industry. However, it is known that no legal gambling occurs in the country.
Costa Rica is one of the most liberal countries on Earth when it comes to gambling. Virtually every gambling activity conceivable is permitted and the country boasts a thriving leisure sector worth billions of dollars every single year.
Costa Rica’s favourable tax rates and extremely liberal legislation with regards to gambling has made it an international hub for the online gambling industry, hosting the offices of hundreds of operators. The Costa Rican state also serves as a regulatory body for these and many more offshore companies, the only major stipulation is that the websites under its auspices are not permitted to offer their services to nationals.
However, Costa Rica licensing has received a slightly unfavourable reputation in the international community, as there is a lack of specific legislation in the country for dealing with online gambling. Most of Costa Rica’s ‘licensees’ are actually self-regulating; a small number have been accused of cheating.
Land-based gambling is legal in the Ivory Coast, although the nation has only one casino. Locals can also gamble via a state lottery. As far as is known, the Ivory Coast does not legislate for online gambling one way or another, so it is presumed to represent a grey market.
Gambling in all its forms is legal in Croatia, although different regulations and rules apply to different activities. For instance, poker and table games can only be played in casinos. Croatia was one of the first countries in the Eastern Bloc to legalise and officially regulate gambling in the 1960s – although this was limited to betting on certain football matches. Since the fall of the iron curtain in the early ‘90s, the legal gambling market in Croatia has grown in size and popularity. Major casinos, many of which are based in hotels, have proven highly attractive to foreigners, cultivating a fair amount of casino tourism.
Since 2010, online gambling in Croatia has been regulated by the Ordinance on Interactive Online Casino Gaming, which is responsible for handing out licenses to localised operators and regulating the activities of offshore brands.
All forms of gambling are prohibited by Cuba’s socialist government and players caught attempting to gamble, either on Cuban soil or via the internet, can face severe punishment. Until the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the South American nation was well known for its lavish gambling establishments – particularly in the capital of Havana. However, these were swiftly abolished when Prime Minister Fidel Castro came to power. Today, you could find yourself in serious trouble if you attempt to gamble in Cuba, although the re-opening of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States offers a sliver of hope that the Cuban government might one day liberalise its gambling legislation.
Gambling is exceptionally popular in Cyprus, particularly (and somewhat ironically) in the Muslim-majority, Turkish section. A 1975 law introduced casinos and betting halls to North Cyprus, but the industry didn’t truly flourish until the 1990s, when the Islamic Welfare Party in Turkey pushed for gambling bans in Turkey that ultimately inspired a mass gambling exodus to Cyprus.
Down south in the Greek-controlled section, gambling law is far tighter, meaning that the majority of gambling establishments are concentrated in the northern part of the island. However, the economic downturn faced by southern Cyprus in 2013 has led the government to start implementing measures for legalising a domestic casino industry. Unfortunately, the austerity measures imposed on Cyprus by the European Union will certainly pose a setback for the establishment of legal gambling in the south.
Unregulated online gambling was formerly extremely popular in Cyprus, but after the 2012 Betting Act was introduced to regulate traditional casino gaming, sports betting and lotteries, all other forms of internet gambling were banned. Nevertheless, Cypriot players regularly play online at offshore sites using proxy servers and to date no-one has ever been arrested for doing so.
Czechs are some of the biggest gamblers in Europe and the Czech Republic boasts over 100 casinos, in addition to many hundreds of gaming bars and arcades. It has been said that the nation has a ratio of one gambling machine to every 200 citizens.
Despite the fact that many Czech sportsbooks already offer their services online, the Czech government doesn’t clearly or consistently legislate for online gambling and certainly doesn’t hand out licenses to its national operators. The government has actually been taken to an EU court for its ambiguous stance on internet play.
In order to protect its domestic gambling market, the Czech government attempted to implement regulation of online gambling companies in 2012, but this was cancelled in 2013 under intense pressure from European gambling operators who regarded the bill as below par. In fact, the proposed legislation was found to be in contravention of EU legal directives. New legislation was projected for 2015, which promised a tax hike on earnings from offshore operators. This has yet to materialise, and the lack of clear legislation means that the Czech Republic should be considered a grey market.
Nevertheless, there is no possibility of players based in the Czech Republic facing any legal trouble for playing via the internet.
Denmark is internationally renowned for its gambling legislation, which is clear, straightforward and remarkably liberal. From 1948 until fairly recently, most gambling activities in Europe were controlled by a mostly state-owned company called Danske Spil. This monopoly was not a particularly effective arrangement, as the company imposed rules that were unclear and excessively restrictive. A new gambling act, brought into force since 2012, was a well-overdue development. Danske Spil retains its monopoly over lotteries and racing, but the rest of the gambling market has been opened to competitors.
The introduction of Denmark’s updated gambling legislation also revitalised the online gambling scene for Danish players. The Danish Gambling Authority (SKAT) licensed 25 operators in the first year since the bill was signed into law and has officiated for many more subsequently. That being said, the government is very strict when it comes to preventing unlicensed operators from offering their services to Danish players, blacklisting 57 websites in 2012 alone.
Only casino gambling is legal in Djibouti and at present just one establishment operates in the territory: the Grand Casino de Djibouti and Sheraton Hotel, which caters almost exclusively to tourists. All other forms of gambling - on and offline - are banned.
The Dominican Republic is a strange case. While there is no evidence of physical gambling in this territory, a handful of online gambling operators do have their headquarters based there and the country is a licensee for internet casinos and sportsbooks. Nevertheless, gambling within Dominica itself is presumed to be illegal.
Gambling is entirely banned throughout East Timor and the government rigorously enforces this prohibition, raiding establishments thought to be facilitating gambling and arresting operators and players alike. This ban is thought to stem from the fervent Roman Catholicism of East Timor.
Until very recently, Ecuador had very favourable legislation for gambling establishments and was considered a liberal market. However, following the election of socialist president Rafael Correa in 2010, the situation has changed drastically. A referendum in 2011 found that the majority of Ecuadorians supported the president’s suggestion to do away with the gambling industry altogether, which was seen as a hotbed of crime and corruption. As a result, the Ecuadorian gambling market was essentially eradicated, with the country’s 55 casinos and 100+ slot parlours and bingo halls given a six month term within which to close their doors.
In spite of these dramatic developments, online gambling is not explicitly mentioned in any Ecuadorian legislation and the government does not prevent players from gambling at international sites via the internet. As a result, Ecuador is considered a grey market.
Egypt has by far the largest gambling sector in North Africa and a gambling tradition stretching all the way back to the days of the Pharaohs, thousands of years ago. The country’s current, secular military government maintains a substantial gambling market to this day, in the form of sportsbooks, lotteries and casinos. Egypt’s casinos are famed for being especially lavish, but none presently accept the Egyptian Pound or permit patrons with Egyptian passports: these establishments are strictly for tourists.
However, Egypt neither specifically legislates for internet gambling nor prevents players from accessing games online. There is actually a very large Egyptian market, for which some operators cater specifically by offering Arabic translations of their websites.
A 2002 decision by the Salvadorian government to outlaw gambling – based on regulations originally approved in 1882 – was quickly overturned, and today two casinos in El Salvador offer slot machines and table games to players. All other forms of gambling, including online betting, are prohibited.
The only form of gambling permitted in Equatorial Guinea is playing on slot machines inside the country’s six land-based casinos. No other form of gambling is allowed, on or offline.
This small, Islamic country does not offer a significant gambling industry. Consequently, it is not abundantly apparent if gambling is properly legislated for one way or the other. However, the strict religious adherence of much of Eritrea’s population makes it highly likely that gambling is not allowed.
Given its small population (around one and a half million), Estonia has a rather large gambling industry. In 1995, the Estonian parliament passed a gambling act that remains in effect today. Consequently, the state licenses hundreds of casinos and legitimate gambling venues throughout Estonia, in addition to proffering licenses for localised online gambling operators and running a national lottery. However, big wins are subject to taxation by the Estonian Ministry of Finance.
Internet gambling for locally-licensed operators was facilitated in 2010 and the market was opened to foreign competitors in 2011. In order to avoid the government taking chunks out of their winnings, many Estonian players opt for playing at foreign websites rather than using localised ones.
Land-based gambling in Ethiopia is legal but aggressively-regulated. At present, there are no legitimate casinos operating in the territory. In the 1980s, Ethiopia’s sole casino was closed after a patron was killed in a dispute; subsequent bids to establish new casinos have met with failure. In 1961 a National Lottery Administration of Ethiopia was established to run a state lottery, presenting a portion of revenues to various charitable causes. The state technically has the power to issue permits for table games, video slots, casinos and bingo halls, but this has scarcely ever happened. The Ethiopian government does not legislate for or against online gambling.
Although casinos are not permitted in the Fiji Islands, there are bookies and local lotteries; that is as far as the gambling industry in the nation goes. Online gambling is not permitted.
Pretty much all forms of gambling are legal in Finland, but gambling legislation in this nation is still fairly restrictive. Gambling is almost entirely controlled by a state monopoly, with three state-owned bodies overseeing varying aspects of the gambling sector. Racing is under the jurisdiction of Fintoto, slot machines and table games are covered by RAY and Veikkaus is responsible for sports betting and the national lottery. However, these companies have no authority on the neighbouring (but autonomous) Aland Islands, where all gambling activities are overseen by PAF. As a result, all gambling profits are fed directly back into the state, being used to fund the extensive Finnish social sector.
Online gambling is also overseen by this monopoly and has been legal since 1996, when Veikkaus was authorized to offer its services via the internet. PAF became the first operator to launch a proper online gambling website, featuring both casino games and a bingo client. This brought PAF into conflict with RAY, who argued that PAF had infringed on its monopoly; RAY ultimately lost this dispute and set up its own gambling website in 2010.
Despite fervent attempts by the EU to break its state monopoly on gambling, the Finish government has held steadfast. The legal bickering continues to this day.
Most forms of land-based gambling are legal in France. Gambling activities are only permitted if they have first been sanctioned by the Justice Ministry, but there is little by way of intervention or meddling from the state. In fact, we have France (or at least, French people) to thank for many of the innovations that grace casinos today, including the 52-card deck and the roulette wheel.
As for online gambling, in 2010 France overhauled its legislation to permit taxation and regulation of offshore operators, effectively liberalising a market that had previously been limited to localised companies. Unfortunately, these legal updates only covered sports betting, racing and poker, meaning that operators cannot legally offer casino products to French players. This has resulted in a number of operators backing out of the French market altogether.
There is no evidence of legal gambling in Gabon, nor any indication that it is legislated for.
The influence of Islam – the most popular religion in Gambia – means that gambling is mostly banned throughout Gambia. However, the nation does have one casino and a national lottery. Online gambling is banned and any citizens or tourists caught wagering via the internet could face jail time.
Georgia is an oddity in the Eastern bloc in that gambling is entirely legal throughout the nation. Legal gambling was even available in Georgia during the early Soviet years, when Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) reintroduced some free market elements back into the Soviet economy. During this time, two casinos were opened in the country, being eventually phased out by 1928.
Given the restrictive policies of neighbouring Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, Georgia has become a rather popular attraction for gamblers in the South Caucasus. Local Georgians also express positive attitudes towards gambling, which is a popular and largely-accepted pastime. While there has been some talk of legal reform in order to combat problem gambling and the types of financial crimes that inevitably follow a significant gambling industry, proposed reforms would simply prohibit gamblers with limited finances from accessing casinos.
Online gambling is fully legal in Georgia. Interestingly, it is often enjoyed in the form of ‘interactive clubs;’ where gamblers play communally in on rows of computers linked to the internet, due to a former shortage of home computers. However, internet gambling in private residences is becoming increasingly common. Laws are currently being proposed to ban advertisement from internet gambling operators in Georgia, but the industry is expected to otherwise remain intact.
Gambling has long since been legal in Germany. In the past, individual state authorities were responsible for regulating gambling activities within their jurisdictions. Following the Second World War and during the partition period, gambling experienced a drop off in popularity but it has surged back to the fore in recent decades.
Despite a brief period in which gambling was rendered illegal by federal decree (2008-2012), the government has now introduced new rules to cover the licensing and regulation of gambling in Germany. Placed under strict control of the state, gambling is nevertheless widespread and popular throughout the nation.
Online gambling has experienced a rather different story. The industry was wholly unregulated until 2008, at which time a federal ban rendered internet gambling illegal. This ban was defeated by the EU in 2010, at which time the state of Schleswig-Holstein passed an act of its own, licensing 23 casino operators to legally cater to German players. The final twist in the story came in 2012, when Germany passed the Interstate Treaty on Gambling that fully prohibited internet play. However, the licenses already issued by Schleswig-Holstein remained in effect, even after the state agreed to ratify the 2012 Act. These licenses are legitimate for six years after issue.
In 2013, the first German online casino was launched on the basis of one of these licenses. It remains to be seen whether the government will shut this website down after its license expires.
Most forms of gambling are entirely legal in Ghana, with a large number of casinos available throughout the nation, in addition to sports betting establishments, bingo halls and a national lottery. Gambling is a closely-integrated part of Ghanaian life and is widely-enjoyed by citizens throughout the country. In fact, Ghana offers one of the largest and most diverse gambling industries on the African continent.
The Ghana Gaming Commission, which is responsible for the rest of the industry’s gambling sector, initiated a crackdown on illegal gambling outfits in Ghana in 2007. Current regulations are legislated for by the Casino Licensing Act 1975, Gambling Machines Act 1973 and the Lotteries Betting Act 1960. In 2007, Ghana launched the National Lottery Authority in 2007 – a watchdog for the nation’s lottery industry. In all, Ghana has a very effective legal infrastructure for dealing with its extensive gambling sector.
Online gambling is also legal in Ghana and the country licenses a number of localised websites of its own, in addition to permitting its citizens to access offshore operators.
Gambling (with the exception of sports betting) is only permitted on casino premises in Greece. There are eight casinos in the country, most of which operate on the Greek Islands of Corfu and Rhodes and they are mostly targeted at tourists. With regards to sports betting, the industry is held under a monopoly by a company called OPAP – effective until 2030. A third of this company is controlled by the Greek state.
As 2011 Gambling Act allowed foreign operators to obtain Greek licenses, but a high tax rate applicable to foreign establishments led to law suits rather than new investments. The EU is currently looking at changing this law. It is unclear how the election of the far-left SYRIZA party and the continuing dispute over Greece’s austerity commitments will affect the gambling industry, but mass unemployment and increasing poverty do not present rosy prospects.
Online gambling has been strictly banned in Greece since 2002, along with all electronic games. While the 2011 was supposed to legislate for online gambling, this has yet to be implemented. There is nothing to actually prevent Greek players from gambling at foreign websites via proxy servers, but the law still technically prohibits internet play and engaging in such activities publicly (via internet cafes, for instance) is an offence.
All land-based gambling activities are illegal in Grenada, except for a state-run national lottery. This is unusual for a Caribbean nation, as most of the surrounding islands are filled with casinos. However, despite some debate in parliament over introducing a proper gambling industry to Grenada, staunch opposition from Christian organisations have as yet stymied any efforts to do so. Surprisingly, Grenada both licenses for and permits its citizens to access online gambling websites. Despite a relatively low internet penetration rate in the country, there has been no action taken by the Grenadian government to block internet casinos or sportsbooks.
Presently, there is no legal gambling in Guatemala, despite the wide prevalence of illicit gambling activities throughout the nation. In 2013, it was announced that the Guatemalan government was drafting legislation to regulate a legal gambling market, but there have been no notable developments on this bill as yet.
Gambling is wholly prohibited in Guinea and being caught doing so can land you in a lot of trouble. Given that 85% of the country adheres to Islam, which takes a dim view of gambling, this is hardly surprising.
The sorry state of the economy in Guinea-Bissau makes it unclear whether the nation holds a specific stance on gambling, but the highly-religious population makes it likely that gambling is at the very least tacitly forbidden.
In an attempt to boost its nation’s tourism industry, the government of Guyana deigned to grant limited casino licenses to its largest hotels. Guyana opened its first ever casino in 2007, but due to the Gambling Prevention Act (a piece of legislation lobbied for by several religious leaders and conservative politicians) locals are not permitted to enter. This was in spite of protestations from President Bharrat Jagdeo, who argued that freedom of choice should outweigh moral reservations.
Nevertheless, the law stands, and local residents are still forbidden from gambling in Guyana. Online gambling, along with all other forms of gambling, is expressly forbidden.
Gambling is legal throughout Haiti and the former French colony boasts two casinos, as well as an abundance of lottery stands. Informal wagering on dice and dominoes (as well as blood sports like cockfighting) is also a common practice. Online gambling does not appear to be legislated for, meaning Haiti is considered a grey market by the internet gambling industry.
Despite being one of the poorest countries in Central America, Honduras does have a gambling industry. A handful of small casino hotels exist throughout the nation and sports betting (albeit in an informal fashion) is widespread. Honduras does not stipulate the legality of online gambling, meaning this country is officially a grey market.
Gambling is fully legal in Hungary, albeit under the strict control of the state. The 1991 Gambling Act (passed shortly following the opening of the Eastern bloc) established a state monopoly over the Hungarian gambling industry, although later updates to the law invited private investment in the gambling sector. The largest gambling provider in Hungary is Szerencsejáték Zrt. (Game of Chance Plc.): an entirely state-owned company that retains exclusive rights to lottery and prize draw ticket games in Hungary, in addition to owning one of Hungary’s two casinos.
Restrictions on live poker games were lifted in 2010, but slot machines were outlawed outside of casinos in 2012. The sports betting market was opened to competition in 2013. Finally, in 2013, Hungary updated the 1991 Gambling Act, introducing the possibility for up to 11 additional casino licenses.
Szerencsejáték made some of its products available online in 1998 and the online casino market was opened in 2013. However, extortionate licensing fees have kept online casinos out of the market thus far. While online gamblers based in the nation are still able to gamble via foreign casino websites, but new licensing laws are leading the government to increasingly block unlicensed ISPs, meaning the options for Hungarian players are diminishing rapidly.
Gambling laws in Iceland are infamously convoluted, but the short version is that most forms of gambling are allowed with the exception of casino gaming. These complicated laws have emerged as a result of constant tinkering over the past century.
In 1926 lotteries were outlawed, but this ban was partially repealed in 1933 with the introduction of a state lottery, followed by the introduction of a sport lottery in 1977 and a state lotto in 1986. Slot machines were also legally introduced in 1994, but casinos are still prohibited. Despite this, it is estimated that around 76% gamble in one form or another. The cruise ships that regularly pass through Icelandic waters often contain casinos, also.
Despite strict laws and high tax rates, online gambling is permitted in Iceland. Online lottos and instant-win games are particularly popular, although many Icelanders also play casino games at foreign websites. While there are plans underway to make this illegal, at present the online gaming scene remains open to Iceland.
The majority of gambling activities are banned in India under the Public Gambling Act of 1867. However, the states of Goa and Sikkim permit casinos within their borders (with eight casinos in the former and one in the latter). Furthermore, five Indian states run lotteries and horse racing is legal throughout the country, protected as a game of skill by judgement of the Supreme Court in 1996.
The Indian government does not license its own casinos, but there are no laws preventing Indians from playing online at foreign sites. Technically, India does have one locally-licensed gambling website in the form of the Sikkim Super Lotto, established in 2002. In 2011 the Indian government passed the Federal Information Technology Act, containing specific provisions to restrict online gambling, making it the responsibility of ISPs to block offshore operators. At present, this hasn’t been noticeably implemented.
As the world’s most populous Muslim country, gambling is illegal throughout Indonesia…but that’s not to say that it never goes on. Despite the lack of legal casinos, betting shops etc. informal gambling is rather popular and there are many underground gambling establishments that are occasionally subject to government raids.
Online gambling is also illegal in Indonesia, although there is little the government can do to prevent Indonesians from playing at international websites. It is unclear to what extent the government actively blocks players from accessing these websites but you are sure to face pretty harsh penalties should you be caught gambling online in Indonesia.
As an Islamic nation, gambling is forbidden throughout the Republic of Iran. In spite of this, Iran represents one of the largest online gambling markets in the Middle East, with a great many players accessing gambling content at foreign websites. This is in spite of efforts by the Iranian government to block access to international operators.
Surprisingly, given its mostly-Muslim population, gambling is permitted in Iraq. The country offers a single casino and Iraqis often bet on horse races, while blood sports like cock and dog fighting are informally wagered upon by citizens. After years of conflict and instability, there isn’t much of a leisure industry left in Iraq, but gambling remains widespread nevertheless.
Online gambling does not appear to be legislated for in Iraq, meaning the nation is considered a grey market. It’s reasonable to assume that you ought to be able to get away with gambling via the internet in Iraq, should you wish.
Gambling is a long-standing feature of Irish culture and most forms of gambling and betting are legal throughout the nation. By all accounts, the Irish are enthusiastic gamblers, with billions of Euros wagered annually through gambling establishments, sports betting and bingo halls. The only restriction on gambling in Ireland is a prohibition on proper casinos. Gambling was initially legislated for in Ireland 1956 by the Gaming and Lotteries Act, which made casino gambling illegal but permitted the establishment of ‘private member gaming clubs.’ This Act still stands today.
Online gambling is fully legal in Ireland and many famous operators licensed out of the nation – most notably Paddy Power. Internet play was first legalised in 2003 and the country’s first licensed bookmaker emerged a year later in 2004. The only sticking point for Irish players is that the government currently collects 2% tax on sports betting wins.
Gambling is legalised in Israel, but is held under the strict regulation of the government. Not all forms of gambling are permitted in Israel, most notably casino gaming. However, sports betting is permitted and the country runs a state lottery, both of which are very popular. These sectors are respectively controlled by the Israeli Commission for Sports Gambling and Mifal Hapayis. While this is the extent of legal gambling in the state of Israel, a significant black market is also thriving in the country.
Online gambling is not allowed in Israel and the government attempts to block access to offshore websites using internet filters. However, these filters are known for being fairly easy to bypass, meaning that many Israelis play at foreign operators regardless.
Gambling has a long history in Italy and has been intimately connected with organised crime throughout the 20th Century, rather than representing a legitimate leisure industry. However, this began to change with the passing of the Finance Act in 2007, which allowed Italians to legally gamble on card games ‘of skill.’ In 2011, this embracing of legal gambling was extended to casino games, establishing the legal infrastructure for a proper gaming market. Finally, slot games were legalised in 2012, under the auspices of AAMS, a body which currently regulates all gambling activities in Italy. Today, gambling in Italy represents an €80bn market.
Online gambling in Italy is also fully legal. While the Italian government has, in the past, attempted to control internet gambling (through banning and blacklisting foreign websites), these measures proved ineffective and were swiftly abandoned. The Decree on Liberation, article 38, passed in 2007 permits all forms of online gambling in Italy. The government is presently attempting to compete with the foreign internet gambling market by offering thousands of licenses, both to local operators and to major companies like Ladbrokes and William Hill, who are invited to set up localised versions of their websites specifically targeted to the Italian market.
As a major tourist destination, Jamaica has established a fairly sizable leisure industry. However, the slightly moralistic stance of the government towards gambling means that many restrictions are in place on this market. For instance, while casinos are permitted in the nation, as of 2010 they are only allowed to offer table games (no slots). Also, casinos must be based in hotels containing at least 2,000 rooms.
A major point of consternation for Jamaican citizens is that they are prohibited from gambling in their homeland. This is in spite of the Jamaican government allowing foreign visitors to gamble in land-based casinos and its willingness to offer licenses to online casino providers via the Jamaican Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission. Many Jamaicans gamble at international operators in spite of the law.
A very limited amount of legal gambling is permitted in Japan. Since 1907, the only forms of gambling allowed in the nation are betting on horse, bicycle, motorboat, and motorcycle racing. A handful of games, including Majong may be legally wagered upon. Also, the country boasts a great many pachinko halls, in which patrons can play for small cash prizes. Pachinko is a game much like pinball and is exceptionally popular throughout Japan. Finally, the country runs a national lottery, which has a history dating back to 1630. After being banned in 1842, the lottery was revived in 1945 as part of Japan’s economic recovery after the Second World War.
However, all other forms of gambling are prohibited, including online casino games. A bill to introduce physical casinos in Japan, which is currently led by President Shinzō Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, found significant support in parliament in 2013, but appears to have stalled.
The only forms of online gambling allowed in Japan includes lottery and sports betting. The government is also pretty strict when it comes to limited access to internet casino operators, but many players continue to access international websites regardless.
As an Islamic nation, the Kingdom of Jordan prohibits almost all forms of gambling; people found gambling can be subject to corporal punishment by government dictate. There is some debate over whether lottery and bingo ought to be included under this religious prohibition. At present, a national lottery run in the name of charity and social welfare is allowed in Jordan. The country’s casinos also offer a handful of bingo halls.
While online gambling is illegal in Jordan, internet censorship is pretty light, meaning that many players continue to play via international operators regardless.
Gambling is extremely popular in Kazakhstan and the government has had some difficulty regulating it. In 2007, the state relocated all casinos to two designated gambling locations near the capital of Astana and the large, commercial city of Almaty. In spite of these efforts, gambling remains widespread throughout the rest of Kazakhstan in the form of betting terminals and high street betting shops.
The law is rather unclear on the subject of online gambling, although it is known that at least two websites are licensed out of Kazakhstan – the sportsbook Olympus and online casino Altyn Alma. It is also evident that the government makes no attempts to prevent players in Kazakhstan from accessing games at foreign casino websites, so it is presumed that online gambling is fully legal in the nation.
Kenya is atypical amongst African nations in that it legislates very clearly for all forms of gambling. The establishment of the Betting Control and Licensing Board in 1966 marked the beginning of legal gambling in the country. This body is responsible for licensing and regulating gambling activities within Kenya, meaning the whole industry is intimately adjudicated and properly taxed. Legal forms of gambling in Kenya include land-based casino games, a state-run online casino and two state-run lotteries accessible via the internet.
Online gambling is legal and very popular in Kenya, but is only legal at the state’s official internet casino, BetKenya. Nevertheless, many Kenyans continue to gamble at international websites in order to benefit from the increased variety of games.
There is not much in the way of an organised gambling industry in Kiribati, with the exception of bingo. It does not appear that Kiribati legislates specifically for online gambling.
Gambling is prohibited on religious grounds throughout the entirety of Kuwait. The nation’s relatively small economy makes it unlikely that it would be able to sustain a legal gambling sector at this juncture, regardless.
As of December 2000, gambling is entirely legal in Kyrgyzstan. However, rampant political and social instability throughout the nation has severely hampered its leisure industry. Since 1991, the country has experienced no less than three revolutions, yet gambling nevertheless remains legally protected by state law. The legality of gambling is presumed to extend to the online sphere as well, and there has certainly been no evidence of the state attempting to prevent players from accessing gambling content online.
There isn’t much of a legal gambling sector in Laos, but the nation does offer a single (rather large) casino and a state lottery (which is apparently very poorly run). The Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort offers the largest selection of casino games in Southeast Asia, with over 60 table games and 150 gaming machines. This makes the resort a popular destination both for foreign visitors and patrons from the region.
Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Latvia’s gambling sector has evolved rapidly. Until 1998, a sizable (and entirely unregulated) gambling market operated throughout the nation. With the founding of the Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection, Latvia attained the means to legislate for a proper gaming sector. To date, this regulatory body has issued 17 licenses to gambling companies throughout Latvia, covering several casinos and hundreds of gaming halls.
Online gambling has been legally regulated since 2003. In order to provide services to Latvian players, casino websites must obtain a license from the Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection and are thenceforth subject to a 10% flat tax on all revenues. There has been some talk of updating the law so as to reduce the tax rate but hike up the licensing fee, which would be a very welcome development for the hundreds of gambling websites already licensed out of Latvia.
While the Lebanese take a generally dim view of gambling, this religiously-diverse nation does permit some forms of betting. For instance, most forms of gambling are restricted to the country’s only licensed, land-based casino: Casino du Liban, which was given a monopoly over most forms of gambling in order to “protect public morals.” That being said, the Orient Queen cruiser that docks in Beirut also has a casino aboard. The capital is also home to the Hippodrome du parc de Beyrouth, one of the most famous horse racing tracks in the Middle East, but betting is (officially) forbidden. La Libanaise des Jeux also provides a fortnightly state lottery.
Prior to 2013, Lebanese residents freely gambled online, but the Ministry of Justice has since banned all forms of internet gambling and blocked offending websites. La Libanaise des Jeux can nevertheless be accessed online and is fully licensed by the state.
There are two casinos in Lesotho where gambling is legally provided, but the country does not provide a national lottery or sports betting. Lesotho does not appear to legislate for gambling via the internet, meaning the nation should be considered a grey market.
There is one operational casino available in Liberia, Casino Oceano, located in the Mamba Point Hotel in Liberia. It is not clear whether any other forms of gambling are available in Liberia, but it certainly does not appear that the country legislates for online gambling, making Liberia a grey market for the internet sector.
Gambling was widely practiced in Libya until 1969, at which point Muammar al-Gaddafi’s coup d’état and attendant social reforms made the practice illegal. With Gadaffi dead and his regime in pieces following the Arab Spring, the future of gambling in Libya remains in question, although it is far from the beleaguered nation’s highest priority at this time.
The history of gambling legislation in Liechtenstein has been fraught with setbacks and u-turns. While Right Casino considers it likely that legal gambling will return to the country in some form or another in the near future, at the time of writing gambling is illegal throughout the nation. In 2012, the country was about to open its first casino, but the project was blocked in court by one of the countries that initially made the bid for a license. The formerly-popular state lottery also went bankrupt in 2011.
The International Lottery Liechtenstein Foundation was one of the first organisations to bring gambling onto the internet and until recently there were several companies licensed to run casino websites out of Liechtenstein, but all of these went down with the foundation’s bankruptcy. While it is not strictly legal for players in Liechtenstein to access unlicensed, foreign websites, there is nothing to prevent gamblers from accessing offshore gaming sites.
Lithuania was one of the last European nations to legislate for gambling, officially regulating its domestic gaming market in 2001. Since this time, 17 licenses have been issued in Lithuania and over 270 establishments have been opened, including casinos and betting halls.
Online gambling is not mentioned by the bill that legislates for land-based gambling and there have been no online gambling licenses issued by the state, but the government does nothing to prevent players from accessing foreign operators.
While some forms of gambling are legal in Luxembourg, the state control the industry very tightly. In 1903, the state banned all forms of gambling in the duchy, with the exception of a state lottery, which remained the only legal form of gaming until 1977. In this year, the state legalised casinos, but to date only one casino has been licensed - Casino 2000 in Mondorf-les-Bains.
Despite no clear reference to online gambling in Luxembourgian law, it is presumed that internet play is subject to the same laws that cover land-based play. To date, two German betting sites have been authorized to accept bets from Luxembourgian gamblers (TOTO and ODDSET). A number of foreign websites also freely-target Luxembourg, without interference from the state.
Gambling is legal and officially-licensed throughout the Republic of Macedonia, with seven legal casinos and many betting shops offering their services to Macedonian players. Furthermore, online gambling is legal (and extremely popular) but, as of 2014, all online gambling activities have been placed under the jurisdiction of a monopoly in which the state owns a controlling share. All other forms of internet gambling have been blocked by state censors.
There are a handful of legally-licensed casinos in the Republic of Madagascar, although the country does not appear to support a state lottery. As Madagascar also does not officially regulate online gambling, it is presumed to be a grey market.
Casino gambling is permitted in Malawi and regulated by an official state body, established in 1996 for the express purpose of keeping tabs on the nation’s licensed two gaming establishments. Online gambling is not clearly covered by the law, and Malawi is thus considered a grey market.
Most forms of gambling are legal in Malaysia, with the exception of sports betting (which was nearly revived in 2010 before the proposed license was revoked). The country has a single land-based casino, but a significant black market for table games in illegitimate establishments continues to operate in the nation. Formerly, gambling arcades were widely-available throughout the country, but they were banned in 2000.
Internet gambling is entirely banned in Malaysia. The government issues no licenses for legal operations and takes active steps to prevent locals from accessing content from offshore betting sites. For instance, Malaysian banks are not permitted to authorise transfers either to or from online gambling sites. Nevertheless, many players find ways of getting around these measures and accessing games via the internet.
This small, Muslim-majority nation does not permit any form of legal gambling within its borders. This also goes for online gambling; citizens can be arrested and punished quite severely if found gambling, either on or offline.
There is no legal gambling available in the Republic of Mali, given that its heads of state have officially denounced gambling as against the laws of Islam. Nevertheless, it is likely that illegal gambling operations are present throughout the nation. Online gambling is not legislated for but is presumed to be forbidden. Given Mali’s harsh stance on all other forms of gambling, it is assumed that players caught accessing foreign gambling sites will be dealt with as criminals.
This tiny, unassuming, Southern European country is actually one of the world’s leading gambling hubs, offering four large casinos, in addition to horse racing, bingo halls and lotteries. All of these activities are regulated by the Lotteries and Gaming Authority, which is internationally lauded for doing a bang up job of keeping Malta’s gambling market open, fair and well-managed. One of the great innovations of this body is the annual forum it holds for local operators, where gambling companies can meet up and share their thoughts on Maltese gambling legislation.
In addition to its substantial offline gaming scene, Malta was also the first EU member state to introduce proper online gambling legislation and regulate/license offshore operators. Today, hundreds of internet operators are licensed by the Lotteries and Gaming Authority. These licenses come in four varieties: Class 1 for casino and lottery games, Class 2 for betting sites, Class 3 for peer-to-peer and poker networks, betting exchange and game portals and Class 4 for software providers. Once awarded, these licenses are valid for a period of five years.
Gambling law in the Marshall Islands has undergone a complete U-turn in the last decade. In 1996, it was proposed that the introduction of casinos would boost tourism and help stimulate the nation’s economy, and despite stiff protest (it was defeated in its first two readings), a bill to legislate for a full casino market was passed. Unfortunately, the regulations in the bill that were intended to cultivate tax revenue from slot machines were improperly enforced and the government received virtually no income from the gambling scene it had helped to create.
In 1998, anti-gambling lobbyists and church groups in the Marshall Islands challenged the 1996 bill and proposed a new one, which would outlaw all forms of gambling with the exception of fundraising raffles in schools. Ultimately, the bill passed (with a tie breaking vote from the speaker), aided by the fact that, in order to avoid a conflict of interest, members of government with a stake in the casino market were forced to withhold their votes.
These dramatic events resulted in the effective outlawing of gambling throughout the Marshall Islands, on and offline, which remains in effect to this day.
Gambling is illegal throughout the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, owing to the fact that the nation is almost entirely Muslim.
Gambling is fully legal in Mauritius and the country boasts nine operational casinos to prove it, the largest being the Caudan Waterfront Casino. The nation also facilitates for sports betting and provides a national lottery to its citizenry. Online gambling is also licensed at a local level and permitted at offshore websites.
Gambling is legal and well-regulated throughout much of South America, but Mexico is something of an exception. Strict, anti-gambling laws imposed in 1947 are still largely in effect, having undergone only very slight updates in 2004 under the recommendations of the Secretaria de Gobernacion (a regulatory body overseeing Mexico’s gambling and raffles department). These refinements have permitted the regulatory office to award licenses to certain gambling operators.
Presently, there are 400 legal gambling establishments in Mexico and various activities are legal in the nation, including sports betting, lotteries and scratch cards. While video gaming machines are permitted in certain venues, slot machines have been banned since October 2013. As yet, casinos are still not allowed in Mexico, although the debate over their introduction continues to rage in parliament.
Mexico represents the fastest-growing online gambling market in Latin America, valued at $300 million a year. Paradoxically, Mexicans are not allowed to play at websites licensed by their home country. However, the government does not block access to offshore websites (yet), so there is nothing to stop Mexican players from playing at international casino and betting sites.
There is no formally-regulated gambling market in Micronesia and several of the Islands that make up the Federated States of Micronesia actually legislate specifically against gambling. However, as Micronesia lacks a central government, there is no one piece of legislation that covers gambling throughout the nation as a whole. Nevertheless, the possibility of legalised gambling has occasionally been raised (with one proposal in 1983 to set up an offshore casino in the island of Pohnpei). Presently, nothing has come of these intimations. Online gambling is similarly restricted.
Legal gambling has been established in Moldova since 1918, but it did not develop beyond a small, informal market until the ‘90s. The first land-based casino in the country opened in 1990 in Chisinau, although it had only three tables and not even a sign to distinguish it. Following the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, a handful of legal gaming establishments began to trickle into Moldova, but it wasn’t until 1994 that the first laws were introduced to regulate this new industry.
In 1998, The Ministry of Economics and Reforms has issued a decree called “On the size of licensee fee for separate activities in the Republic of Moldova.” This document provided a comprehensive outline of gaming establishment licences. At the same time, the Ministry of Finance issued a guide entitled, ‘On rules to fill out primary registration of gambling activities in casinos.’ This established rules and regulations for the governing of gambling operators of all varieties and was designed to finally stamp out the substantial underground gambling market operating in Moldova. It was also stipulated that the sum total of foreign capital in gambling establishments couldn’t exceed 49% of authorized capital.
Following these tweaked laws, the gambling scene in Moldova became vast relative to the size of the nation and its economy, with over 240 gaming establishments, 2,400 slot machines and 40 gambling tables. Online gambling is also legal in Moldova and local Moldovans regularly play at ‘interactive clubs,’ – somewhat akin to late-opening internet cafes. It is also possible for players to access content from offshore operators, as these are not blocked or especially tightly regulated by the government.
The gambling industry in Monaco has a long and colourful history. Gambling has been legal in Monaco for over a century, initially facilitated in order to generate more revenue for the principality. The famous Monte Carlo Casino was opened in 1858 by Francois Blanc, who was also the inventor of the European roulette wheel. Roulette remained an exclusive property for Monaco until 1933. Presently, the Gambling Authority supervises all gambling activity in Monaco, but this regulation is considered loose. Presently, locals are not allowed to gamble in Monaco’s legendary casinos, which target their business at rich tourists.
While the Monacan authorities initially attempted to ban online gambling at offshore operators, these plans were quickly abandoned and residents are free to play at whatever gambling websites they wish.
There is much confusion over the status of gambling in Mongolia and the issue is rarely raised in parliament; although whenever it has come to light, the country has tended towards a fairly conservative stance.
For example, in 1999, a law was repealed that would have allowed casino gambling Mongolia, a debacle that also saw two members of parliament arrested on charges of corruption. Subsequently, a law was introduced to legalise gambling machines, but a perceived spike in problem gambling led to this law being quickly nixed and all gambling machines decommissioned, practically overnight.
It doesn’t seem that Mongolia legislates for or against online gambling at the present time, meaning this territory is regarded as a grey market.
Since gaining independence in 2006, Montenegro has regulated a legal gambling industry via the Games of Chance Administration. On the ground, Montenegro is a veritable gambler’s paradise, with a range of luxury casinos (one of which was the setting for the poker tournament in Casino Royale) in addition to a glut of other legal gaming practices, including lotteries and sports betting. Online gambling has also been fully legalised in Montenegro since 2011, with licensing, financial services and hosting offered via the Games of Chance Administration. Tax levels on internet gambling companies are highly favourable and registration is very streamlined, making Montenegro a popular territory for internet operators.
Morocco is a rare example of a Muslim-majority nation with extremely liberal gambling laws. Most forms of gambling are wholly legal throughout the nation, with casinos in Marrakech providing a full range of casino games to Moroccan players, while sports wagering is facilitated via licensed betting shops and internet sportsbooks.
As a result of this substantial gambling sector, Morocco has emerged as a gambling hub in North Africa, hosting a number of Poker Tournaments including the Marrakech Poker Open and the Marrakech Poker Cup. It is presently unclear how the recent revolution in Morocco, that empowered an Islamist party, will affect its booming gambling industry. At present, it is business as usual for Moroccan players.
While Morocco hasn’t set up a licensing body for its own online casinos, internet gambling is legal and widely-enjoyed throughout the country.
Casinos can legally operate in Mozambique, but they must be situated at least 50km from the nearest city (a law that is enforced with a certain degree of flexibility). The law is less clear on other forms of gambling, however. As internet gambling does not seem to be legislated for, one way or the other, Mozambique is seen as a grey market.
As of 2014, Burma has finalized laws that will pave the way for a legal, land-based gambling industry – although access to licensed establishments will be strictly limited to foreigners. This has been done in an attempt to cash in on the formerly extensive, underground gambling activities (particularly lotteries) rife throughout the country. At present, there are no plans to legislate for online gambling and all forms of internet play remain illegal.
Gambling is permitted in Namibia but is limited to casinos and lotteries. Given the scale of the Namibian economy, casinos in the country are extremely large and elaborate, with a great selection of games. The number of casinos has increased rapidly in Namibia since the lifting of a ten year moratorium on issuing gambling licences since 2006. Online gambling is not specifically legislated for, meaning this territory is regarded as a grey market.
Gambling is illegal in the Republic of Nauru, and the nation’s struggling economy makes it unlikely that a legal gaming market would ever be introduced even should the law change.
Despite being one of the oldest gambling locales in South Asia, all gambling practices have been illegal in the country ever since a Maoist communist party won a majority in parliament. Nepal was a centre of international gambling in the 1970s, even as the King of Nepal was fighting a guerrilla war against communist insurgents.
The abolition of the monarchy in 2008 also saw the end of the legal gambling market in Nepal. By that time, little remained of the once-thriving gaming market. Although casino gaming had been prohibited for local Nepalese since the 1970s, the new communist government quickly did away with the few casinos that remained open to tourists. At present, gambling in Nepal has been forced entirely underground.
Online gambling is also forbidden in Nepal, although the government has little capacity to prevent players from accessing games at foreign operators. Should anyone be caught doing so, however, punishments are severe.
Gambling is legal in the Netherlands, but the Dutch government maintains a strict monopoly over the industry via the state-owned operator Holland Casino. This body has been in operation since the 1970s, opening the very first Dutch casino Zandvoort. Today there are 14 casinos in the Netherlands.
Online gambling has only been introduced to Netherlands extremely recently, January 2015 to be precise. This followed the passing of draft legislation by the Netherlands Gaming Authority in 2013, which provided for five year licenses to be granted to domestic companies.
The government is extremely tough on foreign websites; while they can be legally-accessed, Dutch players are subject to a 29% tax on their winnings. The Dutch government takes a dim view of websites that attempt to mitigate this tax rate, levying a €100,000 fine against the Curacao based Global Stars casino in 2013 for failing to pay its dues to the state.
Gambling is extremely popular in New Zealand, with the majority of the adult population enjoying some form of gambling with regularity. However, the country has only relatively recently developed its gaming sector into a substantial leisure industry. Commercialised gambling was introduced to New Zealand in earnest in the 1990s, with the first major casino opening in 1994. For a time, the industry grew largely uninhibited, until the 2003 Gambling Act limited the number of gambling establishments permitted in the country and tighter regulation was enforced by the state.
This same bill technically criminalised online gambling (although the national lottery went online in 2008). However, the government does nothing to prevent New Zealanders from playing at offshore websites. This slight discrepancy means that New Zealand is best described as a grey market.
Gambling in Nicaragua has only just begun to gain a foothold in the past few years. When the Sandista government took power in 1979, it outlawed all forms of gambling, a ban that remained in force for 30 years. However, this ban has slowly been repealed, and now the gambling industry in the country is beginning to grow steadily, encompassing 10 casinos in addition to racing and poker venues.
The government does not specifically legislate for online gambling, meaning it is not strictly illegal for players from the territory to gamble online. However, only a small number of internet operators are willing to offer their services to this grey market.
There is no evidence of gambling in the Niger, with the exception of a national lottery. This is most likely due to the majority-Muslim population. Online gambling is not mentioned in law but is assumed to be illegal.
Gambling is permitted in Nigeria, but is limited to casinos and an internet lottery. That being said, there are a great number of illegal, unregulated gambling establishments available throughout the nation that offer casino games, slot machines and lotteries. The online market is not legally regulated or specifically banned, meaning the territory is considered a grey market.
There is only one casino in North Korea, concealed in an underground bunker in Pyongyang. Previously, there were many luxurious gambling establishments dotted around the glorious Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, but alas, Dear Leader Kim-Jong Un’s unnatural luck made the industry unsustainable. On one particular hot streak, he broke 11 casinos in a single night (reinvesting the winnings straight into the nation’s nuclear armament programme). In order to solve this problem, the one casino that remains is for Dear Leader’s personal use only, and after inevitably breaking the house at the end of each evening, he graciously returns all the casino’s winnings to the pit boss in preparation for the following night. Any citizens caught trespassing in the casino – or even trying to find it – must undergo a rigorous, 10-week re-education programme, ending in a firing squad.
Gambling has only lately been widely-available in Norway and is currently subject to extremely tight regulation by the state. There are two state-run operations with a monopoly on all gambling activities in Norway: Norsk Tipping, which is responsible for lotteries, sports betting and instant games; and Norsk Rikstoto, which covers horse race betting. Slot gaming was outlawed briefly in 2007, but reintroduced in the form of video terminals that require special cards linked to players’ bank accounts. These machines are subject to strict daily and monthly limits.
Online play is permitted in Norway, but only at Norsk Tipping’s website. As of 2008, gambling at all foreign websites is illegal, with similar laws as the United States used to enforce this ban (banks in Norway are forbidden from transferring funds between Norwegian accounts and offshore operators).
Gambling on Omani soil is legally prohibited, given the state’s interpretation of Islamic doctrine against gambling. However, as the country does not actually legislate for or against online play, many Omanis gamble at foreign websites without fear of reprisal. It is tacitly accepted in Oman that gambling online does not take place in the nation itself, but at whatever territory in which the website is licensed.
Gambling is illegal throughout Pakistan, given that much of the country adheres to the Islamic faith. Despite this official policy, there is a thriving underground gambling market operant in the country. Internet gambling is strictly prohibited; as Pakistani credit cards cannot be utilised at major Internet gambling sites.
Despite numerous attempts to bring gambling to Palau, gambling remains illegal in the nation. In 2003, Palau’s National Congress passed a bill to allow casino gambling on the Palauan island of Angaur. However, this bill was vetoed by the president, who was concerned that a casino would destroy the nation’s cultural traditions.
In 2006, State Governor Jackson Ngiraingas worked closely with UK Investments Holdings of Malaysia to turn Palau into a gambling resort, but this was scuppered by a $1m bribe scandal. The following year, Korean business tycoon Jae-Kook Chang conceived of a plan to turn Palau into a destination for wealthy Chinese, Korean and Japanese tourists. However, this plan was defeated by conservative opponents in parliament. Subsequently, there have been no other attempts to bring gambling to Palau. Internet gambling is also prohibited in the territory.
Gambling is illegal in Palestine, but given the nation’s territorial dispute with Israel and considerable social and political difficulties, it is unlikely that a formal gambling market would exist in Palestine even if social mores permitted.
Gambling has been legal for many years in Panama and as such, the country boasts a large and varied gaming industry, in which you can find everything from casinos, poker tournaments, bingo halls, a national lottery and racing. Most of these activities are provided by private companies, which all answer to the government's Gaming Commission.
Online gambling is permitted in Panama and the state has been issuing gaming licenses since 2002, which operate in the territory practically tax-free. There are no restrictions on offshore operators and locals and foreigners enjoy the same privileges when it comes to internet play. All this has made Panama a fertile and popular territory for internet gambling.
Gambling has long since been legally available in Paraguay, with its first casino opening to players in 1943. Presently, gambling is limited to casinos, bingo halls, a state-run betting service and a national lottery. Prior to a recent clamp-down on illegal gambling establishments, many casinos operated in the country, but today there are only three. All gambling activities in Paraguay operate under the auspices of the National Committee of Games of Chance; no gambling is allowed in Paraguay that is not recognised by this body.
Despite an attempt to place online gambling into the same legal category as offshore banking (which would make it illegal), the government of Paraguay is evidently having some difficulty regulating the online gambling market. At present, the legal ambiguity means that Paraguay is considered a grey market and there are still many players who take part in real-money games at foreign casino websites.
Peru has a well-established gambling industry, although it has only been properly regulated and organised for the past few years. For much of the history of commercialised gambling in Peru, gaming establishments operated without licenses. Today, the situation is very different, and the country boasts the second highest concentration of legal casinos, betting shops and bingo halls in South America (behind Argentina). In all, the country offers 50, all-night opening casinos.
While it is still rather new (with its first licensed operator going live in 2008), an online gambling scene is growing rapidly in Peru. In addition to a number of locally-licensed websites, Peruvian players are perfectly able to gamble at international betting sites without fear of reprisal or additional taxation from the state.
The Philippines has probably the most liberal gambling laws of any country in Asia. In fact, gambling is exceptionally popular throughout the nation, which boasts several extremely large and luxurious casinos, hundreds of betting shops, poker venues and gaming arcades. All of these establishments are under the authority of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), a government owned and controlled body that is responsible for regulating and taxing gambling activities in the Philippines.
The only territory in which the PAGCOR monopoly does not hold sway is the Cagayan Special Economic Zone in the northeast, which regulates its own leisure industry separately. Local Filipinos are actually prohibited from gambling in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone, which mostly caters towards wealthy hotel guests.
Online gambling is fully legal in the Philippines, although as with land-based gambling, internet play is regulated differently in Cagayan compared to the rest of the Philippines. For instance, while websites licensed by most of the Philippines are open to locals only, those regulated out of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone welcome foreign gamblers to participate.
Until recently, PAGCOR-licensed websites were not available for home play and Filipinos were obliged to gamble in internet casino parlours (e-Games Stations). However, in 2012, the Court of Appeals ruled that the applicable Presidential Act does not specifically ban online gaming, effectively bringing an end to this stipulation. Nevertheless, e-Games Stations remain popular.
Gambling in Poland has undergone a drastic overhaul in recent years. The 2010 Polish Act on Gaming placed a raft of new restrictions on the gambling market. Firstly, gambling is limited to casinos, which are restricted to populous areas. There is also only one casino allowed in each district and every establishment must offer a maximum of 70 gaming tables and machines. This law also removed gaming machines from anywhere other than a licensed casino. Despite some talk of the bill violating EU law or the Polish constitution, it remains in force.
A 2011 amendment allowed for the introduction of internet gambling, but only in the case of companies registered in Poland. At present, only betting sites have been regulated and there have been few companies willing to apply for a Polish license (given the high up-front fee). While players can access games from international companies, there is always the possibility that these could be blocked by the government, potentially costing Polish customers their deposits.
Gambling law is very liberal in Portugal – pretty much any form of gambling you can imagine is legal in the country. All gaming activities are under the jurisdiction of the Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa (SCML), which also runs a state monopoly on lotteries and sports betting. There are 10 licensed casinos in Portugal, with one on Madeira and the rest on the mainland.
Online gambling is legal in Portugal and regulated by the SCML. A new bill was introduced in 2015 to create a proper legislative framework for online gambling, bringing the Portuguese market in line with EU competition and business ethics. While this bill went down badly with a few operators, who chose to leave the Portuguese market behind, there is still plenty of variety available to internet gamblers in the territory.
Gambling is illegal, on and offline, in the Muslim-majority state of Qatar. However, there is a large and well-organised black market for gambling, with a popular scheme being to host illegal card games in the homes of wealthy, out-of-town Qataris. After paying off the caretaker, up to 25 players are contacted by text message and invited to play at the vacated property, with organisers pocketing around 10% of winnings for their trouble.
Gambling is legal throughout Romania, although the history of commercialised gambling in the nation has been rocky, to say the least. The story of legal gambling in Romania began in 1906 with the establishment of a national lottery, but gambling was later criminalised by the communist government of Nicolae Ceausescu. The ban was repealed almost as soon as the Ceausescu regime fell in 1990 and a new casino opened in 1991. At present, there are around 20 casinos in Romania, while high-street betting shops are common.
Online gambling was made legal in Romania with the establishment of the National Gaming Office in 2013. While internet gambling has technically been legal in the country since 2010, without a regulatory body, there was no actual legal infrastructure to facilitate the industry. Unfortunately, the Romanian government’s request for online casinos to have a stake in domestic establishments has met with opposition from the European Commission, meaning that no local websites have been awarded licenses as yet.
Still, there is nothing to stop locals from gambling at international websites and no indication that the government intended to block or blacklist said websites.
As you would expect, gambling has been a sore spot for Russia throughout the 20th Century and remains a bit of a sticking point to this day. Under the Soviet Union, all forms of gambling were banned in Russia, as with all other Soviet states. However, the dissolution of the Soviet bloc gradually led to the reintroduction of commercialised gambling in Russia, with the first legal slot machines appearing in 1988. The prohibition on gambling was lifted entirely in 1989, with the first casino opened in the Savoy hotel in Moscow later that year.
By 2002, it was estimated that 58 casinos existed in the capital alone, largely unregulated in their operations. This state of affairs continued until 2009, when Vladimir Putin’s government relocated gambling activities wholesale to four ‘gambling zones’ in Kaliningrad Oblast, Krasnodar Krai, Altai Krai, and Primorsky Krai. There has also been some talk of bringing gambling to the recently-annexed Crimea. Online gambling is another matter entirely, being wholly and actively banned by the Russian government since 2006. The only grey area is poker, given its status as a skill game as opposed to a ‘game of chance.’
Rwanda does not have a legal infrastructure for dealing with gambling and there is no evidence of any formalised gambling market. It is likely that the country’s weak economy and turbulent political situation makes it an unattractive prospect for foreign investors.
Gambling is restricted to casinos in this small Caribbean country. Two of its states offer gambling facilities, with a total of three casinos throughout the nation. The government does not legislate for internet gambling at present, meaning this territory is considered a grey market.
Until recently, gambling was illegal in Saint Lucia, but the country opened its first casino resort in 2010. This came after years of stiff opposition from the nation’s religious leaders and Labour Party. In spite of their efforts, Treasure Bay Casino was opened in order to boost Saint Lucia’s tourism industry and better compete with the substantial leisure sectors available throughout the rest of the Caribbean. While there is no regulated online gambling in Saint Lucia, there is no legal stipulation against internet play, making the territory a grey market.
There are several large casinos available in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, offering a strong range of casino games, slot and video poker machines. However, the country is highly vulnerable to money laundering, and as such has criminalised all forms of internet gambling.
The only forms of gambling permitted in Samoa are betting on horse racing, bingo and a state lottery. There are no casinos available on the island and internet gambling is against the law.
Gambling is presently illegal in San Marino, although this has not always been the case. The communist government that was elected to run the country in 1949 found the state finances severely depleted and opened a casino in an attempt to boost revenues, which quickly closed under pressure from mass protest. Another attempt to open a casino in 1980 fell through before the establishment was even built. Today, a trade union with Italy forbids San Marino from opening gambling establishments, in exchange for an annual subsidy. Online gambling is also illegal in San Marino, with no local licenses distributed and international websites blocked.
Despite a vote to liberalise gambling by the government of São Tomé and Príncipe in 2005, it does not seem that any developments have been made towards actually constructing a functional casino. Online gambling is not legislated for or against, meaning that São Tomé and Príncipe is officially regarded as a grey market.
Gambling in all its forms is strictly banned in Saudi Arabia and the government is very proactive in ensuring it stays that way, regularly raiding illegal gambling dens and arresting ringleaders. The state also tirelessly fights the incursion of internet gambling by blocking gaming sites that attempt to access the Saudi market.
Senegal is a rare example of a Muslim-majority country where, gambling is not only partially legal, but the populace do not appear to take a strong moral stance against it. However, gambling is limited to four licensed casinos and a national lottery, managed by the Loterie Nationale Senegalese (LONASE). Online gambling is neither explicitly banned nor regulated, meaning Senegal is considered a grey market by internet operators.
Following the break up of former Yugoslavia, the combined state of Serbia & Montenegro was established with fairly strict gambling laws. Gambling was limited to state-controlled establishments, most of which only offered slot machines. Following a referendum that saw Montenegro break with Serbia, a number of gambling institutions have emerged; including sports betting, a televised lottery and poker clubs.
Following the introduction of a new gaming law in 2011 (intended to combat a substantial black market in Serbia and stem mass access to unregulated internet casinos), online gambling was officially regulated for the first time. At present, it is illegal for Serbians to gamble at unlicensed gambling websites via the internet, with the government withholding the right to blacklist websites that lack proper licensing.
Given the reasonable tax rate of 5%, a great many countries have obtained Serbian licenses, although over 70 have also been blocked since 2012.
Gambling is legal in Seychelles and available in the form of casinos (of which there are four), sports betting and internet gambling. While no websites have received a Seychellois state license, internet play is permitted by law and there is nothing to prevent local players from accessing games at international betting sites.
Gambling is legal in Sierra Leone and is available in the form of a single casino (the Bintumani Hotel & Casino) and a state-run lottery. There is no evidence of any other form of gambling in the country and internet gambling does not appear to be legislated for, making the territory a grey market.
There are four, archaic gambling laws still operative in Singapore: The Common Gaming Houses Act, the Betting Act, the Private Lotteries Act, and the Betting and Sweepstake Duties Act, which collectively essentially outlaw gambling, but these laws are rarely taken seriously.
In 2006, the government passed the Casino Control Act that established a licensing framework for the introduction of Singaporean casinos. Since then, two large resort casinos – Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa were opened to the public. Local residents are heavily discouraged from entering these casinos, with a heavy entrance fee being demanded of all Singaporean customers, while foreign tourists can enter for free.
If they don’t feel like handing over an extortionate entrance fee, Singaporeans can participate in sports betting via the Singapore Pools or ‘in-play’ betting kiosks available throughout major cities in the country. Locally-licensed casinos do not exist in Singapore due to the lack of a legal framework for dealing with them, but there is no stipulation in Singaporean law to make internet play at international websites illegal.
Ever since becoming a sovereign state in 1992, Slovakia has permitted most forms of gambling within its borders. Today, there are more than 20 casinos across the country and hundreds of high street betting shops in its towns and cities. Online gambling is a rather different matter, as the state does not presently provide licenses to local or international casinos to service Slovakian players via the internet. Nevertheless, there is nothing to stop Slovaks from gambling online at offshore betting sites, should they wish, meaning Slovakia is considered a fairly lucrative grey market.
Prior to the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1989, all forms of gambling were illegal in what is now Slovenia. Immediately after gaining independence, gambling started to creep into Slovenia in an unregulated form. It was not until 1995 that a new Gambling Act introduced the possibility of licensing casinos and slot halls in the country.
After this update to the law, the gambling industry of Slovenia has focused heavily upon tourism, accruing most of its revenue from wealthy Italian tourists. At present, there 13 gambling establishments located in Slovenia.
Online gambling is not legislated for in Slovenia, but the government has started cracking down on unregulated, foreign casino websites, blocking a handful of operators. Nevertheless, many Slovenes continue to gamble at international operators, some of which actually translate their content into Slovene in order to cater for the Slovenian market.
There are two casinos in the Solomon Islands, which appear to offer the extent of commercialised gambling in the nation – there is certainly no evidence of any other forms of legal gambling taking place in the territory. Online gambling is not legislated for and as such, the country is considered a grey market.
All forms of gambling are illegal throughout Somalia: a combined result of the country’s mostly-Muslim population and weak economy. The various hardships experienced by Somalia since gaining independence from Italy in 1960 have significantly hampered the development of anything resembling a leisure industry.
The South African gambling market has been developing rapidly since its official legalisation by the 1996 National Gambling Act. This followed a long period of prohibition, following the passage of the 1965 Gambling Act that effectively banned all forms of gambling with the exception of betting on horse racing.
As a result of these stringent policies, a number of illegal establishments opened through South Africa from the 1970s onward. It has been estimated that the number of illegal casinos in the country had rocketed to around 2,000 by 1995. The democratic government that took over from the Apartheid regime in 1994 quickly legalised gambling, laying the foundations for the 1996 Act, which distributed 40 gambling licenses for casinos and a national lottery, in addition to a handful of other miscellaneous gambling activities. Gambling was thus placed under the authority of the National Gambling Board.
A new National Gambling Act was brought to the fore in 2004, with the National Gambling Amendment Act appearing in 2008. These bills were designed to modernise South Africa’s gambling law and provide the basis for a legal online gambling industry. Some provinces do allow (and indeed legislate) for local internet gambling operators, but online gambling is still broadly illegal. This is in spite of a 2011 Gambling Review Commission report that recommended the South African state liberalise its stance on the online gambling market.
Casinos have been legally available in South Korea since 2000, but most of these are only open to foreign patrons. Prior to this development, gambling in South Korea was restricted to betting on horse, boat and bicycle races and a national lottery. Today, slot machines are only permitted in licensed casinos. Interestingly, South Koreans are forbidden from gambling at casinos when abroad, a law that is very difficult to enforce but the violation of which can carry a minimum three year jail sentence. There is also no distinction between games of chance and games of skill in the penal code of South Korea.
Online gambling is not specifically mentioned by South Korean law, but it is presumed to be illegal given the stringent regulation of all other forms of gambling by the nation’s citizenry. Nevertheless, a substantial percentage of South Koreans are known to gamble at international operators in spite of the law.
Until the end of the Franco regime in 1977, legal gambling in Spain was limited to basic lotteries and was tightly-regulated by the state. After this point, the Spanish government moved to legalise skill-based gambling, with the legalisation of games of chance following in 1981. Today, Spain is one of the world’s largest gambling nations, with Spaniards wagering more than twice the amount hazarded by British players annually. There are over 60 casinos and 7 racetracks in Spain, while the number of gaming machines (250,000) is exceeded by the UK alone.
Major updates to gambling legislature were introduced in 2012, updating the regulation of online operators and setting penalties for unlicensed gambling sites; this followed a decade-long effort to clarify regulation of internet gambling in the country. Over 70 websites have now been licensed by the Spanish state, collectively covering a market of around a million players. This is in spite of a 25% tax rate; considered extremely steep by online operators. Online slots and exchange betting were both prohibited in Spain until another tweak to the law in 2014, which came into effect in 2015.
As an Islamic nation, all forms of gambling are legally-prohibited in Sudan. Any citizens or tourists caught betting on games of chance or skill can face harsh penalties.
Gambling is legal throughout this former Dutch colony, with four major casino operations available in the capital of Paramaribo. The nation’s official stance on gambling has historically vacillated somewhat. Wijdenbosch’s administration (1996-2000), worked hard to attract foreign investors with liberal gambling laws. However, Wijdenbosch’s regime was infamous for murdering political opponents during night-time raids and for its alleged involvement in drug trafficking.
After President Ronald Venetiaan took over in 2000, he worked hard to repair the nation’s international reputation, part of which involved cracking down on the gambling industry. In fact, there was a period in 2004 where it seemed as though the government of Suriname might evict all casinos from the country. This plan did not come to pass and gambling remains legal in Suriname, although its position is ever-precarious. It is unclear whether the government legislates for or against online gambling, meaning this territory is a grey market.
Gambling is permitted in Swaziland, both in the form of land-based casinos and betting shops and internet casinos and poker rooms, which are licensed and regulated by the state. The country also offers a national lottery in the form of the Swazi Lotto.
All forms of gambling are legal in Sweden, but they are under the complete authority of a state monopoly, comprised of AB Svenska Spel (which covers casino games) and Trav och Galopp (with authority over horse racing). This monopoly has come under harsh criticism from the EU and other member states, who argue that the practice is anti-competitive. While there is some talk of the government breaking up the monopoly and liberalising the market, no firm plans have come to light.
The Svenska Spel monopoly also covers internet gambling, through which Swedish companies are expected to submit to a fixed rate of tax and uniform regulation. Should the monopoly ever be broken, however, the Swedish market would represent a massive area of interest for internet gambling operators, being one of the most potentially-lucrative markets in Europe. The Swedish government has, however, begun to license and regulate international operators, representing a slight loosening of the market.
Legal gambling is a relatively-new phenomenon in Switzerland. It was prohibited until 1993, at which point limited-stakes casino gambling was introduced. This was opened up to unlimited stakes casino gambling in 2000. Today, games of chance (legally-defined) are still available at licensed casinos only (with the exception of a state lottery). Poker and sports betting are, as games of skill, permitted in Switzerland.
While online gambling is expressly banned by state law, the government does not seem at all concerned at the number of Swiss players who regularly gamble at international operators; it does not block foreign websites and not do Swiss banks encounter any problems moving funds to or from internet casino accounts. As there have been no visible efforts to enforce this law, Right Casino has chosen to describe Switzerland as a grey market.
As an Islamic nation, as well as one of the most war-torn countries on the planet at the time of writing, gambling is not available in any form throughout Syria.
Gambling has historically been strictly banned in Taiwan. According to Article 266 of the Criminal Code, anyone who gambles for money in a “public place” or a “place open to the public” is subject to punishment. The only exemption from this rule is the state lottery, which has been legal since 1999.
In 2009, following the findings of delegation of Taiwanese researchers in Las Vegas, the Offshore Islands Development Act authorized casinos to be built on the islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu. As yet, this has not begun, but the option remains. Online gambling remains prohibited, but this doesn’t prevent a great many Taiwanese citizens gambling via the internet illegally.
Gambling is illegal throughout Tajikistan, which is not surprising given the Muslim-majority population.
Gambling was legalised in Tanzania by the Investment Promotion and Protection Act of 1992 and placed under the regulatory authority of the Gaming Board of Tanzania (GBT). There are presently 8 casinos in the country and gaming revenues have increased at a rate of 20% year on year since 2012.
Online gambling is also wholly legal in Tanzania, facilitated by a 1999 amendment to the Gaming Control Act, which legalised online gambling and simultaneously provided a system allowing for fixed-odds wagering, sports betting and lotteries. The nation’s first locally-licensed casino was launched in 2013 and players are also allowed to access content from international operators.
Thai laws on gambling are extremely strict, with the only legal forms of gambling being wagers on horse racing and the limited national lottery, launched in 2003. In spite of this, there is a very large underground gambling market in Thailand, with estimated annual revenue of $6bn. Corruption in government and the upper echelons of the police make cracking down on this black market a significant challenge.
Online gambling is similarly forbidden and the Thai government works very hard to block websites via the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. A state agency under this body is also busy red-flagging telephone numbers for high-use during the Poker Tournaments. Still, the large number of players who manage to get around the government means that many internet operators are happy to accept custom from Thailand in spite of the law.
There is no evidence of commercialised gambling in Togo, although it is unclear whether this is as a result of a legal prohibition or a lack of infrastructure.
It is unknown if gambling is officially banned by Tongan law, but it does not appear that there is much in the way of a gambling sector in Tonga. Whether this is down to religious mores or just a lack of facilities is in doubt.
Gambling has been officially banned but widespread in the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago for almost 60 years, but that could be soon to change. In 2013, the state established a working group to draft legislation for a regulatory gaming framework, under the authority of the country’s liberal new Prime Minister, Anthony Carmona. This would be an attempt to mitigate the serious problem of illegal, untaxed, unregulated gambling that is rampant throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
In spite of the lack of legal regulation, it is estimated that there are more than a dozen casinos operating in Trinidad and Tobago, in addition to 90 private members clubs that provide casino games. The state actually acknowledges these private member’s clubs and tolerates their existence, but they are expressly illegal. The new bill would legalise this vast, unregulated industry for the first time and bring it under the auspices of the government.
Under Tunisian law, it is only legal to gamble inside casinos. Sports betting, for example, is illegal. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of Tunisians are of the Islamic faith, which expressly forbids gambling in all its forms, the Tunisian government has traditionally taken a secular approach to the law. As such, unlike in some Arab nations that rely on gambling for tourism, locals are permitted to enter casinos.
Online gambling is illegal, in that no regulatory body exists for it and the law specifically forbids Tunisians from gambling at offshore websites. However, the number of online casinos and betting sites that accept Tunisian players implies that the state is not very proactive in blocking access to foreign operators.
Turkey is an officially secular state, but social mores are still heavily influenced by Islam and public opinion is fairly heavily weighed against commercial gambling. In the early 1990s, there were around 80 casinos in the country, but these were all shut down following a ban in 1998. This ban was extended to unregulated internet gambling in 2007. Turks still regularly gamble on the state lottery however, which continues to be supremely popular.
Online gambling is limited to a state-run sports betting company, IDDAA. The Turkish government enforces its internet gambling ban by prohibiting banks in Turkey from authorising transactions to and from online casino player accounts. The state also regularly blacklists and blocks foreign operators in an effort to prevent Turks from accessing their content. Heavy fines have been levied against citizens caught gambling online, ranging from 100k-500k Turkish lira ($55,000-$278,000).
Legal, commercialised gambling in Turkmenistan is limited to two casinos and confined to the city of Ashgabat. These establishments have only recently been legalised, in recognition of the unregulated, untaxed gambling industry that has long since operated in the country.
There is no visible, commercialised gambling evident in the island nation of Tuvalu. Whether this is due to legal/social prohibitions, a weak economy or lack of foreign investment is unclear.
Despite holding a great deal of potential, the Ugandan economy is still very underdeveloped and the country remains afflicted by many social and political problems. That being said, there are options for anyone wishing to gamble in Uganda. The Casino and Gaming Bill of 2004 aimed to modernise gambling law in the nation by officially legalising casinos (of which there are three, all in the capital of Kampala) and sportsbooks.
A state lottery is also very popular with Ugandans, which was launched in 2004 along with associated scratch card games that are widely-distributed by vendors lining the streets of Uganda’s cities. The 2004 Gaming Bill does not offer clear stipulations on internet gambling, meaning that this territory is a grey market.
After years of vicious legal wrangling, all forms of gambling have been officially outlawed in Ukraine. This dramatic turn came after a fire tragically killed nine people in a prominent gambling hall, which was used as a flashpoint for bringing gambling law closely in line with that of neighbouring Russia.
Two additional pieces of legislation following the 2009 bill have even established the possibility of setting up ‘gambling zones’ in Ukraine, much like in Russia. Nothing has yet come of this. A further legal wrinkle includes the fact that many casinos and betting halls had applied for the renewal of their five year licenses prior to the 2009 bill. It was decided by the government that said establishments should be allowed to operate for the duration of their licenses, all of which have now expired.
Predictably, the 2009 bill resulted in the emergence of a substantial black market of illegal casinos and slot halls. This compelled the government to submit a new bill, ‘On Gambling Business in Ukraine’ in 2013. The bill aims to legislate and regulate a legal gambling sector in Ukraine once again, but no progress has yet been made on this front.
Online gambling was also banned under the 2009 law, a fact underlined when the government closed a loophole in 2011 that allowed internet operators to provide their services to Ukrainian players after moving their servers out of the country. Today, providing players in Ukraine with casino games via the internet is an offence. The only form of internet gambling that remains open to Ukrainians is the state-run lottery’s website.
On and offline gambling in the UAE are both completely illegal, even in major tourist hotspots like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Anyone caught attempting to gamble, either physically or via the internet, could be subject to a two year prison sentence – that goes for locals and tourists alike.
The United Kingdom is widely-regarded as having some of the most liberal gambling laws in the world, in addition to a positive attitude towards gambling in general. In fact, gambling has been legally available in the UK since the 1930s, when the various betting shops operating illegally in the country since the turn of the century were brought under the taxable jurisdiction of the government. Many big names, including William Hill, actually began life as underground bookies before receiving a state license.
The legal gambling market in Britain was expanded following the passage of the 1960 Betting and Gambling Act, which allowed for the setting up of commercial bingo halls (on a members-only basis). The 1968 Gaming Act invited the construction of large, commercial casinos, with licenses granted by the Game Board of Great Britain. However, these establishments operated with restrictions on the number of games they could provide in addition to limited table stakes.
The 1968 law remained in force, more or less unchanged, until 1993, when a national lottery was introduced to Britain (initially with much resistance from the public). Another significant update came in the form of the 2005 Gambling Act, passed by Tony Blair’s New Labour government with the following stated objectives:
(a) Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime.
(b) Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way.
(c) Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
Given these stipulations, the 2005 Act actually offered a lot of scope for the British gambling sector to prosper (although plans for eight, Vegas-style ‘supercasinos’ ultimately foundered). Nevertheless, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published a two-volume document in 2012, entitled ‘The Gambling Act 2005: A bet worth taking?’ that offered two major criticisms of the existing legislation:
1. The CMSC argued that ‘the presence of relatively high-stake category B2 (FOBT) machines in high-street betting shops was a source of considerable concern to groups which aim to combat problem gambling.’
2. The report also pointed out that online casino operators, which were invited to target UK consumers by the 2005 Act, were not subject to regulation by the Gambling Commission or taxation by the state. Many of these offshore operators based themselves in tax havens like Gibraltar and the Isle of Mann in order to avoid the high levies imposed by the British tax man.
Following these critiques, the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill was passed in 2014, setting out the following updates to the law:
1. All gambling companies, whether physical or web-based, must obtain a UK gaming license in order to provide custom to British players.
2. Operating licences are available for betting, bingo, casino games, gaming machines, gambling software and lotteries but separate licences are required for every individual form of gambling, which are regulated separately.
3. Unlicensed operators cannot advertise their products in the UK.
4. All ‘whitelisted,’ UK-licensed gambling companies must pay a flat 15% point of consumption tax on their gross profits.
These amendments infuriated many prominent companies within the online gambling sector and almost led to a mass exodus from the British market (in addition to an open letter of complaint to the EU). Nevertheless, the 2014 Bill remains in force.
Of all the countries on earth, the history of gambling legislation in the United States has probably been the most fraught and contradictory. Legal regulation has often been inconsistent and subject to rapid change in response to societal mores, while tolerance for illegal gambling has historically been fairly high. Today, gambling is legally available throughout American in greater or lesser degrees depending on the state in question.
The first wave of gambling regulation in America dates from the colonial period through to the mid-1880s. The Puritans who founded what would become the United States of America obviously took a dim view of gambling, banning cards, dice and so forth. This attitude gradually relaxed and public lotteries were actually used to repair the finances of the struggling colony of Virginia. As the popularity of lotteries increased, so too did wagering on horse races, while taverns and roadhouses began to allow dice and card games on their premises, which became the basis of casino gambling.
During the move west in the 1880s, gambling law liberalised further, becoming a legitimate enterprise in Mississippi for instance. The South also loosened its legal prohibition on gambling, with New Orleans becoming something of a gaming hub. Eventually, religious pressure resulted in a ban on state lotteries, while the Civil War disrupted the river travel that had sustained gambling in cities like New Orleans.
Gambling enjoyed a resurgence during the Gold Rush, with a particular boom in California. This culminated in yet another prohibition in 1891 that pushed gambling underground. This was to remain the status quo until the Great Depression in 1929, which led to far greater legalisation of gambling as the government desperately attempted to refill the nation’s coffers. This period saw the rise of Las Vegas as the major gambling hotspot after it legalised most forms of gambling in 1931. At this time and throughout much of the 20th Century gambling was heavily associated with the mob. A crackdown on the shady side of commercial gambling in America began with an investigation by the Senate Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce in the 1950s, but it was a long, slow battle that has never fully been won. Lotteries, after decades of prohibition, finally returned to the States in 1964 amidst growing opposition to tax hikes. In 1978, New Jersey joined Nevada by legalising casino gambling, although it was limited to Atlantic City.
To date, Nevada and Louisiana are the only states to allow casino-style gambling throughout their whole territories, although there is some leeway for American Indian reservations, where gambling activities are governed by tribal authority (in agreement with state government) under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.
The history of online gambling in America has been equally convoluted and the debate over its legal status still rages in the country. At present, American banks are prohibited from authorising transactions to or from online gambling companies, effectively outlawing internet gambling altogether. This was not always so. In 1999, it was estimated that over 250 websites accepted money bets from US players on card games, sporting events and lottery tickets (although the Federal Wire Act of 1961 brings into question the legality of this). By 2000, US players contributed about two thirds of the online gambling industry’s global revenue. However, 2006 saw the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) that seemed to make internet gambling impossible by denying American banks the authority to deal with transactions to or from player accounts. However, the bill was somewhat ambiguous and nothing much changed. This lasted until April 2011 and the so-called ‘Black Friday,’ when the United States government shut down Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker and Cereus for violation of the UIGEA, effectively spelling the end of the American internet gambling market as operators subsequently pulled out of America in droves.
Many suspect that online gambling will return to America in the near future. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have already obtained the authority to grant licenses internally, allowing players based in their jurisdictions to gamble at state-registered operators. However, at present, internet gambling remains a difficult proposition throughout the rest of the USA.
Gambling is legal in Uruguay and the nation offers a modest gambling industry, consisting of a dozen casinos, poker tournaments (including the Latin American Poker Tour) and wagering on horse races. However, sportsbooks and sports betting are both prohibited in the country – bizarrely, pari-mutual betting is completely permissible.
Uruguay does not license online gambling websites but neither does the law make any mention of the legality of internet betting, meaning the country is technically a grey market.
The prohibition of gambling in Uzbekistan began in 2002, following the banning of billiards – a popular game in the country. Following this odd move, the government released a statement stipulating that gambling ‘does not correspond to the spirit of Uzbek people and is a strong stimulus of criminal activity.’ A law was subsequently passed in 2004 that initially sought to regulate the gambling activities that remained in Uzbekistan (slot halls, mostly). However, a decree by the Uzbek President in 2007 banned these last few establishments, effectively outlawing gambling throughout the nation. Online gambling is similarly prohibited, although locals are known to occasionally access internet casinos in ‘interactive clubs’ of dubious legality, in addition to playing at foreign websites via proxy servers.
Legal gambling is a relatively recent phenomenon in Vanuatu. Gambling was prohibited in the country until 1988, but presently casino gaming, a state lottery and slot machines are all provided. Vanuatu has also issued internet gambling licenses since 1999. In 2000, the Electronic Transactions Act clarified the rules on setting up digital contracts (necessary to facilitate legal internet play) and set up a free trade zone allowing foreign companies to set up websites in Vanuatu without having to set up an international corporation.
An amendment in 2003 sought to make the nation’s internet gambling legislation more competitive, with an attractive fee structure for sports books and betting exchanges.
As the world’s smallest sovereign state and the centre of international Catholicism, it should come as no surprise that gambling in all its forms is strictly prohibited in Vatican City.
Perhaps surprisingly for a country that has recently undergone a socialist revolution, Venezuela does provide some forms of gambling to its citizenry. There are a handful of casinos in the country and it has also been host to major poker tournaments. Sports betting is also allowed, but it too is confined to casinos. All forms of gambling are overseen and regulated by the National Committee for casinos, slots and bingo halls, which recently decreed that it would offer no more licenses to gambling establishments, meaning the Venezuelan gambling sector is unlikely to grow any further for the time being.
The national lottery is also licensed to sell tickets via the internet and two licenses have been issued to local, land-based casinos to offer games online. These operations are hosted on Margarita Island and cater to English-speaking players offshore rather than Venezuelans. A third site, which actually does target Venezuelans, is actually based in the Netherlands Antilles.
In 2003, Vietnam allowed foreign investors to open the country’s first casinos. At present, it is estimated that around 50 such establishments exist throughout Vietnam, mostly catering to wealthy Chinese and Taiwanese visitors. Local Vietnamese are strictly banned from entering these casinos and could face fines or jail time should they attempt to gamble. Even informal gambling outside of casinos is prohibited for citizens under the Communist penal code. These laws also extend to internet gambling.
All forms of gambling are banned in Yemen, a prohibition that seems to be supported by the majority of the mostly-Islamic populace. Internet gambling is similarly prohibited, a ban enforced by the lack of a regulatory framework for online betting companies and smart filters that block such companies from catering to Yemeni players.
Casino gambling is fully legal in Zambia and the nation boasts three casinos at the time of writing. Slot machines are also allowed and the country runs a state lottery. It is unknown if any other forms of gambling are permitted, while the lack of any specific law covering internet play renders Zambia a grey market for online betting companies.
Zimbabwe has one of the densest concentrations of casinos in Africa as gambling tourism is a cornerstone of the Zimbabwean economy (although it has taken a nosedive following Robert Mugabe’s controversial rule, the Land Reform Act of 1999 and economic sanctions by America). Of the eight, legal gambling establishments in the country most are concentrated in the capital of Harare. Sports betting is also starting to grow as an industry in Zimbabwe following the launch of the locally-licensed Zimbet service. Furthermore, Zimbabwe also runs a popular state lottery.
Low internet penetration means that online gambling has not really developed in this territory, but there is certainly nothing in Zimbabwean law to prevent internet play. For this reason, the country is considered a grey market.
The history of online gambling legislation
Although online gambling software hit the market in 1994, it was not until 1996 that internet gambling was legally recognised.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (based in the Mohawk Indian Territory of Kahnawake) was founded to regulate online gambling and keep all gaming operations fair and transparent.
As internet play continued to gain popularity, several governments became uneasy. Not only were there concerns about the impact of online gambling at a social level, but it was felt that it represented unwanted competition for domestic leisure industries. On top of that, online gambling was extremely difficult to regulate and tax.
As a result, many countries passed laws to limit – even ban – the activities of online gambling brands within their borders. Nonetheless, the industry still turns over tens of billions of dollars every year.
Can I play online?
There are a few factors that determine your legal status as an online gambler. First and foremost, you need to find out whether online gambling is legal in your region. If not, you could be at risk of serious repercussions.
Remember, when you sign up at a casino it is your responsibility to establish your eligibility to play. If you sign up and prove to be ineligible, for any reason, you could face a ban and lose your bankroll, including any deposits.
The following countries prohibit online gambling. While you may still be able to create an account at casino websites based overseas, you could find it difficult to withdraw funds. That said, many players successfully bypass restrictions with the use of proxies, but you take this risk at your peril!
Note: players from restricted regions may still be permitted to play free games at online casinos. Also, a limited number of online casinos can legally cater to American players in the state of New Jersey.
Some countries either have ambiguous legislation in regards to online gambling or none at all, making the legality of internet play difficult to establish. Alternatively, these regions may allow some forms of gambling (such as lotteries) but block others, or permit gambling at locally licensed operators but not international brands. These are called ‘grey markets'.
Players from such regions are permitted to gamble by many casino brands. However, they might not be able to use certain payment methods, so we advise researching the casino and contacting their support for clarification before depositing.
Players from grey markets may also be ineligible for certain bonuses. Typically, online casinos prohibit players from Eastern European countries such as Romania and Serbia from claiming no deposit bonuses. Due to several cases of attempted fraud, casinos do not consider it cost-effective to process such bonuses.
Countries where gambling is legal
The following countries permit online gambling in all its forms, meaning customers from these regions can access all products and promotional offers at any of our featured websites.
Antigua & Barbuda
While age limits for gambling will vary from region to region, the vast majority of online casinos prohibit users under the age of 18 from real-money play. However, many casino websites do not use an age gate, meaning minors can still access their content.
Money laundering and fraud
It is estimated that millions of dollars are laundered every year through online gambling, while some disreputable websites have been accused of serving as fronts for criminal operations. Fraudsters, posing as casino brands, have been known to exploit players by withholding funds and lifting card details.
Check out our online safety section for information about protecting yourself online.
It’s not just the players that are vulnerable. Cybercriminals posing as players have used online gambling and bonuses to launder ‘dirty’ money through internet transactions. To prevent these abuses, online casinos require players to email scans of their passports to corroborate with their banking details.
Leading gambling law firms
The only law firm in the City Of London that specialises in providing services to the gaming and leisure industry. Established in 2004, it has been annually top ranked by Chambers UK and the Legal 500.
Eminent practitioners – Julian Harris, John Hagan, Bahar Alaeddini, Melanie Ellis
Based in London but with considerable global reach, Pinsent Masons is ranked among the UK’s top 15 law firms. Its gambling team is experienced in all aspects of international gaming law.
Eminent practitioners – Diane Mullenex, Frederic Ichay
Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira
Overview – One of the top law firms on the Iberian Peninsula, the Barcelona-based Cuatrecasas is a business law firm with a speciality in gambling law.
Eminent practitioners – Salvador Del Rey, Albert Agustinoy, Rafael Catala
Lewis Roca Rothgerber
Among the largest law firms in the Western US. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, but with a thriving office in Las Vegas, Nevada, peopled by lawyers experienced in gaming and leisure.
Eminent practitioners – Tony Roca, Karl Rutledge, Glenn Light
Crowe & Dunlevy
Being based in Oklahoma, a state founded for Native Americans, Crowe & Dunlevy is the natural home of the Indian Law & Gaming Practice Group, a sizeable string to the firm’s bow given that First Nations casinos generate billions of dollars annually.
Eminent practitioners – D Michael McBride III, Jimmy Goodman, Susan E Huntsman, Adam Childers
Varela & Fonseca Abogados
The head offices might be in Peru, but you can rest assured that, if there is a gambling issue that needs resolving in Latin America, Varela & Fonseca Abogados will be involved in some capacity.
Eminent practitioners – Jaime Varela, Carlos Fonesca Sarmiento, Ingrid Escobar, Ruben Vicuna
Barnea & Co.
Overview – The leading Israeli law firm has a powerful gaming wing specialising in internet gambling, binary options, licensing and lotteries.
Eminent practitioners – Doltan Baruch
Mishcon De Reya
With offices on either side of the Atlantic, the firm prides itself on its ground-breaking work in gambling and internet gaming, having entered the arena back in 2000.
Eminent lawyers – Susan Breen
Jones Walker’s New Orleans operation is the largest gaming practice in the South Eastern United States. Particularly strong in the areas of casino and video poker law and tribal gaming.
Eminent practitioners – J Kelly Duncan, Thomas B Shepherd III, Marc W Dunbar
With so many online casinos licensed in Malta, Chetcuti Cauchi is a leading light in an important market. Gaming compliance law is also a particularly strong suit.
Eminent practitioners – Maria Chetcuti Cauchi, Silvana Zammit, Jean-Philippe Chetcuti
An award-winning offshore firm, Carey Olsen is a big name in such key gaming locations as the British Virgin Islands, Jersey, Alderney, and the Cayman Islands.
Eminent lawyers – James Mulholland, Robert Milner, Simon Marks, Ben Myers