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.
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.
- The Bahamas
- Dubai (UAE)
- Hong Kong
- The Netherlands
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- United States
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.
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- El Salvador
- South Africa
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
- Costa Rica
- United Kingdom
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