Gambling Laws Worldwide
I believe that we can neatly place every country on Earth in three different categories – countries where all casinos (both land-based and online) are legal and regulated, countries where online casinos aren’t legal, but no one really cares if the citizens play in foreign casinos, and countries where casinos aren’t legal at all and anyone who dares place a chip on a (physical or virtual) table will be arrested and prosecuted. Of course, there are always some variations (for example, in the second category, sometimes land-based casinos will be legal and online ones will not be, and sometimes all forms of gambling will be banned across the board), but that’s generally how things align. With that said, let’s look over the biggest countries on each continent and see where they all line up inside the categories we established! Keep in mind, I obviously won’t be able to look at every single country in the world, so apologies in advance if I miss yours! If so, you can check out our detailed article about the best online casino worldwide, where we again explore some of the best gambling destinations in the world and review the local laws.
Gambling in Europe
Europe, as a whole, is pretty easy to toss some bets in, since in most of it all forms of gambling are perfectly legal and regulated. The biggest markets are the UK, Spain and Germany, all of which obviously have legal and regulated gambling whether it’s land-based venues, real money casino sites or online betting.
Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Sweden have all legalised all sorts of gambling, which covers something like the majority of Europe. If you live in any of those countries, then you can place bets however and wherever you feel like! With that said, of course, there’s a couple of exceptions to the rule, overall. France and Iceland are two really interesting examples, as in both online casinos have been banned, but land-based casinos, as well as other forms of gambling, such as bingo and sports betting, are considered acceptable. Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine have banned online gambling on paper, but nobody’s going to really care much if you gamble in foreign sites.
As far as Europe is concerned, the only place that you should really be careful of is Turkey, since it – like most Muslim countries – isn’t fond of gambling in the slightest.
Gambling in the Americas
North America doesn’t have a whole tonne of countries, which is why I decided to group it with its Southern sibling. Apologies to any Americans that find this offensive, but, well, we kind of have to keep things concise and practical! With the exception of the US, North America as a whole seems pretty okay with gambling, as both Canada and Mexico have legalised and regulated all forms of gambling – though in Canada, things seem to vary in the different provinces, so you’d better be careful. If you are curious, you can take a look at our list of the top 10 Canadian casino sites. The USA, however, can’t seem to decide whether they love gambling or hate it with a passion. The state of Nevada is completely fine with all forms of gambling (which is understandable considering the fact that Las Vegas is the state’s biggest moneymaker). Aside from it, New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois and New York have all claimed that online gambling is A-OK, and there are several American online casinos aimed directly at the American market. With that said, while a lot of foreign online casinos (about 70%) don’t allow American players, no one will stop you from playing in the ones that do even if you live in a state where online gambling is illegal. There are some positive signs that online gambling in the USA might become easier in the future, so we will keep track of the situation.
On the Southern continent, things are similarly divided – most of the countries seem pretty okay with gambling, while the rest of them operate on the ‘it’s cool as long as I don’t know about it’ principle. Argentina, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic all have perfectly legal and internally regulated gambling, with hundreds of online casinos shared between them.
Chile and Brazil aren’t incredibly fond of online gambling, but neither will punish you if you play in off-shore casinos – in fact, Brazil has a pretty big gambling following, and so many are pushing to have casinos legalised in the country, so who knows, maybe by the time you’re reading this in the future Brazilians will be able to enjoy online gambling on their own turf!
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Ecuador, which was fine with casinos until in 2010, when President Rafael Correa was able to ban all forms of gambling, including online and land-based casinos. Still, even Ecuador won’t prosecute anyone for playing in foreign casinos. Really, the only country in the Americas where gambling can be dangerous is, of course, Cuba.
Gambling in Africa
It might be a bit surprising for some to hear, but recently, Africa has been enjoying quite a lot of success as far as casinos (both online and offline) are concerned. Out of 54 different countries that currently exist in Africa, over 30 have legalised all forms of gambling, with over 40 South African casinos alone! Egypt, Kenya, Botswana, Cameron, Ghana, Morocco, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and, of course, South Africa have all become huge centres for gambling. A third of all Kenyans admit to using their phones for online gambling, and the gambling industry as a whole is expected to increase by almost 150% between 2014 and 2020, which is just insane! While it’s likely not the most profitable, the African casino market is by far the biggest in terms of the sheer number of gamblers it has been able to attract over the relatively short time in which it has existed.
As usual, the countries that haven’t yet legalised online casinos won’t mind too much if you engage in the activity. Really, when gambling in Africa, the biggest thing that you’ll need to look out for is playing at unlicensed/unregulated casinos, which is way more dangerous than doing that in, say, Europe. African’s National Gambling Board is extremely strict with shutting down illegal casinos, and whenever you withdraw winnings from one of them, there’s a huge chance that they’ll be confiscated and placed in the Unlawful Winnings Trust, which has been specifically established for that purpose. You also face jail time and a fine, so try to double-check that any casino you play at has been registered by the NGB before you spin.
Gambling in Australia
Australia was famous as the home of some of the most passionate gamblers in the world. The country was considered pretty chill and sports betting, online poker and slot machines – locally known as ‘pokies’ – were all the rage. However, things were to change in 2017, when the adoption of certain new laws severely restricted the access of online casinos to the country.
Slot machines, poker machines, gambling dice games, cards… you can engage in pretty much any kind of gambling activity in Australia, presumably to distract yourself from the myriads of deadly creatures filling every nook and cranny. Unfortunately, nowadays this can only happen in one of the licensed and regulated brick-and-mortar casinos. Fortunately, there are more than 10 of those. And speaking of Australia, we should also focus a bit on New Zealand. There are six casinos currently operating on its territory, the first of which opened in 1994 (only a few years after gambling was legalised in 1987), but all of them are land-based. Unfortunately, online gambling is in a bit of a grey zone at the moment, legally speaking. If you live in New Zealand, you’re free to gamble in foreign casinos, but don’t expect any to be hosted locally in the near future.
Gambling in the Middle East
Most countries in the Middle East are Islamic, and while some are less traditional and uptight than others, as a general rule of thumb, gambling tends to be banned in all of them, as it’s explicitly prohibited by the Quran unless it’s done for the purpose of charity. The UAE, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Kuwait and Qatar have all outlawed all forms of gambling, and unlike, say, most European countries where gambling is illegal where nobody will care if you gamble elsewhere, the Middle Eastern nations will absolutely prosecute if you get caught. There are exceptions, of course – Dubai, despite being located in the UAE, seems to be able to get away with having several large casino resorts on its territory. Aside from that, Israel and Egypt have all legalised land-based gambling and have several casinos on their lands. In all honesty, the situation in Pakistan is somewhere in the middle and if you are interested, you can take a look at the best online casinos in Pakistan.
Lebanon is an interesting case since it offers exactly one casino on its soil (Casino du Liban) which is sanctioned by the government, but all other forms of gambling, alongside other casinos, have been banned. Unfortunately, due to the widespread disdain for gambling in general in the region, as far as I could tell there are no online casinos which are currently servicing that market, which is rather ironic considering the fact that many online casinos which are aimed at Western markets are actually hosted and operated in Israel.
Gambling in Asia
Last, but not least, let’s focus a bit on the Asian market! The reason why this is last is that, well, Asia as a whole is really, really complicated. A lot of the continents and regions are pretty simple (Europe is generally gambling-friendly, the Middle East is generally not, etc), but Asia tends to have drastically different laws from country to country. Singapore, for example, used to be completely fine with any forms of gambling up until the government outlawed it in 2014. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Japan had a very anti-gambling stance, to the point where its citizens needed to look for legal loopholes and create complicated schemes just to be able to gamble. But not too long ago, the country finally softened up on gambling and began allowing land-based casinos and betting on sports online, so that’s a really decent step! Knowing Japan’s love for all things electronic and its passion for gaming, it honestly wouldn’t be surprising to see them legalise online gambling completely by the end of the decade.
There are several nations in Asia that, much like Singapore, have completely outlawed gambling, but like everything about Asia’s casino scene, it’s complicated. Taiwan has banned everything except for sports betting, which is legal online and at physical bookmakers.
Thailand has banned gambling of any kind, but like a lot of countries, its government doesn’t care much if you play in foreign sites. In Malaysia, land-based casinos are technically legal, but there’s only one in the country, so good luck with that – and the online front’s pretty closed-off, regardless. Similarly, in Vietnam land-based casinos are legal, but only for foreign visitors, as the locals are banned from gambling either online or offline.
In China, of course, all forms of gambling except for physical sports betting are illegal, which is why many Chinese players use Macau for their gambling needs (both physical and online) since that’s likely the Asian country with the laxest laws. Just like Malaysia, there’s only one licensed casino in South Korea (and North Korea likely doesn’t need to be mentioned), but people can bet on sports either offline or online. India is an interesting case since games of chance have been a part of local culture for hundreds of years. However, gambling has been banned by a particularly old law that no one seems to be able to overturn, so many Indian citizens end up setting up illegal, makeshift casinos in their own homes. The status of online gambling is very unclear, while land-based and floating casinos have been legalised in several states like Goa and Sikkim.