The internet is a great equalizer. It connects the entire world, making the people, products and ideas within easily accessible to all, at any time. But being accessible and being legal are by no means the same thing. Consider online gambling, for example. While it’s possible that people anywhere in the world can access an online casino through their web browser, this does not mean online gambling is actually legal where they live.
In fact, in many places online gambling is completely illegal. Like every other aspect of life, each country sets its own gambling laws, and in turn, its own line of defence. While we certainly love online gambling, there are some governments that are opposed to it entirely, and others to a limited degree. The key is to know what’s going on where you live.
The United States bans online gambling – in all forms
The United States of America is probably the best-known example of a place where online gambling is illegal. We all remember the online poker crack down of a decade ago or so when money was seized directly by the government from some 27,000 American players’ accounts. A few years later three online poker companies, in a separate incident, were indicted for illegal gambling.
But where does this restriction stem from? The legislation around online gambling in the US is based on what’s called the Federal Wire Act. There has been extensive debate as to what exact activities it actually covers, but for now the Department of Justice maintains the position that the Act applies equally to all forms of online gambling, no exception made. In addition, there is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 which makes transitions to online gambling sites from banks or other such institutions illegal. Since then, there have been a number of other legislations passed and discussed. Many motions have been moving in the direction of some form of legalised online gambling, but the details of how and when are still in the works.
Russian places a complete ban on online bets of any kind
Plain and simple, online gambling is illegal in Russia. This ban came about following governmental legislation in 2006. So completely comprehensive in its nature, the Russian law fully prohibits gambling based on any telecommunications technology, as well as online gambling itself.
Brazil says no to online gambling
While betting on horses at the track is legal in Brazil (seen as a game of skill perhaps?), betting on horses online is somehow differentiated as gambling, and therefore illegal. In fact, all gambling is technically illegal in Brazil. This is based on legislation dating way back to 1941, when all games of chance were officially banned, including bets on sports, though an exception was made for casinos at the time.
This ban was further strengthened in 1946 by legislation that outlawed brick and mortar casinos as well, and not much has changed since. While there are currently efforts being undertaken to update the law in line with the age of the internet, to date, online gambling continues to be illegal in Brazil.
Japan nixes online gambling
If you are visiting Japan, you should know, not every game of chance is considered illegal. Some local games that are much loved like mah-jong and pachinko can be played for money, as they are considered a form of amusement. There are also local lotteries that are entirely legal. Online poker and online casino games, however, are not. Luckily, for locals who want to enjoy some casino gambling legally, they can do so live at the casinos of Macau, which aren’t all that far away.
Thailand too makes online gambling illegal
Gambling in Thailand is illegal, with two small exceptions. Those are: betting on horse races and playing the state-sponsored Thai lottery. True, there are places in Thailand where you can find casino gambling. But not legally. Same goes for online gambling. While the local legislation does not spell it out per se, that online gambling is banned, that’s because the law that the ban is based on goes back to a time long before the internet. Instead the long existing ban is assumed to be inclusive of internet gambling. In other words, according to current readings of the law, online gambling is illegal in Thailand as well.
Other countries where online gambling is illegal
The above examples are just a few places where online gambling is unfortunately illegal. Other places including Algeria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Singapore, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and many more explicitly do not allow for online gambling. Some of these countries ban gambling entirely, including live sports betting and regular casinos. Other countries make exceptions for certain games of chance like the local lottery. And other countries simply do not allow online gambling, while accepting other forms.
If you are visiting or living in one of the countries where online gambling is not legal, it is up to you to find out before you go ahead and place your wagers. At the end of the day, the law comes before your good time. That is, while we certainly love online gambling, we also strongly believe in respecting each country’s laws.
Regulated gambling markets
In some places online gambling is legal, but only when regulated by official governmental bodies with strict licensing criteria. Also known as regulated gambling markets, this is a strong trend these days, particularly in countries across Europe. For example, in the UK, Poland, Germany, Italy and France (to name but a few), this type of gambling legislation is the case.Each country differs a bit in how this process is done, but basically the online casino must apply for a local license. To do so, it must follow strict guidelines in terms of player safety, banking practices, and even bonus terms. Only once the forms are filled out and the exacting legal guidelines are met, is it potentially approved.
If the online gambling site wants to be allowed in each place, it needs to go through this process country by country. While a somewhat cumbersome procedure for the owners of the casino, it is meant to protect the players – which is the government’s main concern. The duration of each casino license depends on the country. For some, it’s more long-term lasting at least a couple of years, while in other places it must be renewed on an annual basis.
But keep in mind, it’s not licensing and you’re done. These casinos are watched and regulated on an ongoing basis, to make sure they’re living up to their promises and delivering on every aspect of the service they guaranteed. This, alone makes online casinos that operate in a regulated market a top choice for players, as they’re certifiably the most reliable online casinos around.
What about gambling here in Australia?
As is typically the case with any legalise, Australian legislation around online gambling is a bit difficult to understand at first read. On the one hand, the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA) basically states that online gambling is not allowed. However, on the other hand, it also makes it clear that it is not an offence for residents of Australia to play online casino games or online poker, but it is an offence to operate such interactive gambling services within our borders. Furthermore, for sports betting, it is actually legal all around to play at online sportsbooks, with many such operations officially licenced by the Australian government.
So bottom line? You can definitely gamble legally within the borders of Australia. It is, however, best to look for an online casino that does not operate directly out of Australia. And, of course, always make sure that the casino is regulated by some governing authority, to ensure it is operating securely and above board.
How to do a quick check to determine where online gambling is legal
A quick and easy way to check where online casinos are legal is the have a look at the Terms & Conditions page of any online casino. There you will find all of the details regarding use of the site, including countries from which players are accepted and countries whose citizens are excluded.
The list is often surprisingly long. But that may be a factor of two things. One, online gambling may very well be illegal in that country. Or, the casino may not have done the work to get licensing in that market. So take the list with a grain of salt, and use it to do more extensive research if need be.
How casinos turn down illegal traffic
Sometimes, upstanding online casinos take it upon themselves to block traffic from certain countries. For them, it’s better to prevent breaking of the law in the first place. Plus, they want to prove to other customers that they are law abiding, whatever the case. One way they keep players out is with IP blocking. While IP blocking services are effective in preventing illegal participation, “clever” players can get around most blocks using a proxy server or similar methods.
Another tactic online casinos employ is refusing customers in the signup process. That is when it becomes clear where the person lives based on their registration form, they’re rejected from joining. It’s true the player could obviously lie. But the casinos have validation tactics in place, to prevent this from happening as much as possible.
Why is online gambling illegal in some places?
There are a number of reasons why online gambling is illegal in different places. In some countries, there are traditional or religious reasons. That is gambling as a whole is considered an immoral act, and as such, is banned.
In other places the ban on gambling has more to do with protecting the country’s citizens. For example, while the government may not take a moral stance in terms of gambling, it might see gambling activities as potentially harmful to its citizens. Usually this outlook has to do with preventing or limiting the impact of problem gambling and addiction issues. Also, as many people feel that it’s the weaker classes who are more prone to gambling, the government in some cases aims to protect them in particular, from the get-go with sweeping legislation against gambling as a whole.
Finally, some countries ban online gambling in part because it is so difficult to regulate. That is, it is easier to say it is not allowed at all, then to make some exceptions. Also, there is a serious issue regarding taxation when it comes to gambling online. And since money is changing hands, with many people actually making money gambling online, governments have yet to figure out how to tax these winnings and transactions efficiently.
How are online gambling bans enforced?
For the most part, online gambling bans are not enforced. True there are some exceptions, like the ones we wrote about above regarding online poker sites in the United States. And it is possible for any government to take steps like this again, with fines, confiscations, and even arrests. But for the most part, these examples are few and far between. That may be a reflection of the government’s will or the resources available for enforcement. Or it may be the inherent difficulty of effectively policing the internet, which is massive, hidden and complicated in its nature. Or more likely, it’s a combo of all those factors.
In some more stringent countries where the government maintains tight control over it population and the activities they engage in, the government may actively get involved. This would include officially blocking sites that are known to offer online gambling services. Some players may still be able to get around official blocks by altering their IP address. In this case, the government’s hands are basically tied, unless they want to track down people one at a time, and go to bat in international courts.
That being said, many people choose to self-govern. That is, once they know there is a law in place, they simply prefer to follow it and do not gamble online by choice.
A final few words on illegal online gambling
There are many countries in the world where online gambling in all of its forms – including casino games, poker, and online sports betting – are entirely legal. In other places, only some of these activities are legal. And in others, all online gambling is banned as a whole.
While we may not agree with this stance on a personal front, it is not up to us. If you live in a country where online gambling is illegal, the most you can do is rally your local government to work to change the law. In the meantime, beyond that, you’ll have to sit out from online bets, as we’re all for respecting local laws.
For us here in Australia, thankfully, this hard line is not the case. Although local gambling laws are always being discussed and revised, for now at least, we can happily go about gambling online. This means placing our bets at qualifying online casinos and playing the pokies as we see fit.