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Online Gambling Laws and Regulations In Key Countries

Bet safely. Get a head start and protect yourself by understanding the different gambling and sports betting rules and regulations within your country.



Published on
Updated on 18 November 2017
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Since every nation has its own approach to online gambling, the subject of international online gambling law can be quite complex. Some countries have laws that permit and regulate online gambling while others have laws that ban the gambling market entirely.

Additionally, the varying jurisdictions in different regions of a country sometimes result in radically diverse approaches to online gambling.

If you’re interested in gaming or betting online, understanding the basics of internet gambling regulation and legislation can be useful. This section discusses how the online betting market works in key countries of the world, as well as the legal status of online and offline gambling in those particular regions.

The Basics

To begin with, it is important to understand how online gambling regulation and legislation affects you. In relation to this, the two main points to take into account are as follows:

1) It is uncommon for a gambling site to be explicitly illegal to access and use.
2) Regulated and licensed gambling sites are considerably the safest to use.

You should not be worried about the legalities of betting online and the repercussions that may arise out of using a betting website, because the fact is that you’re highly unlikely to break the law by simply gambling online. The majority of the online betting legislation squarely targets the companies that run the sites, not the individual bettors who use them.

However, be reminded that laws vary from nation to nation or region to region, so there are some exceptions to the first point. It is important to understand the laws in your local region and know whether they prohibit you from betting online or not.

In connection with the second point, you will find that most betting sites are regulated and licensed in at least a single jurisdiction. To acquire the necessary licenses, the operators must meet the criteria laid out by the respective licensing authority. Site owners advertise the particulars of their licensing to reassure customers that they are indeed legal, regulated, and legit.

However, you should also be aware that there is a significant difference between the licensing authorities in terms of the actual legitimacy: some agencies are more stringent compared to others. In Nevada, for instance, all online poker sites go through a wringer before they can obtain a license and operate. This gives a Nevada license an authentic sign validity. On the other hand, other authorities sell or issue licenses to any operator so long as that operator has enough money.

The main purpose of having an online gambling regulation is to protect consumers. Bettors should be able to place their bets online with the assurance that they are being treated fairly and not exposed to unethical or dishonest practices. Fortunately, this is exactly what the reputable and established licensing authorities aim to happen by imposing strict codes of conduct on the gambling sites they issue license to. In addition, the licensees must adhere to the regulations in order to keep their licenses.

North America: USA

The U.S. is one of the countries with the most complex laws relating to internet gambling. Individual states implement and follow their own laws: some states have fully legalized online gambling while others prohibit even the simple act of accessing gambling sites. On top of that, the federal laws in the country can be difficult to comprehend as they are often poorly written and structured.

Below are the gambling laws in some US states:

New Jersey: In 2013, New Jersey passed a legislation that allows for regulated poker sites and online casinos within state borders. New Jersey residents now have access to real money games and can play at any gambling site approved by the state.

Delaware: Poker and online gambling went live in Delaware in 2013. The games are available to anyone located within the state borders.

Nevada: Online poker has been legal in Nevada since 2013. Only the people within state lines can access these sites.

Washington: In 2006, the Washington State passed a law that targeted individual players. Anyone who accesses and uses betting sites could face 5-year imprisonment and a $10,000-fine per violation. Luckily, this law was never actually enforced and was even considered as one of those ridiculous U.S. laws that make for comedic articles.

Utah: Utah has always been against all types of gambling, especially physical casinos. In 2012, the state passed a law that proactively opts itself out of any future internet gambling legislation. That law also results in the prohibition of playing online poker.


Canada

The gambling business is mostly outlawed in Canada but individual players can gamble online anytime they wish. The law clearly states that running an online betting operation within the country is prohibited but it does not address off-shore gambling sites. Further, the criminal code does not specifically address the patrons of gambling sites and no one has ever been prosecuted or harassed for placing bets online.

Europe
United Kingdom

Unlike most countries, the UK government does not criminalize online betting or gambling; instead, it fosters a secure environment to protect operators and players alike. The Gambling Commission in the UK legalizes and regulates online gambling. The commission itself was founded by the Gambling Act of 2005. Sports betting, online poker, bingo, casino games, and lottery-inspired games are all under the Gambling Commission’s purview. Due to this nice set-up, UK bettors can access a wide range of licensed and safe betting sites, without worrying about being prosecuted.

Ukraine

Like in many other countries, the online gambling laws in Ukraine prohibit the operation of any betting site. While this is bad for the operators, it has only a slight effect on the players. Individual bettors are not targeted and still can access a wide array of foreign gambling sites.

A legislation bill that was passed in 2009 banned all types of gambling in the country, except lottery, and resulted in the shutting down of all gambling parlors, gambling websites, and brick-and-mortar casinos. The online gaming industry in Ukraine still thrives, only it does not benefit local businesses.

Germany

In Germany, it is absolutely illegal to run a gambling site. However, the legality of simply placing a bet online is still vague. A provision in the German law illegalizes the act of online betting but the authorities there appear uninterested in enforcing such law.

Even so, online gambling is widely popular among Germans and not a single member of the betting population has ever been prosecuted or chased by the authorities for placing bets over the internet.

If you’re in Germany and looking to do online betting, you should look for a betting site that is based in other countries. However, remember that since you’re dealing with a foreign operator, you won’t have a legal recourse under the German law in case something unlucky happens to your money. To avoid this, stick with betting sites that have obtained their licenses from reputable authorities such as the Isle of Man or the U.K.

Poland

While online betting is largely prohibited in Poland, Polish gamblers still have access to all forms of online gambling. In this country, game providers are only a handful so bettors mostly go to foreign sites to scratch their gambling itch. Besides, placing bets over the internet is not illegal in this country.

The betting market in Poland lacks competition and bettors can always find greater value elsewhere. Polish bettors are free to choose where they want to place their bets. Leading sites like Bet365 service the Polish market and offer Polish-friendly withdrawal and deposit methods that are quick and reliable.

Norway

In Norway, there are only two licensed gambling sites — Norsk Riskoto (horse racing) and Norsk Tipping (sports betting, poker, lotteries, keno, scratch card games). However, both of them offer poor game selection, poor odds, and are restricted in their overall functionality.This may sound appalling for Norwegian bettors but it’s actually not that bad in reality.

It is true that Norway has some of the most stringent anti-gambling laws in the entire continent. Nonetheless, Norwegian citizens can play at off-shore betting sites any time. A number of gambling sites worldwide accept Norwegians and some even present their online games in Nynorsk and Bokmal, and process transactions in Krones.

A handful of off-shore bookmakers, casinos, and poker sites still cater to Norwegian customers. Lawmakers label them as illegal but they actually operate in full accordance with the online gambling laws in the country in which they are headquartered.

France

All types of betting are legal and regulated in France, making it a gambling-friendly country in general. Brick-and-mortar operators can offer sportsbooks, casino games, racing betting, and card games, while online operators can host all the same excluding casino games.

Perhaps the only shortcoming in the betting industry in France is that there are excessive regulation and high taxes involved, making it difficult for the regulated and licensed sites to remain in business. About half of the betting sites that were issued a license in 2010 have left the industry. The hefty taxes on sports bets and poker pots also affect the bettors, resulting in huge number of bettors choosing to get involved with unlicensed/unregulated foreign sites.

Since placing bets at unlicensed sites is not really outlawed, players may choose from the whole array of unlicensed and licensed sites to place their bets. If you’re satisfied with French legal gaming site, then you’re all set. If you wish to gamble elsewhere, there is also a wide range of options to choose from.

Finland

Finland has a state-directed monopoly on all types of online and offline gambling. There are 3 different entities that operate the only officially-sanctioned betting sites in Finland, and each of these entities is responsible for a particular form of betting in the country. These entities are:

* Fintoto Oy – responsible for pari-mutuel horse racing* Veikkaus Oy – responsible for sports betting, instant win games, and national lottery* RAY – provides brick-and-mortar gambling all across the country; monopolizes land-based slot machines, table games, casinos, roulette and other traditional casino games.

There is a 4th organization that oversees the gambling market in the Aland Province, an autonomous region consisting of 6,700 islands which extend into the Black Sea. This organization is the PAF.

These 4 business entities effectively share out the gambling industry among themselves under the Finnish government’s direction and control. All profits from betting activities are ear-marked for social projects like arts, education, science, and sporting events.

Sweden

Like many other countries, Sweden has stringent laws targeted at the people in the gambling business, but not at the individual players. It is a criminal act to bet online and many global operators cater to Swedish gamblers.

Presently, the gambling industry in Sweden, including online gambling and brick-and-mortar business, is controlled and operated by a state-owned company Svenska Spel. They may be monopolizing the gambling industry but they do not have the capacity to compete with foreign operators because of their limitations. While the only licensed and legal betting site is under Svenska Spel, people are not in any way obliged to restrict themselves to that single option.

Australia

Oceania: The laws for gambling companies in Australia are vastly stringent. They can offer gambling services to local residents, but only lottery-style games and traditional sports betting are allowed. Casino games, live sports betting, and the like, are prohibited. On a lighter note, there are no laws that prohibit Australians from accessing and using foreign sites because they fall outside the Australian government’s jurisdiction.

In New Zealand, there is precise and clear legislation in relation to online gambling. In 2003, the government passed an act to ensure that their laws are explicit and easily understandable. This act plainly states that using overseas betting sites is fully legal, but advertising such sites in the country is prohibited.
Asia

Mainland China

Offline and online betting are strictly prohibited in Mainland China. Any act of gambling is criminalized and punishable by imprisonment or fines. This applies to both the operators and the players. The government has even designed the “Great Firewall of China,” which aims to block the residents’ access to all online casinos. In spite of these, the online betting market in China is still massive. Bodog Asia, Bet365.com, and other foreign sites welcome Chinese customers.

In Mainland, China, the closest thing you can get to gambling (that is fully legal) is the national lottery. It is available across the country and makes revenue close to what the US lottery makes. The tickets, however, can’t be purchased over the internet.

Hong Kong

The only legal forms of gambling in Hong Kong are those that are managed by Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), which is a government-sponsored, nonprofit corporation. All other types of gambling, online or offline, are outlawed.

Macau

In all of China, Macau is by far the most gambling-friendly. In fact, the region surpassed the gaming revenues of Las Vegas in 2007. Macau is considered the world’s largest gambling destination. In 2003, their gambling industry earned a profit over $45 billion.

The legal forms of gambling in Macau include poker, traditional casino games, and some types of horse racing. Most of these are offered offline; only some casinos have local online betting options. Macau does not address, acknowledge, or license online gambling, so there are no legit betting websites based out of this region.

Philippines

The majority of the gambling industry in the Philippines is tightly controlled by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), a state-owned corporation that operates all betting outlets and land-based casinos across the nation.

Locals can play at PAGCOR locations or outlets, as well as in online platforms for some types of gambling. Filipinos are also allowed to visit any of the countless PAGCOR gambling terminals and place a bet at offshore betting sites.

Thailand

The Thailand government illegalizes nearly all types of gambling; the only allowed are the national lottery and horse race betting held in certain racetracks.

Despite that, gambling is a thriving business in Thailand. Surveys find that almost 60% of the citizens engage in some type of gambling, poker, or sports betting. The wagers in the country are mostly processed with local agents or bookies who operate in opposition to the law. Most major gambling sites accept Thai customers and process withdrawals and deposits in Bahts. The government tries to block well-known betting sites, but gamblers are still able to access the sites with hardly any effort.

India

In India, gambling is regulated at the state and national levels. Two states, Sikkim and Goa, authorize a few brick-and-mortar casinos, while the other states ban most types of gambling, poker, and betting. Nonetheless, offshore betting sites like Bet365 cater to Indian nationals and even process deposits in rupees.

On the national level, three acts address gambling: Prize Competition Act of 1955, the Public Gambling Act of 1867, and The Information Technology Act of 2000. However, none of these acts clearly and precisely defines “gambling” and people may have different interpretations of the acts’ contents.


Malaysia

It is clearly illegal to run an online gambling operation in Malaysia, but it is not clear whether or not using a gambling site is also illegal. The current gambling laws are not updated and do not specifically mention the act of gambling or placing a bet online.

If you’re in Malaysia and want to bet online, it is best to go with foreign sites that are based in other countries because any betting site based in Malaysia is entirely illegal. And since offshore sites do not have physical presence in the country, you are unlikely to get caught when you do business with them.

Singapore

In Singapore, gambling is strictly banned and most offshore gambling sites have been blocked as well. It is a criminal offense to do online gambling on unauthorized sites.The Remote Gambling Act recently came into effect to prohibit gambling services, remote gambling promotions, and remote gambling service advertisements. It only permits online betting services provided by local nonprofit operators.

Japan

Online gambling is strictly not allowed and is strongly controlled in Japan. The only forms of gambling legally permitted are scratch cards, lotteries, pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, soccer toto wagers, motorcycle and bicycle racing, and powerboat racing.

However, the Japanese government doesn’t have any way to prevent the citizens from using foreign betting sites. In spite of the tight restrictions, gambling and sports betting are still widely popular. Japanese authorities allow online betting for lottery, public sports, and football, but only with the official channels.

In all cases, it is important to be aware of the gambling laws and regulation in your area and not depend solely on this article. A working knowledge of such laws may keep you safe from legal troubles and help you find the betting sites that cater to customers in your country or region.


Section: Types of football (soccer) betting

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