The online gambling industry is a vast and expansive world of casino games, sportsbook odds, and sign-up deals all vying for your attention and patronage. With the growth of mobile connectivity, one can access an online gambling site from anywhere in the world. But is it legal to do so?
Well, that depends on where you are currently located and what site you are trying to bet with. The legalities of online gambling are an extremely complicated issue due to the multitude of jurisdictions and regulating bodies around the world. Some countries with legalized gambling allow citizens to access any online casinos while others only permit access to sites legislated by that state.
For this reason, we’ve designed this guide to help you determine what your options are relative to where you are located! Read a bit further down so that you may enjoy online gambling while staying on the right side of the law.
For those that want to jump to the chase, we have organized the information by region:
What Do We Mean by “Online Gambling/Licensing Jurisdictions”?
As we mentioned before, different regions of the world approach online gambling differently. Some have outright made the practice illegal, others have chosen to regulate the industry within their borders heavily. Some countries allow you to access offshore sites, where others do not.
For example, the United Kingdom once allowed bettors to access any online casino of their choice since gambling is legal there. However, in 2012 the laws were changed, and only casinos with equipment in the UK and duly licensed by the UK Gambling Commission are legal. So, depending on where you are, your options will change.
There is a wide range of jurisdictions and regulatory bodies out there, and as we saw with the previous example, they are always subject to change. It is forever a good idea to be current on local laws as they pertain to gambling, but that’s not all. You also want to be mindful of the various organizations out there issuing the licenses and enforcing the rules. You may find all of this information in this guide or on this site.
Why Is Online Gambling Regulation & Legislation Important for You?
The first reason learning about industry regulation and legislation is essential is for your financial safety. Many online gamblers get scammed by unlicensed, unregulated websites that look legitimate, then disappear with everyone’s money like an office in the movie Boiler Room. Depending on the jurisdiction, a licensed and regulated online casino can ensure you fair odds, the ability to withdraw your money at your convenience, and that they won’t just close up shop out of the blue.
But be warned! There are some regulating bodies out there, typically operating out of small, Caribean Islands that offer little more than a license in exchange for cash. They don’t police the sites themselves or provide any consumer protections.
Further, some gambling sites will follow regulations long enough to be granted a license from one of the governing bodies, which they will proudly display on their website, only to stop adhering to the rules shortly after. They lure potential gamblers into a false sense of security for the purposes of receiving more deposits. But don’t worry, sites like this one will help you select your sites wisely!
Below are some links to various licensing bodies you may encounter online. You will want to read these guides to confirm that any site you are planning to use is actually being regulated by the licensing authority that they boast on their front page:
The second reason to be mindful of regulation is merely to guarantee that you are operating within the law. While it’s rare for individual users to be tracked down and punished for using illegal online gambling sites, it can still be problematic. For instance, what happens if you hit the jackpot and win big? Receiving large amounts of money from an online account tied to gambling could raise some eyebrows, depending on the country you are in.
For a more thorough look at online gambling regulation, please see our guide dedicated to this subject:
Online Gambling Laws by Region
Online gambling in the United States operates in a bit of a grey area. On the one hand, it is not expressly illegal federally; but on the other hand, it is not legal either. In fact, in 2006 legislation was passed which made it illegal for banks to participate in transactions between online casinos and financial institutions.
In response, many gambling operators stopped allowing US customers to play on their sites. However, others persisted in accepting customers from the States, arguing that as long as they were licensed and regulated within their own jurisdiction, they were not being unlawful in receiving customers from there.
Currently, the legality of online gambling mainly depends on the state in which one is residing. Some have legalized the practice, offering their own licensing and regulation procedures within their borders. Others outlaw online gaming entirely, while many more continue to debate how they will handle the issue.
To learn the legality of online gambling in your state, please follow the links below:
Similar to the United States, the providences in Canada regulate online gambling in their own regions. While some rely on the country-wide laws to cover gaming, others offer and operate their individual gambling institutions.
No Canadian law explicitly makes gambling online illegal. However, there is a law that makes providing gaming services to Canadian citizens without a license from the government illegal. Like it’s neighbor to the South, online gambling is a bit of a grey area in Canada.
For a more in-depth understanding of gambling laws in Canada, check out our full guide at the link below:
At least some form of gambling is legal in most South American countries, but there are some restrictions. Some nations only allow lotteries or betting on horse races, for instance. Most importantly, gambling on foreign websites is legal throughout most of the continent. Some countries even provide their own regulatory bodies to govern the industry.
For the gambling laws in each individual country, please read our full guide linked below:
The laws governing gambling in Australia are stringent. Currently, only sports betting and lotteries are permitted to be wagered on legally. These rules are covered by the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, which makes casino games and live betting illegal. Regardless, no laws are prohibiting Australian residents from accessing and utilizing overseas gambling websites, so there is a loophole.
New Zealand, on the other hand, has apparent and concise rules for online gambling. Since 2003, their law has stated explicitly that citizens of New Zealand may legally access overseas gambling operators. The only caveat is that the sites offering these services may not advertise in the country.
For more details about the country-specific laws in Oceania, follow the link below:
Online gambling laws in Europe vary from country to country. Some outright ban the industry, while several others heavily regulate and legalize the activity. One country with a comprehensive and well defined regulatory process is the United Kingdom.
The Gambling Commission in the UK licenses all gambling institutions available to the citizenry of the country. This includes online gaming. Citizens of the country may not access gambling websites operated or authorized outside of the country.
France has similar laws to the UK; only they allow overseas websites that meet their legislative criteria. For the specific gambling laws legislating each country in Europe, check out these individual guides:
When it comes to Asia, there is a lot of variance in the gambling laws from country to country. Unmistakably, Asia is an enormous continent, so it makes sense that opinions towards gambling should fluctuate. For this reason, here are some specific gambling law guides to individual Asian countries:
Gambling legislation of any kind is uncommon in Africa, with the notable exception of South Africa. Many land-based gambling operations operate throughout the continent, but specific laws for taking the activity online are rare.
Due to South Africa being the only country with specific online gambling legislation, we have focused our gambling law guide to this country alone.
For more information regarding online gambling law in South Africa, follow the link below:
Regulatory Bodies/ Licensing Authorities
The licensing authority in Alderney is the Alderney Gaming Control Commission. They impose rigorous rules and regulations on the operations that wish to obtain gaming licenses. For this reason, they are one of the most respected online gambling jurisdictions.
Antigua & Barbuda
The Antigua Directorate of Offshore Gambling began issuing gambling licenses for online operations back in 1994. In fact, at one time this infamous offshore banking hub had more active licenses than any other gambling-based regulatory body in the world.
Similarly to Antigua & Barbuda, Belize entered the world of online gambling licensing very early. In 1996, the Belize Computer Wagering License Board was established. As of 2004, companies operating under one of Belize’s licenses must house their customer service operation in Belize, while the rest of the organization may be located elsewhere.
While Costa Rica does offer general licenses, there is a distinct lack of actual regulation provided. Online casinos operating under only a Costa Rican license should raise some red flags for the potential customer. There are no specific betting or gambling licenses, just a general license that is easily obtained for a fee.
This Carribean Island is famous for its expansive offshore banking industry. It has now also become a hub for offshore gambling operations as well. Their gambling regulation is handled by the Curacao e-Gaming Licensing Authority, which offers a single gaming license to cover all forms of gambling. They require gaming operations to use hardware located within the country’s e-zone, in exchange for staggering low taxation.
The Ministry of Finance overseas this country’s gambling regulation and licensing. The only forms of gambling allowed in this jurisdiction are fixed-odds betting and lottery-style games.
Gibraltar is a strict, well respected licensing authority. It has been providing gambling licenses since 1998 and has an excellent reputation for their regulatory practices. Their licensing in overseen by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, which investigates the eligibility and suitability of operations hoping to obtain a license.
The Isle of Man
The requirements to obtain a license in this jurisdiction are severe. Issued by the Gambling Supervision Commission, any operation boasting this permit has been thoroughly vetted and will continue to be so. They carefully monitor compliance which is very positive for potential patrons.
This regulatory jurisdiction is operated out of an Indian reserve in Canada. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission was established in 1998 and began issuing gaming licenses one year later. They work in close cooperation with many other regulators throughout the world.
Malta’s Lotteries & Gaming Authority regulates one of the largest gambling jurisdictions in the European Union. They investigate applicants before approval, and are responsible for all regulations and licensing in the region.
Panama became a gambling legislation jurisdiction in 2002. Their regulations are executed by the Panama Gaming Control Board. This organization vets potential licensors and certifies that they meet the standards set by the board.