10 Countries Where Gambling is Completely Illegal

Published by Giuseppe Faraone on October 07, 2021 in

Around the world, gambling has its different strengths when it comes to its legality. Some locations, such as the United Kingdom, have very liberal gambling markets. Meanwhile, some places tend to provide access to certain forms of gambling, but not to others. And then there are those countries that have outrightly banned all forms of gambling, labelling it an illegal pastime for residents. We will be going into detail on the legal status of gambling in 10 different countries.

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 Below we're going to be taking a look at the laws of gambling and the reason why some or all gambling is not permitted in these countries.

(10) United Arab Emirates

It can usually be said that any nation under Islamic rule considers gambling to be an illegal activity. And while it is true that online gambling can sometimes be accessed via VPNs and such, when it comes to the law, it is considered illegal as a whole. However, in comparison to various other Islamic countries, the United Arab Emirates has a much stricter setup, heavily penalising those who engage in gambling of any kind.

Let’s say that you are a UAE resident, and you decide that you’d like to play a game of roulette. You go ahead with that, and you’re caught by the authorities in the process. If this is the case, then you can be sentenced to up to two years in prison by UAE law, thanks to the country’s penal code Article 414. It is due to this that the country has placed quite the heavy clampdown on gambling of any kind, with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority controlling all online content, and blocking access to any gambling site for UAE residents.

Even if you’re a tourist who is visiting the United Arab Emirates on vacation and you engage in gambling, you can be prosecuted for such activity.

(9) Vietnam

Vietnam has very tough rules and restrictions in place when it comes to gambling. In fact, the country has banned most forms of gambling throughout. And as a result, any form of gambling taking place within is taken very seriously as a crime.

Land-based casinos attached to luxury hotels are available in Vietnam, but these are solely for guests of the hotel and not for Vietnamese residents to play in. Anyone wanting to get inside one of those casinos must provide their passport at the door to prove they are not a resident of the country.

Some people who have a strong urge to participate in gambling will cross the borders into Laos or Cambodia, although even that doesn’t provide them with many options. The government of Vietnam has very little say on what happens outside its own borders and instead chooses to place more of a focus on its internal affairs. Players can access a variety of online casinos, sportsbooks and so on, but be prepared to face the consequences if you are caught doing this.

The only activity that is not considered gambling in Vietnam that residents can engage in is the country’s lottery. This began in 1999 and vendors can be found all over the country selling tickets for this.

(8) North Korea

There is very little in terms of liberation when it comes to North Korea and gambling most certainly is tightly controlled. People living in the country have their lives controlled to such an extent under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-un that many of them are probably unaware of what gambling actually is.

Both online and offline gambling have been fully restricted within North Korea, but even so, many people don’t have the money to be able to afford to participate in it anyway. There is a ray of hope in Pyongyang and the very north of the country where the only operational casinos exist. However, they are only accessible to tourists who are out on guided tours when visiting.

The law for citizens of North Korea restricts them from entering these casinos, and such legislation is so strict that residents can be punished harshly if they are caught engaging in gambling. For this reason, people just stay away from anything that is deemed illegal or even semi-illegal in North Korea.

Anyone intending to visit North Korea must always check with a tour guide as to whether or not they can participate in gambling. This has been opened up online as of 2021 for guests, but again, they must be under the supervision of a tour guide. Furthermore, the strictly regulated internet means that there aren’t many options open to you.

(7) Cuba

As things stand at the moment, Cuba has no legal gambling opportunities. This has a lot to do with its communist status, but not wholly because other communist nations have successfully integrated casinos and the like into their countries. Generally speaking though, casinos have always been seen by these countries as a way of extracting hard cash from visiting tourists. For this reason, it was always the case that communist countries would have casinos at their hotels for visitors to play in, but never for residents.

Cuba, on the other hand, doesn’t even provide this sort of setup. There are no land-based casinos to access, and online gambling is also considered to be against the law. Despite this, it is not currently known whether anyone found to be engaging in online gambling will be prosecuted. That being said, Cuba has a very centralised and heavily controlled internet scene, meaning that it’s probably best to avoid even looking for online gambling in the country. Tourists visiting Cuba, on the other hand, are able to visit the sites freely.

The fact remains that Fidel Castro banned all forms of gambling back in 1959 after he overthrew the Fulgencio Batista. He even went as far as having several casinos and slot machine parlours destroyed, and ever since that time gambling has been an illegal activity in Cuba. The main piece of gambling legislation active in the country is Ley 86 1959.

As of 2021, betting on illegal cockfights remains a prevalent activity within the countryside areas of Cuba. This is officially an illegal blood sport in Cuba and many other countries around the world. However, it seems as though the countryside residents of Cuba don’t have the same mindset and continue their illegal blood sports and associated betting.

(6) Poland

Throughout history, land-based gambling has been considered legal in Poland, and even online gambling was considered to be so at one point. Those establishments and sites were heavily monopolised by the Polish government though.

Despite this, some residents chose to gamble with offshore providers. Technically, this was allowed, although definitely unregulated. It was in 2009 that Poland introduced the Act on Gambling, which brought new amendments to life within the country, which saw it fall in line with principles set out by the European Union.

While land-based casinos are very much available within Poland, these are not frequented by Polish nationals, as they have been set up so as to cater to the tourist industry. As for online gambling in the country, this is very much a mostly illegal scenario. Except for a few state-owned domestic options, players can actually be prosecuted in Poland for accessing online gambling websites. Therefore, if you decided that you want to play an online slot machine game, you would need to do it through one of the government-owned platforms. Outside of these, you are committing a criminal offence.

(5) Qatar

If you thought the UAE was stringent when it comes to gambling of any kind, then Qatar definitely trumps it by a lot. Probably the strictest of all countries when it comes to the gambling scene, all forms of gambling are considered to be 100% illegal there. Even sports betting is outlawed under the Arabic nation’s legislation. This has therefore led to quite a thriving underground gambling set up in the country. Unfortunately, many people have been caught engaging in such, and have paid the price for their gambling activity.

You won’t even find a lottery in place within Qatar. Then again, it is one of the world’s most financially stable countries, without a doubt. And for this reason, it doesn’t really need any kind of liberal betting scene. Online gambling is also deemed illegal within, although some people do choose to evade the country’s laws by visiting offshore platforms to have their gaming enjoyment.

Despite this, the government frequently tries blocking access to these sites, resulting in a large blacklisting of online casinos and sportsbooks.

Obviously, the online scene is a lot harder to control than the land-based scene, but out of all the countries in the world, Qatar is the one trying the hardest to erase such activities from even being mentioned. According to the Qatar penal code, any player caught engaging in gambling, be that online or offline, can face a prison sentence of up to three months as well as a fine of up to 3,000 riyals.

(4) Syria

It is common to understand that many Muslim countries outrightly ban gambling of any kind. This is because of their dedication to the laws of Islam. However, some have figured out ways of bypassing such religious laws. Syria is not one of them, with both online and offline gambling being deemed illegal within. All gambling had been outlawed for many decades.

Even so, the green light was given for a legal casino to be constructed in Damascus back in 2011, as a way of re-establishing legal gambling and generate new tax revenue. That casino was called the Ocean Club, and it was operated by Khaled Houboubati, the son of a famous Syrian casino mogul, Tawfiq Houboubati. That casino only lasted a few months though, as the civil war broke out in 2012, and the government took the decision to close the Ocean Club’s doors.

Since that time, no legal gambling operations exist in Syria, and online gambling is also considered an illegal pastime.

Authorities do not prosecute players found engaging in gambling at foreign-based sites, though. That is, even if they are able to access such sites, considering the state of the internet in Syria. Armed conflicts have damaged many telecommunications infrastructures throughout the country, and it even had internet blackouts altogether in 2013 and 2014 more than 10 times.

(3) Lebanon

The law in Lebanon states that citizens cannot participate in any sort of gambling activity. The government has total power to block any gambling activity. As it happens, the country has quite a unique legal system in place, which is known as confessionalism.

That bases itself on a form of consociationalism, basing itself on religious groups. In total, 18 recognised religious groups are found within Lebanon, and each has its own legislation and religious courts. Dominant religions are represented in parliament, with the President being Christian, the Prime Minister being Sunni Muslim, the Speaker of Parliament as a Shi’a Muslim and the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Speaker both being Eastern Orthodox.

It is due to all of this that gambling within Lebanon is only allowed to take place within the Casino du Liban, which holds the monopoly on gambling in the country. Outside of this location, gambling is strictly forbidden. Online gambling is also forbidden outrightly, and foreign-based casinos started being blocked by the government more recently. Lebanon’s lottery company La Libanaise des Jeux, is the only operation that can provide online gambling if it wants to. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect any new online casino sites 2021 to pop up anytime soon.

(2) Singapore

One thing is certain where online gambling in Singapore is concerned – it is totally illegal under the Singapore Remote Gambling Act. That is unless a specific exemption has been made to cater to this. And as of 2016, the only operators to have received such an exemption to the regulations are Singapore Turf Club and the Singapore Pools. Other than these two companies, both online and land-based gambling within the country are considered illegal activities.

Various forms of gambling were steadily being reintroduced to Singapore after it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963. This saw options like football betting, private lottery clubs, horse racing and more coming back to the fold. Yet, in 2004, the authorities took the decision to launch a foray into the study of how legal casino gambling could be introduced successfully. The benefits and costs relating to its introduction were considered, as well as the ill effects it could have on the residents.

This led to the country legalising casino gambling in 2005, but only in a land-based format. As it loosened its ties to physical gambling, it doubled down on restricting online gambling. The aforementioned gambling act ensured that various gambling-related activities were deemed criminal offences.

Players face fines of up to $5,000 and up to six months in prison, while those running gambling operations online within Singapore can face fines of up to $500,000 and up to seven years in prison.

(1) Cambodia

While it is true that gambling regulation in Cambodia does allow various forms of gambling establishment to be set up, these are not for use by locals. Visitors are the only people who can visit these places and use their money. The reason behind this is Cambodia’s history of gambling addiction.

Gambling was actually completely banned in the country under the Khmer Rouge regime but was once again legalised in the 1990s. After noticing how many of its citizens were becoming addicted to the activity, the Law on the Suppression of Gambling was introduced, voiding all licences handed out to operators and prohibiting just about all forms of betting for Cambodians.

Anyone discovered to be engaging in gambling can be punished with a fine of up to 50,000 riels or imprisoned for up to one month. The only form of gambling that remained legal and available to Cambodians for a short time was slot machines. Yet, come 2009, these were also banned, as a series of violent disputes over gambling debts erupted in the country.

Of course, the establishments still in operation today serve foreign visitors, and these are kept in place so as to bring in tax revenues. These operations do require an official licence to provide their services, though. Online gambling is not regulated in Cambodia either, although it is thought to be included in the gambling described in the Law on the Suppression of Gambling.

Reports have surfaced of online gambling operators being caught and arrested for providing such services, which pretty much determines its legality.

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Giuseppe Faraone
Giuseppe Faraone
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Based in Valencia, Spain, Giuseppe gave up Milan for sunny shores. New licenses, new casinos, new bonuses, new games - there's always something to write about. Being so close to the action in the gambling industry, he's on top of any new developments the minute they come through the door. Aiming to deliver updates and comprehensive information to you, he does his best to thoroughly test out and rate what he reviews.
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