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There are quite a few countries that have banned gambling over the years. In most of these countries the ban has, till recently, been directed at land-based gaming establishments; online gambling has been spared the sword simply because this industry wasn’t even born when these laws were passed. However, now many countries have woken up to the threats – perceived or otherwise – posed by online gambling and taken steps to regulate or deregulate it.
In most countries that have banned online gambling, the penalties and punitive measures for engaging in illegal online gambling are usually directed at the operators and not at the players. This makes it possible for players to gamble at online casinos run by overseas operators. On this page we will take a look at a few countries that have banned online gambling, or have put restrictions on bonuses such as those that come with no deposit bonus codes.
One country that surprised everybody by banning online casino gambling is the USA. This was a lucrative market for operators within and outside the country, as online casino gambling was a natural way forward given that the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas, is in the USA. All of that changed with the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006. The Act was of course directed not at the player but at the operator.
The UIGEA ‘prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.’ As a result of this Act, a number of operators and leading software providers like Microgaming moved out of the US market.
There has been talk of change, in recent times, and there are providers like Playtech who have made a move to re-enter certain areas of the US market again. There are of course providers like Real Time Gaming and BetSoft Gaming that accept US players and the numerous USA no deposit casinos, but a majority of the big names in the industry have chosen to stay away from providing their games to US players.
In Australia, it was illegal to provide interactive gambling activities like online casinos to the Australian people as per the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. This Act made it illegal to provide a prohibited interactive gambling service, provide an unlicensed regulated interactive gambling service and provide an Australia-based interactive gambling service to players in designated countries. This Act was not stringent enough and as a result Australian players continued to play at online casinos run by overseas operators.
In August 2017, a new piece of legislation was passed by the Australian Senate – the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016. This Act sought to place a nationwide ban on online casino gambling and online poker. As per this bill, operators offering unlicensed casino and poker services would be targeted. Interestingly, Australia’s regulatory framework doesn’t have a provision that allows iGaming operators to apply for a local license to be able to operate legally.
The intent was to prevent players from being affected with problems like gambling addiction. The outcome has been a little different, with a number of big operators exiting the Australian market and a horde of casinos offering Australian no deposit bonuses filling the gap.
Israel, like a number of other Middle-Eastern countries has a ban in place when it comes to online casino gambling. All the different forms of online gaming, including online casino gambling, poker and bingo are banned. Sports betting is regulated and operated by the Israel Sports Betting Board (ISSB). It regulates and operates both land-based and digital sports betting. Fantasy sports betting is not legal in Israel at this point in time.
Gambling has always been strictly banned through the Israeli Penal Law 5737 enacted in 1977. This law of course had no provision to deal with online gambling. In 2005, the Attorney General of Israel passed orders that made it illegal for online gambling operators to use servers based in Israel and also made it illegal for credit card companies to process transactions from such operators.
Brazil is another country that has a strong connection with the online gambling industry – studies showed at one time that 45% of their population were connected to the Internet. However, the country has had strict laws against all forms of gambling from as far back as 1946. The passage of the Criminal Contravention Act in 1946 banned all forms of gambling except horseracing, that too only if it was conducted at the race tracks.
That law of course had no provision to include online casino gambling since it didn’t exist back then. So when online casinos became popular, there were a lot of online casinos that accepted Brazilian players. A move was made to amend that law in 2015 and bring online casino gambling under its ambit. However, the law is directed at operators – anyone operating inside Brazil must have a license from the local regulatory authority – and that allows players to play at online casinos run by overseas operators.
There are a number of other countries, most notably Islamic countries, where there is a total ban on all forms of gambling – online as well as land-based. Japan and Cambodia, for instance, have strict laws against online gambling, though in Cambodia tourists and foreigners are still allowed to visit land-based casinos. This is true in North Korea as well, where gambling is available only to visitors and foreigners.
Islamic countries like Brunei, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, among many others, have strict laws against gambling in any form. And in these countries the laws are targeted at not just the operators but players as well. This is especially true in the UAE, where players can be served with a jail sentence of up to 2 years under Article 414 of the country’s Penal Code.