Online Gambling Laws and Jurisdictions

Although the internet has a global audience, there’s no single piece of legislation that covers the legality of online gambling for the entire world. Instead, most countries have their own local laws that deal with the relevant legal and regulatory issues. These laws can vary wildly from one region to the next, which means that what’s legal and what’s not depends entirely on where you live. To complicate things even further, many regions make regular changes to their legislation as well.

At GamblingSites.com we keep up-to-date with all the legal and regulatory developments within the industry and in this section of our website we provide current information about the online gambling laws in many different regions around the world. We also provide details on all of the major online gambling jurisdictions and the licensing authorities which regulate the online gambling industry. If you enjoy betting or gambling over the internet, then it’s essential for you to learn this information.

There’s an overview of all the information covered in this section further down this page. If there’s some specific information you’re looking for, you can jump straight to it by using the links on the right hand side. However, before we get to that, there are a couple of questions we should answer first.

What is an Online Gambling Jurisdiction/Licensing Jurisdiction?

There are certain regions in the world that have specific legislation in place that allows them to license and regulate companies that operate online gambling sites or provide industry services (such as the supply of gaming software). These regions are referred to as online gambling jurisdictions or licensing jurisdictions. Within these jurisdictions, there’s usually an organization that’s responsible for issuing licenses and regulating the licensees. These organizations are typically known as licensing authorities.

For an online gambling site to offer its services to customers legally, it should hold a betting or gaming license issued by an appropriate licensing authority. A site will usually have to base at least part of its operations within the jurisdiction where it wishes to be licensed, meaning that many gambling sites choose their location almost entirely on the basis of the legislation and regulatory practices that they’ll have to adhere to.

How Does Online Gambling Legislation & Regulation Affect You?

The majority of online gambling legislation relates to companies that provide betting and gaming services over the internet and it’s very unusual for the government of a country to make it explicitly illegal for its residents to use such services. With that being said, we do recommend that you familiarize yourself with the relevant legalities where you live, as you obviously don’t want to unknowingly break the law.

We also suggest that you learn about the regulatory practices within the different jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions are very strict indeed, while others are much more relaxed. This means that not all operators are subject to the same standard of regulation, which is something you might want to be aware of when choosing which sites to use. There can be an advantage to using sites that are licensed in the stricter jurisdictions.


Suggested Reading

The following article provides an in-depth look at exactly how online gambling sites are regulated. It explains the role of licensing authorities, along with the criteria that typically has to be met by individuals or companies wishing to obtain a license for operating a gambling site. It also looks at the various guidelines that licensed sites are usually expected to adhere to.

Online Gambling Laws Around The World



United States

The legalities of online gambling from within the United States can certainly be defined as unclear. Many sites provided their services to US residents for years, seemingly without any issues. However, there was an argument over whether or not the Wire Act of 1971 applied to wagering and gaming over the internet. This act was established to make interstate telephone betting illegal but since it was passed years before the World Wide Web was invented, it obviously made no specific reference to online gambling.

In 2006 the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed, which changed things to some extent. It didn’t specifically make online gambling illegal but it did make it illegal for banks and other financial institutions to process transactions between US residents and gambling sites. Many sites took this as a clear indication that the US government considered online gambling to be illegal and stopped taking US customers as a result.

A number of other operators continued to welcome American customers though. Their argument was that if they were based and licensed in a jurisdiction where online gambling was legal, then they weren’t breaking any laws. Some Americans chose not to risk betting or playing over the internet, but many more carried on doing so. The general consensus was, and still is, that any individual using a gambling site isn’t acting illegally.

In recent years the legal landscape has changed again. A number of states have introduced legislation which openly makes online gambling legal and some states have even issued gaming and betting licenses to operators wishing to provide their services within those states. Several other states have announced plans to do the same, while others are continuing to debate the issue.

Canada

The laws relating to online gambling in Canada aren’t as clear as they could be. There’s legislation in place which makes it illegal for any company to provide betting and gaming services to Canadian citizens without a license from the government but there’s no law which makes it illegal for Canadians to use gambling sites that are located overseas.

Just to make things a little more complicated, the individual provinces within Canada are able to regulate gambling in their own regions. Some local governments actually operate their own online betting and gaming outlets.

United Kingdom

Online gambling is completely legal in the United Kingdom and it’s very well regulated. Both sites operating within and outside the region can offer their services to UK residents, providing they are licensed directly by the Gambling Commission. This latest provision was introduced in 2014. Prior to that, any sites licensed within certain white-listed jurisdictions were able to accept customers from the UK.

The clear legislation and strong regulation in the UK makes this region an attractive market for operators; the only downside is that they have high tax rates.

Europe

Europe is made up of many different countries and these countries are individually responsible for their own legislation. Members of the European Union are, to some extent, governed by the European Commission, which has some impact on what they can and can’t do. However, they are generally free to pass their own laws as they wish.

As such, online gambling laws vary from one country to the next in Europe. The industry is well regulated in some countries and less so in others. Our guide to European gambling laws includes information on legislation in the following countries:

  • Italy
  • France
  • Germany
  • Denmark

Australia & New Zealand

Laws concerning online gambling in Australia are covered primarily by the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001 (IGA). This act makes it illegal for Australian companies to offer certain gambling services to Australian residents; only sports betting and lottery games are allowed. Regulation is carried out by both central government and local governments. There’s no law that specifically prohibits Australians from using overseas gambling sites.

The online gambling legislation in New Zealand is refreshingly straightforward. The Gambling Act of 2003 clearly lays out exactly what is and what isn’t legal. Most forms of online betting and gaming are prohibited, but this only applies to companies based in the region. The act mentioned above explicitly makes it legal for New Zealanders to use sites located overseas.

Asia

Just like in Europe, the countries in Asia are individually responsible for passing their own gambling legislation. There’s no uniform approach across the continent at all and the laws can be vastly different from one country to another. All forms of land based gambling are completely legal in some areas, while they are all illegal in others. There are even some countries that only allow specific types of land-based gambling.

There’s just as much inconsistency in terms of the online gambling laws too. As such, we’ve included several pages in our guide to Asian gambling laws, covering a number of countries individually.

  • Thailand
  • China
  • Japan
  • Macau
  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore

South America

Gambling is legal in most South American countries, although not in all of its forms. In Brazil, for example, only horse racing and lotteries are legalized. Online gambling at foreign websites is also allowed throughout most of South America and some countries even have their own regulatory systems in place for the industry.

Our guide to South American gambling laws contains more information on the legislation that’s in place in other countries on the continent.

Africa

Various forms of gambling are legal throughout Africa. Several African countries are home to numerous land based casinos and South Africa in particular is a popular destination for tourists looking to play their favorite casino games in a different atmosphere. South Africa is also one of the few African countries that have passed legislation in relation to online gambling.

We’ve focused primarily on South Africa in our guide to African gambling laws but we’ve provided information relating to other countries as well.

Online Gambling Jurisdictions & Licensing Authorities



Alderney

Alderney is one of the most respected online gambling jurisdictions. The licensing authority here is the Alderney Gaming Control Commission (AGCC) and they have very strict rules and regulations for their licensees. A plethora of the best overall sites are licensed by the AGCC, which generally guarantees that they are a reputable operation.

Antigua & Barbuda

A popular part of the world for offshore banking, the country of Antigua and Barbuda was one of the first regions to establish itself as an online gambling jurisdiction. The Antigua Directorate of Offshore Gambling began issuing licenses to gaming and betting companies back in 1994 and at one time they had more licensees than any other licensing authority in the industry.

Belize

Belize was another early mover in the industry. The country introduced the Computer Wagering License Act in 1996 to set up a legislative framework for issuing licenses and the Belize Computer Wagering License Board was established to approve and regulate licensees. Changes have been made to the licensing requirements over the years, including a significant reduction in the relevant fees.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to many companies in the online gambling industry. Despite this fact, there’s actually very little in the way of related legislation. Companies do have to be licensed to operate legally from within the region but specific betting and gaming licenses aren’t required. They just need a general license, which is relatively easy to obtain. Overall, there’s a distinct lack of regulation here.

Curacao

Previously part of the Netherland Antilles, Curacao is now an independent country. Online gambling is one of its central industries and it began licensing companies for betting and gaming back in 1996. This is when the Curacao e-Gaming Licensing Authority was formed. One of the oldest organizations of its type, the authority issues a single master license to eligible operators, covering all forms of gambling.

Cyprus

Online gaming licenses in Cyprus are issued by the Ministry of Finance. Since 2012, the majority of the companies licensed in this jurisdiction have been exclusively bingo providers. This was when the laws were changed so that the only forms of gambling allowed are fixed odds sports betting and lottery style games.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar has developed a reputation as one of the leading online gambling jurisdictions. It began issuing betting and gaming licenses in 1998 and since then many of the leading industry brands have chosen to base their operations in the region. The strict regulations ensure that a license from Gibraltar is well respected.

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is a well-established licensing jurisdiction for online betting and gaming companies. Licenses are issued by the Gambling Supervision Commission and the requirements for a company to be licensed are very strict. The regulatory framework in place allows for close monitoring of licensees to ensure their compliance with all the relevant legislation.

Kahnawake

Kahnawake is an Indian reserve in Canada. It’s one of the first online gambling jurisdictions to be established and it’s home to several well-known operators. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission was formed in 1998 and it began issuing licenses to betting and gaming companies the following year. It regulates all forms of gambling and works closely with several other licensing authorities around the world.

Malta

Malta is one of the largest online gambling jurisdictions within the European Union, having acted early to introduce legislation to deal with captive based betting and gaming. The Lotteries & Gaming Authority (LGA) is responsible for all regulation and licensing in the region, plus it investigates all prospective licenses prior to approval.

Panama

Legislation to govern the licensing of online betting and gaming companies was introduced to Panama in 2002, in the form of the Online Gaming Act. Regulation is controlled by the Panama Gaming Control Board and includes the monitoring of licensors to ensure they operate to acceptable standards.