Gambling has always been a contested issue in many countries, with many stakeholders arguing against its possible emotional, moral, and financial harm to players. Also, much of the debate centers on whether gambling is a game of skill or chance. So it isn’t surprising to know that different countries have varying policies and approaches in dealing with online gambling.

Yet, all these talks and debates fail to dampen their popularity among stakeholders, particularly players and sports fans. According to one study, the online gambling market was valued at around $63.53 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.7% from 2023 to 2030. Its unprecedented growth can be attributed to different factors, with many experts pointing to increased mobile phone use, faster internet, and slow yet steady approval in many regions. But online gambling growth remains uneven, with many countries opening up their markets, some loosening their restrictions to allow some form of betting, and some remaining off-limits to gambling.

So, have you ever wondered what’s on the list of countries where online gambling is legal? This article is right if you plan to wager online or are just curious. We review the countries where online gambling is legal and offer a quick snapshot of the industry, the trends, and its direction.

What is Online Gambling?

But first, let’s talk about online gambling as a growing industry. Online gambling refers to all kinds of gambling activities played on the web. It’s a general term that covers casino games, virtual poker, and sports betting. These are traditionally hosted by online casinos and sportsbooks that partner with software vendors that deliver software, games, and other betting services.

The history of modern online gambling sites traces its roots to the passage of the Free Trade & Processing Act in Antigua and Barbuda in 1994, allowing licenses for organizations that want to open and operate online casinos. Microgaming, of the top software vendors today, is arguably the first designer of functional software for online casinos. The passage of this law allowed the first online casinos to operate from Antigua. From here, online gambling grew and became legal and acceptable in some countries, which we’ll list below.

Online Gambling Status Around the World

Gambling is a tricky industry since there are different approaches to gambling regulations. To simplify our coverage of the status of online gambling in different countries, we look at how players access these websites and sites are regulated.

Online casinos are freely accessible and not regulated by local regulators

For example, in some countries, online casinos are not blocked, and sites are easily accessible by locals. In these regions, local regulators don’t require legislative requirements. These websites are often licensed offshore, and some even don’t carry remote licenses. However, this regulatory landscape doesn’t automatically mean online gambling is legal. And without local regulation, players don’t have the usual protection from regulators regarding security and fraud. This category includes Iceland, Czech Republic, Cyprus, and Serbia in Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore in Asia, and Australia and New Zealand in Oceania.

Local regulators must license gambling sites

Here’s another list of countries where online gambling is legal, but this time, casino operators must apply for a license and comply with legal requirements. Whether the operator is local or offshore-based, they must comply with the existing regulations set by a local regulatory body. As part of the licensing requirements, the casino operator must comply with the initiatives to protect players’ welfare, promote Responsible Gambling initiatives, and pay local taxes.

For this category, the list of countries where online gambling is legal is long and skews heavily in Europe. This list includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

This list of countries where online gambling is illegal makes perfect sense within the context of effective and responsible online gambling regulation. Since a license from a local regulator is mandatory, it’s easier for the national government to effect change and promote gambling policies that protect its local players. A perfect example of this is in the UK, where the Gambling Commission regulates online casinos that cater to the requirements of players residing in Great Britain.

Some Asian countries also fall into this category, including the Philippines. Traditionally, online gambling is banned in the Philippines, owing primarily to its conservative background. However, recent changes in gambling laws and rules slowly pave the way for the loosening of gambling regulations.

A local regulator in the country, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) is tasked to regulate the industry. This Philippine regulator encourages local bettors to only take part in licensed online-based gaming that offers electronic games and electronic bingo games. As of this writing, seven operators are approved to operate online gambling sites. However, some offshore licensed casinos are also approved in Curacao and Costa Rica and accept local wagers. In this list of online casinos in the Philippines, CGEBet is one of the most reputable. Licensed in Curacao, like other offshore casinos, CGEbet combines casino and sports betting in one secure and reliable platform, boasting impressive bonuses.

Only local operators apply for a local regulator license

There’s also a list of countries where only the local gambling sites are mandated to apply for a license, and foreign sites can operate without it. Most of these countries are in Europe, particularly Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco, Norway, Macedonia, and Sweden. Canada and Curacao, in America, are also part of this list.

Like our first category of countries where online gambling is legal, the national governments don’t regulate foreign websites. Foreign online casinos may be licensed offshore or operate even without these licenses. But local casino operators must operate with a license and pay the appropriate taxes to continue operations.

Countries with no restrictions on online gambling

This is our biggest category and includes countries that don’t officially regulate online gambling. Most countries on the list are in Africa, such as Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Egypt, Chad, Liberia, Niger, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In these countries, there are no regulations for online gambling activities, meaning there are offshore licensed casinos, and locals can access these websites. In this region, offshore licensed casinos offer an attractive option for players looking to play their favorite games, follow or bet on sports. These sites may be accessible, but playing here leaves players vulnerable to potential fraud. The problem with playing in unregulated or even offshore licensed sites is that you can’t expect protection from your national government in case of issues like fraud.

How About in the US?

Most readers will often search for the US in the list of countries where online gambling is legal. So, is online gambling legal in the US, the world’s most important economy? Well, the US is a curious case regarding gambling regulation, thanks primarily to its landmark laws, including the Federal Wire Act of 1961, which prohibits the transmission or wiring of payments and information regarding sports betting across state lines. In 2011, this landmark law was re-interpreted to allow other types of gambling to cross states, but during this time, betting on sports was still not allowed.

But today, the US has a different gambling landscape, shaped primarily by the state’s authority. Some US states, like Utah and Hawaii, ban all forms of gambling, and others allow online gambling, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Countries Where Online Gambling is Illegal

In some countries, most online and offline gambling forms are considered illegal. This category features many Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In UAE, Islamic or Sharia law is the primary basis for gambling legislation. The law clearly states that gambling is illegal, and offenders will be fined a certain amount, sentenced to two years in jail, or both. The same general policy also applies to Qatar, although there are the occasional raffles that work like lotteries that you can find the Qatar Duty Free.

Summing Up – Online Gambling Remains a Contested Issue

So what lies ahead for the online gambling industry? Based on this short overview, it’s safe to say that gambling online remains a contentious issue, and the landscape remains fluid. What may be legal in one country may not necessarily mean it’s allowed and accepted in another. Also, the case of the US gambling industry tells us that states’ approaches to gambling always differ, and laws and regulations regularly change, depending on how leaders interpret the laws and the underlying politics.

As such, it pays to be informed of the existing laws and regulations before jumping into online gambling. If you plan to bet online, knowing the countries where online gambling is legal keeps you safe and protected. Having a list of countries where gambling is illegal keeps you informed, protects you from legal problems, and always puts you on the safe side. Also, you become an active supporter of Responsible Gambling initiatives when you help spread the word about the countries where online gambling is legal.

And even if you’re just a casual observer and reader, knowing the top 10 gambling countries or where is online gambling legal is always good. It keeps you in the loop, and you become an active participant in observing and following one of the most exciting industries in the world right now!

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