It’s one of the questions most sites and services like ours get asked more commonly than others:
What’s the deal with the legality of online gambling?
Unfortunately, it’s also a question that doesn’t have a definitive answer. And even where it’s possible to give a relatively concrete answer, there are so many clauses, exceptions and legal loopholes that make the whole thing ridiculously difficult to understand.
The simple fact of the matter being that in most established nations, placing a wager or two online is unlikely to result in a SWAT team smashing through your door and hauling you off to Gitmo. But at the same time, some countries and regions take a surprisingly strict stance against online gambling in all its forms.
From the largest online casino in Canada to the smallest slot sites of South Africa, you really need to know where you stand in a legal sense.
As most of our readers are based in the UK, we’ll kick things off with a brief roundup of how things work at home. Mercifully, online gambling law in the UK is also just about the easiest to contend with. Over recent years, UK gambling laws have been overhauled more times than any of us would care to remember of begin discussing. The most recent change having been in 2014, with the introduction of a new bill designed to safeguard online gamblers by requiring service providers to be licensed and regulated.
Operating as a gambling business in the UK means following a thousand and one rules. By contrast, being an online gambler in the UK means having near-total freedom to do whatever the hell you want.
One of the only rules that apply to UK gamblers is that of meeting the minimum online gambling age – which is of course 18 years. Just as long as you’re old enough, you’re free to sign up and get busy with the gaming of your choosing. As you’ll need to verify your identity to withdraw any cash, you won’t get away with gambling under the legal age if you intend to pocket so much as a penny. So there’s no point trying – you might even find yourself in trouble for fraud.
What’s more, and contrary to popular belief, the winnings you pocket from any kind of legal gambling or sports betting in the UK are not taxable. Legislation that resulted in gambling winnings being taxed was abolished a long time ago, meaning every penny you win is yours to keep! A pretty sweet deal to say the least.
However, if you win any money by way of illegal betting – that being any kind of gambling through unlicensed service providers or dodgy dealers of any kind – you risk losing the lot. Not to mention, getting yourself in a lot of trouble. What’s more, you also need to ensure that when choosing a bookie or gambling site, it doesn’t state at any time that UK players are excluded. Every online gambling site will have its own unique regional exclusions – with or without justified reasons – so you need to watch for these.
Still, keep in the straight and narrow with these basic rules and there’s really not a great deal else to know about gambling law in the UK. It really is about as flexible and accommodating as it gets…so we don’t always get the short straw with these kinds of things after all!
Gambling Legality Overseas
Internationally, things become way, WAY more complicated. In the United States for example, there is no current federal law that bans online gambling to an extent. Placing wagers online is perfectly legal, just as long as the gambling sites and bookies themselves are NOT based in the USA. Which means that American gamblers are, to a large extent at least, free to play with international betting sites and casinos.
Which would be all well and good, if it wasn’t for the fact that around 90% of online casinos and betting sites exclude players from the USA. The whole thing being a bit on the weird side, given how some North American states have the most developed and famous gambling industries on the face of the Earth. Prosecutions against those who break the rules are few and far between, but the law still clearly states that betting online with US-based sites as an American is a big no-no.
Over in South Africa, gambling has been extremely heavily restricted and meticulously controlled since as far back as 1965. It’s not to say you can’t gamble online legally in South Africa, but more a case of there being very few quality online casinos to choose from that meet all regulatory requirements.
And as for the folks in Canada, there are massive differences in gambling laws from one jurisdiction to the next. Meaning that without even leaving the country, you could find yourself facing any number of completely different gambling restrictions by simply taking a rather long drive from one city to another.
…and the bottom line?
While the overall picture in terms of gambling laws is seriously convoluted, the bottom line is actually quite simple. That being – not to take things for granted.
Rather than taking any chances, it pays to first get yourself online and carry out a little remedial research on the rules where you’re based. Which takes a matter of minutes to carry out and can stop you getting in trouble.
The most important thing to remember being the fact that taking chances outside the law isn’t a good idea for any gambler. Because even if you don’t get in trouble with the law, the service provider could choose to withhold (and perhaps even pocket) every penny of your winnings…and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. You could try reporting them, but you’ll technically only be reporting yourself in the process.
Stay safe, be savvy and hit up Google before getting started for free and instant legal advice. Hardly a lot to ask…right?
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