Gambling is a popular pastime all across the globe, but not all countries welcome gamblers as much as others. If you were heading off on vacation and wanted to bet on your favorite football or soccer team then you might look for a local sportsbook.
However, you might find you are in a location that bans sports betting.
Never mind, you may think, you can just go online to a casino with a sportsbook and bet there. Then you discover it also illegal to bet online in your exotic holiday destination. Online sports betting in the USA differs from state to state and what is ok in New Jersey may not be ok in Texas.
So, which countries allow sports betting, how does it differ across the world, and are there ways to legally gamble in countries that generally forbid it?
What are the laws for sports betting?
Of course, there isn’t just one law that covers the world. In many cases, there isn’t even one law that covers a country. Places such as the USA, India, and South Africa, have different legislation for different states and regions.
With the arrival of online casinos and websites allowing sports betting, the law gets further complicated. The USA is a good example of how the law differs wildly from one state to another and there is different legislation in place for in-person betting and online gambling also.
Here are a few countries with different sports betting laws and how they are implemented.
The United Kingdom
England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are exempt from tax on sports betting. In 2002, the government decided to abolish any duty payable by gamblers on their winnings. This gamble by Gordon Brown paid off with more bets being placed and increased employment in the gambling industry.
Betting, in general, is widely accepted in the UK and slot machines are seen in pubs, bingo halls, bookmakers, and arcades. In fact, England, in particular, is home to several amusement piers such as in Brighton where arcades hold a number of games that involve gambling and are freely available to children of any age.
The National Lottery is available to anyone 16 or over and other forms of gambling are generally restricted to 18 years old and over. There are no restrictions to internet gambling so players are free to visit sportsbooks and a casino online on their smartphones.
The United States
Like many countries, the USA has a chequered history with gambling dating back to the Wild West and saloons. The Mob had a big interest in Las Vegas and Nevada for some time, and lots of famous gangsters are forever linked with Sin City.
These days gambling is allowed across the states since the Supreme Court struck down the law that forbade sports betting. While the NFL, NHL, NBA, and the NCAA, were all against abolishing the law, the Supreme Court decided that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was no longer fully needed.
This opened up the country to allow sports betting in each state, although some are still resisting. Hawaii and Utah have elected to have no form of gambling within their state lines, this includes sports betting, casinos, and even betting that involves charities. If you were planning on visiting Hawaii and pictured yourself watching your favorite team online while placing a few bets then think again.
Gambling in Southern Asia
Across South Asia and SouthEast Asia, gambling laws differ dramatically. In many SE Asian countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, there are casinos but the local population is not allowed to enter them. Instead, they cross the borders and play in neighboring countries.
Sports betting in Thailand is limited to horses, Cambodia and Malaysia ban sports betting outright, and Korea allows betting on all sports. China has banned sports betting although Hong Kong and Macau both allow visitors and locals to gamble. Japan may have the strangest laws as sports betting is allowed but is restricted to horse racing, cycling, speedway, and powerboat racing.
India allows casinos but only in three regions, Goa being the largest destination for gamblers. As far as sports betting is allowed, it is once again restricted to horse racing, even the country’s beloved cricket is banned for anyone wanting to place a bet.
Online gambling is also heavily restricted or banned in these countries.
Online casinos and sportsbooks
The gambling industry recognizes that there are differences between sports betting and online casinos and that is why they normally offer both on the same website. Over the last year, online gambling revenue has risen to around $70 billion. This takes in all types of gambling including sports betting, poker rooms, online casinos, and bingo.
Slot machines, poker, and blackjack are very popular online with players now and the pandemic helped push more gamblers towards internet wagers. Sports betting also increased online but not every country welcomes this innovation.
Many regions and countries have banned companies from setting up businesses in their areas. This has resulted in offshore casinos and sportsbooks attracting customers in areas where gambling is restricted or illegal.
While it is highly unlikely anyone would be arrested in Hawaii for accessing an online casino there are some other laws to consider depending on which region you reside in.
The use of VPNs to access sports betting and casinos
Many people live in countries where gambling is still heavily restricted and to get around this they join off-shore casinos and sportsbooks. This is largely fine as the laws in different countries are usually targeting gambling businesses and not the customers.
But, some countries have banned the very tool that allows gamblers to join poker rooms and play slot machines, VPNs. These apps add anonymity to online gamblers and mask their location and identity. This allows the user to join a casino in Gibraltar or Finland, for example, while they actually reside in China.
Many countries have made VPNs illegal and not surprisingly they are places that also restrict their citizen’s freedoms; China, Turkey, Belarus, Russia, and North Korea all ban the use of VPNs. This means someone who wants to place a bet on ice hockey online might be arrested not for gambling, but for using a free app from the Google Store.
Sports betting and other forms of online casinos and gambling are changing across the world as governments realize the possible tax revenues to be made. Gambling will always happen regardless of the law so it makes sense to legalize this area and take it away from criminals.
Until the law is relaxed in the majority of countries it might be best to do some research before you head off on your vacation.