Where is Gambling Illegal?

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Picture of Yevhenii Yatsyshin, Senior Associate, Inteliumlaw

Yevhenii Yatsyshin, Senior Associate, Inteliumlaw

Yevhenii Yatsyshin, Senior Associate at Inteliumlaw: Your Trusted Legal Advisor. With a wealth of experience in legal practice, Yevhenii brings invaluable insights and expertise to our team

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Gambling, up to now, is an enormous industry that brings a great number of profits to the business engaged in it. But on the other hand, it is a risky industry that can get out of control and cause gambling addiction among players, that can influence the latter’s productivity, wellbeing, health conditions, etc. Consequently, certain jurisdictions recognized gambling activities unbeneficial for their population and prohibited them justifying it for different social, cultural and religious, or political reasons.

In this article, our legal team will give some insights on separate countries where gambling is illegal.

Trends in gambling legislation

Globally, the gambling industry brings a lot of economic value to different countries since an enormous funds flow creates growth of state economy through increasing volume of paid taxes. In that matter, many states have prohibited gambling activities on their territory without local license and have implemented a set of tools which strive to overcome illegal gambling service provided by foreign operator without such license. Also, there are many countries that plan to ban gambling without local license since the economic effect of such restriction is huge.

On the other hand, gambling has a negative impact on countries’ population, like gambling addiction, significant deterioration of players’ welfare, etc., and countries strive to address measures that may lessen such impact.  In order to lessen the negative impact gambling industry poses on individuals, different states issue licenses and establish regulations governing gambling activities. A key focus for governments still remains the protection of users – particularly children – against online harms. Many jurisdictions either have adopted or would plan to enact different regulations, laws, etc., that obligates gambling businesses to establish different mechanisms for identification of individual, preventing uncontrolled gaming, security measures for proper functionating of the platform. Additionally, different jurisdictions can impose some requirements regarding the advertising of separate gambling products, that concern its content, target auditory, etc.

In that matter, gambling businesses need to invest now in compliance to ensure they can keep up with the new expectations regulators are placing on them across the world. Largely, it means that gambling companies need to map laws and regulations that apply in different jurisdictions and continue to build and refine their frameworks to meet the requirements of regimes they operate in.

At the same time, there are many jurisdictions that may simply prohibit gambling to avoid the possible negative impact, like public condemnation of breaching religion core principles, etc.

Countries where gambling is illegal

There are approximately 70 states that partially or wholly banned gambling activities. Nevertheless, some of them allow players to visit offshore platforms (or don’t bother prosecuting them if they do), and others punish players who are caught visiting foreign gambling sites (players can face prosecution). In that matter, let’s have a glance at some countries where online gambling is illegal.


Japan is one of the world’s leading economic, but, at the same time this jurisdiction generally prohibits gambling activities. Penal Code of Japan criminalizes gambling, habitual gambling, running a place for gambling and sale of lottery tickets. But on the other hand, this jurisdiction has an exclusion from this general rule, as there is a mechanism of granting a license for land-based casinos under the Integrated Resort (IR) Promotion Law and the IR Implementation Law.

United Arab Emirates

  • Since the United Arab Emirates is an Islamic country, that has strong anti-gambling legislative approach and, consequently, bans and penalizes all forms of gambling. The Federal Law by Decree No. (31) of 2021 Promulgating the Crimes and Penalties Law contains punishments for playing gambling and for who opening, running a place for gambling or organizing any game of gambling in a public place or a place opened for the public. At the same time, the government of UAE can in the near future legitimize some types of the gambling activities, as millions of tourists that visits this country may bring an enormous amount of profit to the UAE budged.


Since Wahhabi Sunni Islam is the official state religion of Qatar, and sharia is defined as “a main source” of legislation, sharia instructions forbid all kinds of gambling, and consequently that influenced the ratification of the country’s anti-gambling laws.

Qatar’s Law No. 11 of 2004 make gambling a criminal activity. Under articles 274 and 275, any form of gambling is punishable by 3 months of imprisonment and a 3,000 Qatari Riyals fine.

If the offender gambled in public, imprisonment is extended to 6 months. They will also be fined 6,000 Qatari Riyals.


Since the Republic of Iran is an autocratic Islamic theocracy, the rules of the Shia Islam religion determine the country’s rules as divine guidance. This religion recognizes gambling as one of the major sins. Consequently, any gambling activities is generally prohibited in Iran. Gambling and betting are explicitly stated as void and illegal. Gambling and betting are presented as void transactions in Section 12 Article 654 of the Civil Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Causes and consequences of gambling bans

In most cases, the countries that ban gambling justify it for different social, cultural and religious, or political reasons. Let’s have a more precious glance at these reasons.

Social: There is a high risk that the person will become gambling addict that may end up developing alcohol and substance dependence. Also, once a person becomes addicted to gambling, they are prone to gambling harms like:

  • racking up debts;
  • reduced budget on essentials like food;
  • decreased productivity for work or school;
  • selling belongings to fund their betting habits;

The above ultimately contributes to a higher incidence of criminal activities, risking citizens’ lives. To protect the residents from these damages, authorities make gambling illegal. 

Cultural and religious reasons
: Most anti-gambling laws are driven by morality and religion. Those societal institutions and norms consider gambling a sin, for instance Quran condemns gambling because it is unnecessary and causes harm to society. 

When a country is highly religious and conservative, doing activities that oppose beliefs is shameful. To avoid any temptations, authorities ban gambling. 

Political reasons
: When countries expand gambling activities and establish more facilities, they raise additional and significant revenue. However, there is a risk that the spike in revenue is only short-lived, since many gambling addicted persons may cause necessity to distribute additional funds for eliminating of negative impact imposed or caused to them. 

Depending on the country prohibiting gambling, the penalty for conducting it may differ. Most states criminalize gambling, however there are some that can launch administrative proceedings for illegal gambling.

But on the other hand, prohibition of gambling activities has some consequences that deprive countries of some benefits, like:

Tourism and economic development
: The legalization of gambling in different regions has led to the development of tourism and the strengthening of the local economy. Casinos and gambling houses began to attract tourists from all over the world, which contributed to the economic growth of different regions.

Technological Advancement
: Over time, gambling has also evolved to include technological innovations. The emergence of online casinos and online betting has opened a new era in the gambling industry, making them accessible to a wide range of people.

At the same time, countries where gambling is illegal may have the following negative impact on their internal affairs:

Strengthening Coordinated Illegal Actions
: The prohibition of gambling may lead to the creation and development of underground gambling activities that are mostly organized by separate criminal groups.

Impact on Legislation and Law Enforcement
: Attempts to control gambling can lead to increased legislation and enforcement efforts regarding gambling, that require investing in combating gambling more and much more resources.


What types of gambling activities are usually prohibited?

Each country separately defines which types of gambling it prohibits, for instance, in most of Islamic states each type of gambling is banned since the Quran condemns gambling. Also, countries may indirectly prohibit gambling when it formally is allowed, for instance, via creating a state monopoly or strict enforcement of laws concerning granting gambling licenses.

On most occasions, cash games, betting and casino can be banned, nevertheless, scope of prohibited gambling activities depends on the states’ policy and legislation.

How do governments enforce laws against illegal gambling?

Strictness of law enforcement differs from state to state, but Islamic countries and jurisdiction establishing strict rules for gambling business criminalize gambling and strictly enforce their laws. In addition to that, states may effectively prosecute individuals that gamble, also seize their assets, sentence them, or use technical measures to block operators’ web resources, etc.

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There may be some changes regarding legitimizing gambling in UAE. According to the publicly available information, the UAE introduced a new regulatory body called the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority (GCGRA), which is supposed to oversee all types of commercial gaming. But such insight should be checked by the time since up to now the GCGRA is not functioning. Also, Brazil tries to officially establish license regime for fixed-odds sports betting provided by foreign operators, and it cannot be excluded that soon this country will also regulate other prohibited gambling activities.


Therefore, different countries may ban gambling by using different means, like a strict regulation, state monopoly, under direct provision of law and combining it with strict law enforcement practice, but some countries, like UAE and any other, in future can review their position regarding gambling since it is billions of lost revenues and investments for them.

If you have any questions related to conducting gambling business in any state feel free to contact us and we can help you to receive some legal insights regarding any jurisdiction, carry out risk estimations and consult you on matters of licensing.

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