Published On: Wed, Feb 20th, 2019

Gambling Laws Around the World

Over 50% of the population lives in countries where online casinos are unlawful. Most countries have their own gambling regulations. In some countries, it is even illegal to enter into an unauthorized casino. Thus, even if you are planning to travel or gamble in your own country, it is important to know what you can and cannot do. Here is a summary of the laws of a number of countries from around the world.


In Canada, each province has its own gambling regulations and its own Gaming Corporation, which run under the auspices of the province’s Finance Ministry. The main function of these Gaming Corporations is to regulate gambling in each province. There is an Interprovincial Lottery Corporation (ILC), which is jointly owned by the provincial lottery commissions of the country. This corporation administers four games, namely Lotto 4/69, Lotto Max, Daily Grand and Celebration. The Provincial Lottery Corporations market national and provincial games. Additionally, online and offshore gambling is legal.

United Kingdom

Gambling is regulated by the Gambling Commission, which operates on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) under the Gambling Act of 2005. This Act emphasizes the protection from gambling of children and vulnerable adults. Offshore and online casinos are legal. There are a National Lottery and many lottery and football pools, which are open to persons aged 16 and older. Gambling places – such as gaming centres, betting shops, land-casinos, bingo halls and racetracks – are very common.

South Africa

In South Africa, each of its nine provinces has a gambling and racing board. Online casinos operating in SA must be licensed by one of these boards. Since 2010, online gambling through servers operating outside the country is illegal; and casino sites, individuals, internet service providers and banks that process payments are subjected to a fine of R 10 million or 10 years of imprisonment (or both). Any form of mass media that advertises external online gambling services can also be penalized. However, sports gambling and horse racing are excluded from this ban. The National Gambling Board monitors the local gambling industry. The country hosts more than 47 casinos, which operate throughout the cities of the country, with Cape Town being the most important gambling centre.


The Australian gambling laws are quite liberal, with the result that more than 80% of Australian adults regularly participate in some form of gambling. Each state regulates local casinos, lotteries and racetrack gambling. Since 2001, offshore casinos are illegal, but since fines can only be levied against the casinos and not the punters, many Australians use them. Besides, as accessing and using interactive gambling services is not an offence in Australia, the country hosts many companies that offer their services to citizens of other countries. However, these services cannot be provided to persons in certain “designated countries”.

United States

Gambling laws vary according to different states. Most states operate their own lotteries. Land-based, legal casinos operate in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, Michigan, West Virginia, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Mississippi, Louisiana and Indiana. Many Native American tribes run casinos on their reservations, using the privilege of being free from state supervision. However, this privilege only applies if the reservation is located in a state that allows casinos to operate. Since 2018, states are also allowed to legislate and offer sports betting.


Gambling in China is illegal. However, there are state-run lotteries: the China Sports Lottery and the China Welfare Lottery – an exception, as the Chinese government does not consider these lotteries a form of gambling. Gambling is legal in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. However, illegal gambling is widespread through clandestine and online casinos, and betting on games such as Mah-jong and other card games is very common. In June 2018, the Chinese Government banned online poker applications and their promotions via social media sites such as Webchat and Weibo.

Gambling laws vary according to countries, and within countries themselves, according to states or provinces. While online gambling is banned or restricted in some regions, there are plenty of other locations which are booming. Countries, such as Australia, Canada and the UK have fairly relaxed gambling laws, enabling their citizens to freely engage in land-based and online betting activities.

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