Gambling Laws, Regulation & Licensing Authorities

Gambling Laws and Licensing Authorities

International internet gambling law is a subject of immense complexity, because every nation has its own take on the subject. Some parts of the world embrace online gambling while others do everything they can to ban it entirely. On top of that, different jurisdictions within a single nation sometimes take radically different approaches to internet gaming.

The United States is a great example of how complex gambling law can be within a single nation. Not only are the federal laws poorly written and difficult to interpret, but individual states have their own laws as well. In some states, online gambling is 100% legal and available to anyone inside state lines. In others, the authorities are still trying to seize the assets of legitimate gambling sites.

Our goal with this part of our website is to take this massive subject and break it down for our readers. We start this page by explaining some of the basics of online gambling legislation and regulation, which are useful to understand if you're interested in betting or gaming online. There is then some information on the gambling laws in various regions around the world. We've also included links to additional pages where you can learn more about the legal status of both offline and online gambling in specific countries.

This page is divided into the following sections, to make it easy to find the specific region you may be looking for.

Online Gambling Legislation & Regulation: The Basics

The most important thing for you to understand about online gambling legislation and regulation is how it affects you. There are two key points to consider in this respect.

1It is rare for it to be explicitly illegal to USE an online gambling site
2Licensed and regulated gambling sites are BY FAR the safest

The first point here is hopefully one that will put your mind at rest if you are worried about the legalities of gambling online, and the potential for repercussions. The fact is that you are very unlikely to breaking the law simply by betting or gaming online. The vast majority of online gambling legislation is target squarely at the companies that operate sites, and not the individuals who use them. Of course, laws do vary from one region to the next as we've explained. It's important to know your local laws do prohibit you from gambling online, which is precisely we've provided the relevant much information in this section

In relation to the second point, most sites are licensed and regulated in at least one jurisdiction. To obtain the necessary license, they will have to meet specific criteria as laid out by the licensing authority within the relevant jurisdiction. Operators will generally advertise details of their licensing, as it helps to reassure potential customers that are legal and regulated. It basically lends some legitimacy to their operations. That's what you'll often see something like the following on gambling websites.

Screenshot of Licensing Notice for RealBet

You should know, however, that the actual legitimacy of licensing authorities varies quite significantly. The simple fact of the matter is some agencies are much more stringent than others. For example, the state of Nevada puts any potential online poker site through the wringer before it issues a license to operate. So a Nevada license has genuine sign validity. Other gambling authorities basically sell licenses to anyone with enough money, so these don't really mean much at all.

With that in mind, we decided to put together a comprehensive guide to licensing authorities around the world. We want you to know what it really means when a site says it has a license to do business. You can use this information to assist in the search for a safe gambling site.

You should also understand why online gambling regulation is so important. Its primary purpose is to protect YOU, the consumers. You should be able to gamble online with the confidence that you will be treated fairly not be exposed to dishonest or crooked practices. Thankfully, the established and reputable licensing authorities ensure that you can do exactly that. They impose a strict code of conduct on the licensees, who have to adhere to the necessary regulations if they are to maintain their licenses. That's why properly licensed and regulated sites are the safest options.

Further Information

For a more in-depth explanation of this subject, please see our page on how online gambling is regulated

Gambling Laws in North America

There are several countries in North America that have wildly different laws relating to gambling. The United States is obviously the biggest country in this region, and as we've already mentioned the laws here are very confusing. This is partly down to the fact that there are so many states, each with their own attitude to gambling, but there is more to it than that. There is just a distinct lack of clarity in so much of the relevant legislation. There is also much debate about whether US laws actually apply to gambling sites that operate outside the region.

Things are not much better in Canada either. There is legislation in place that has been passed by central government, but each individual province has the authority to regulate gambling in their own regions. As with the US, the use of overseas sites is very much a grey area.

We've provided additional pages that explain the relevant legal situations in these two countries in much more detail, and we've also covered some other countries in North America too.

United States Canada
Gambling Laws in Europe & The UK

Europe also has many countries with different approaches to the legality of online gambling. Some countries outright ban it, while others have formally legalized it and put proper regulatory frameworks in place. The United Kingdom is the best example of the latter. All forms of online betting and gaming are completely legal, and very well regulated. Any site wishing to provide its services to UK residents must meet requirements set out by the Gambling Commission. This organization was established in 2005, replacing the existing Gaming Board.

There are other European countries with similar setups to the UK too. France, for example, has a strict licensing process, but does allow overseas companies to accept French customers if they meet the necessary criteria. For some reason, though, all forms of casino games are currently banned. They at least have clear laws though, whereas things are decidedly murky in other countries.

We've provide a detailed overview of European gambling laws, and also information on the laws in each of the following specific countries.

United Kingdom Germany France Russia Poland Finland Ukraine Norway Sweden
Gambling Laws in Australia/Oceania

The laws for Australian gambling companies are very strict. They're allowed to offer some gambling services to Australian residents, but currently only traditional sports betting and lottery-style games are permitted. Live sports betting is not allowed, and nor are casino games. There are no laws that prevent Australians from using overseas sites though, as these fall outside the jurisdiction of Australia's government.

In New Zealand, unlike so many other regions, there is clear and precise legislation relating to online gambling. The country passed a new act in 2003 to make sure that their laws were explicit and easy to understand. Unusually, the act very plainly stated that the use of overseas sites is entirely legal. Such sites are, however, banned from advertising in New Zealand.

You can read more about the country specific laws in this part of the world on the following pages.

Australia
Gambling Laws in Asia

There is very little consistency in the gambling laws throughout Asia. This is perhaps not surprising, given the size of the continent and the number of different countries it's home to. Compiling an overview of Asian gambling laws would be a futile exercise, but we have provided pages covering each of the following countries separately.

China Thailand Malaysia Philippines India
Gambling Laws in South America

The general approach to gambling throughout South America is reasonably liberal. There are restrictions on certain types of betting and gaming in some countries in the region though. For example, casino games are prohibited in Brazil. Our guide to the gambling laws in South America explains about these restrictions in more detail, and also covers any relevant online gambling legislation.

Gambling Laws in Africa

Few countries in Africa have passed any kind of legislation relating on online gambling, although South Africa is one notable exception. Land based gambling is another matter though, with various forms fully legalized throughout the region. There are casino venues, for example, in several countries. We've provided details on the various gambling laws throughout Africa on the following page.

Important Notice

We recommend that you have at least passing familiarity with the legal climate with regards to gambling in your location. A working knowledge of the law in your area may help to keep you safe from any legal trouble, and will make it easier for you to find the sites that cater for customers in your part of the world.

Please be aware, though, that nothing contained in this part of GamblingSites.org should be considered as actual legal advice. We've carried out extensive research and consulted experts when compiling all of this information, but we are not qualified to provide legal advice. If you have any concerns about the legalities of gambling online where you live, it would be best to speak to a licensed lawyer.

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