The legality of gambling in various countries

Throughout the following pages, we’ll be looking at the legal side of gambling and online gambling in India and various other countries. Whilst our primary concern is, of course, the legality of gambling in India, it is interesting and even helpful to know what kind of laws and regulations exist elsewhere.


Gambling has been a fixture of human social life for many centuries. If there’s a game or some sort of match played somewhere, you can bet that someone has been betting on it. Whether players in the streets of Paris gambled on the outcome of early versions of craps in the 16th century or whether a national lottery was established during the reign of Queen Elizabeth to fund the repair of harbours, gambling has always been popular and people always engaged in it to win money.

Gambling laws that we know of have been around since at least the early 16th century. Sometimes they were intended to prohibit gambling for one reason or another. Other times they regulated existing gambling to ensure a certain conduct and prevent crimes or ensure that the government profited thanks to a new tax.

With the rise of casinos in the 19th century, more gambling regulation was established, but only the second half of the 20th century saw some serious law-making around the world. Whilst many countries still don’t have proper laws and regulations or even prohibit gambling entirely, there are about 70 countries right now that do have gambling laws in place.

We will go more into individual laws and regulations in the separate articles we have for each region, including some of their history.

Online gambling

A special section is reserved for online gambling because it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. The first online casino opened its virtual doors in 1994. And yes, historically speaking that is very recent indeed.

Microgaming was the first developer on fully functioning online gambling games and the games were secured by software from CryptoLogic. Clearly, a need to prevent tampering with those games made security measures mandatory.

The first regulating jurisdiction of online casino games was passed by Antigua and Barbuda with the Free Trade & Processing Act. They became the first jurisdiction to grant licenses to companies who wished to open online casinos.

In 1996, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission first regulated online gaming activity for the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake. They issued gaming licenses to many of the first online casinos and poker rooms around at that time.

Various forms of legislation were introduced or disregarded in the following years, depending on where you live.

In 2001, Australia passed the Interactive Gambling Act. It made it illegal for gambling providers to offer their services in Australia. But it didn’t make it illegal for Australians to gamble online. Go figure.

The UK regulated all forms of gambling, including online gambling, in 2005 with the Gambling Act.

Germany, on the other hand, made all forms of gambling and online betting illegal in 2008. That was by no means the end of the story, but despite the European Union being in favour of regulating online gambling, not all countries in the EU have thus far managed to properly legislate online gambling.

Most confusing is the situation in the USA, which outlawed online gambling in 2006 through the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. However, on a state level, things have changed in recent years and let’s not forget that the US has some of the biggest gambling establishments in the world. We’ll give you further details in a separate article, though.

Why is it important to have gambling laws?

When discussing gambling regulation, one might be inclined to go into the advantages and disadvantages of gambling as such. Both sides are regularly arguing when it comes to the question of whether or not gambling should be regulated or not.

But it is possible to discuss this topic without getting overly passionate about the subject. There are some unbiased reasons as to why gambling should be regulated, no matter where you stand on the subject.

Crime prevention

Online casinos have, in the past, been routinely used to launder money. Large amounts of unsupervised electronic funds that come through online casinos have been exploited by criminal organisations.

Credit card fraud is also an issue that can occur in conjunction with online gambling.

And let’s not forget rogue online casinos that take players’ money but never pay out any winnings.

These are only some aspects that can be prevented by proper gambling laws and a governing body that oversees that application and adherence of any regulations.

People gamble. Deal with it!

It’s a fact of the matter that people gamble. Whilst most people may resort to scratch cards or lotteries as their form of gambling, it is still gambling. You put money on a completely random event in the hopes to win more money back.

It is utterly foolish to prohibit gambling because people will find a way to gamble anyway. Unless you live in a completely authoritarian state, it is nearly impossible to enforce a gambling prohibition.

Taxation and economic considerations

The gambling industry is massive. It’s massive whether you live in the UK, in India or in Germany. It is massive in the United States and in many other countries as well. Billions are being made in this industry. Legalisation and regulation create jobs. After all, someone has to make sure gambling laws are adhered to and implemented.

But more importantly, economies benefit from those industries and everyone working in it being taxed. This contributes to government revenue and supports a healthy economy.

Responsible gaming

Gambling carries risks. For most people, it is an enjoyable pastime they engage in occasionally and they can leave it alone, if they’re on a losing streak and take a break for weeks or months at a time, never once thinking about playing slots or a hand of blackjack.

But gambling can also be addictive. The adrenaline rush involved in winning (or simply hoping for a win) is something some people keep chasing. When it stops being fun and starts being about money alone, we enter the realm of problematic gambling.

And the gambling industry needs to be held accountable for offering a potentially addictive product. Only regulations and laws can do that. Yes, individual accountability is also important. But in unregulated gambling environments, individuals who exhibit problematic gambling behaviours are pretty much alone and can’t get help.

The future

The gambling industry is still on the rise; revenue is ever-increasing. Mobile gambling is fast outpacing any other form of gambling and in many regions gambling laws are sorely needed. A simple prohibition is no solution but going about regulating online gambling is also no easy feat.

Different countries have found different solutions, and more and more are following, adopting one way or another. In recent years, several countries have started to implement gambling laws, which has proven to be very beneficial.

Sweden is fast establishing itself as one of the strictest gambling jurisdictions around. Swedish gambling licenses only came into effect on the 1st January 2019.

Germany, however, is still flailing, even though the EU could end up penalising the country for not regulating online gambling on a federal level.

Pennsylvania is the latest state in the US to legalise online gambling and implement its own regulations, issuing the first licenses to providers such as NetEnt.

Right now, things are moving towards properly legislating online gambling in many countries. We will surely keep an eye out for you on how things progress.