Countries in which Gambling is Illegal and why?

In some countries in the world, all forms of gambling are illegal while in others, restrictions to gambling apply only to certain types. The reasons why some countries opt to ban all or only specific gambling activities are numerous. However, it is possible to classify these countries into four main categories by way of the principal reason behind the banning of gambling. These categories are:

Countries in which Gambling is Illegal and why?
  1. Countries in which gambling is prohibited by religious law
  2. Countries in which gambling problem is a significant concern hence a ban deemed necessary
  3. Countries in which the regime in power has a monopoly over gambling
  4. Countries in which association with criminal elements have made gambling illegal

We shall look at all four categories in the order given above.

Countries in Which Religious Law prohibits gambling

Countries that fall in this category tend to have Islam as the main religion. As a general rule, all forms of gambling are banned in all Islamic countries. The premise to this outcome is the Quran, the principle religious writ of the Muslim world. There are essentially three references in the Quran that specifically refer to Gambling. All three instances are parts of conversations between Mohammed and his followers.

In the first instance, Mohammed is asked about his views regarding alcohol and gambling. The prophet asserts that despite being perceived as beneficial by most, alcohol and gambling have sin that is greater than their benefit. In the second instance, Mohammed condemns gambling together with all forms of divination as ways of revering the forces of chance rather than reverence for God. The third instance, the prophet implies that gambling causes one to spend on chance, what one should use in meeting basic needs.

It is upon these three teachings that the laws against engaging in gambling are founded. Let us look at some Islamic countries that have banned all forms of gambling.

United Arab Emirates

In the UAE, all forms of gambling are declared illegal by the countries article 414 of the penal code. The regulation prohibits all casino card and table games and types of lottery gaming. It also prohibits all betting on horse racing events, all sports betting, all slot machine games and all other games involving chance.

The law also applies to online gambling while within the territory of the Emirates. However, you would still be able to access online gambling sites while within the UAE, which means you can gamble. The problem arises if you get caught as you will then be required to pay a hefty fine.

Just don’t get caught engaging in the other forms of gambling such as poker or other card game. If convicted, you might find yourself serving a prison term of up to two years. In the UAE, the locals strictly believe that all money a person earns should be through honest intent and effort. Not on chance as doing so is akin to committing an act of deceit.

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Brunei is yet another country in which anti-gambling laws are strictly enforced. Islamic Sharia law, the governing law in the predominantly Muslim nation, prohibits participation in all form of gambling. The implications are that while you are in this South Asian country:-

  • You cannot engage in any casino card games or table
  • You cannot wager on any sporting activity
  • You cannot buy lottery tickets
  • You cannot use slot machines
  • You cannot gamble online

Breaking any one of the numerous gambling restrictions will see you paying a fine of up to $12,000 or serving a term of up to 7 months in prison. So if you find yourself in Brunei, avoid the urge to log onto your favourite gambling site the whole time you are there.


As is the norm with most Muslim countries, all forms of gambling in this country are illegal. However, despite the somewhat strict enforcement of gambling laws within significant cities, laws are lax in the wild, desolate landscapes away from urban areas. It is here that locals hold the infamous Qatari camel races which are part of an age-old tradition.

While in Qatar, feel free to attend these races but do remember that all sports betting is illegal in Qatar. If you get caught making wagers, you might end up serving a year in Qatari jail. Alternatively, stay in your hotel room and gamble online. That way you won’t get caught gambling.

Countries in which gambling problem is a significant concern

In countries where gambling problem is the main reason for banning all gambling activity, the governments in those countries usually exempt foreigners from the ban. In these countries, it is only the local civilian population who are affected by regulations targeting gambling. In most cases, gambling turns out to have been legal before the ban. Let us look at a few countries where gambling has been banned due to the social issue o f gambling problem.


Gambling in Cambodia had been legal for a long time before a succeeding regime made efforts to curb the social vice of gambling problem. The attempt to resolve the problem of gambling addiction led to the creation of laws that prohibited Cambodians from engaging in all forms of gambling. This law banned all types of card and table gambling games, slot machines, cockfighting, dogfighting and all kinds of sports betting.

However, the government has given licenses to 5 ticket lottery establishments because the lotteries make a net positive contribution to community projects in the country. If you plan on visiting Cambodia, then you should note that gambling is allowed on casinos catering exclusively to tourists.


It might come as a surprise, but Japan once had a severe gambling problem before restrictions were introduced to reign in gambling. Japanese laws against gambling banned all forms of gambling except traditional Pachinko.

Lately, amendments have been made to allow for the return of horse racing as a legal betting and sporting event. The government has also begun granting licenses to full-featured casinos catering exclusively to tourists. As a tourist, you will have access to all manner of gambling activity ranging from casino card and table games, slot machines, video lottery betting terminals and pari-mutuel betting


Singapore is yet another country that decided to enact laws to govern a nagging gambling problem problem. The country’s government passed the Private Lottery Act which prohibits all forms of gambling within the country except for a few government-operated lotteries.

There are only three gambling operators in Singapore. Other than the gambling activities provided by these three operators, all other land-based gambling is illegal in Singapore.

Countries in which the regime in power has a monopoly over gambling

In some countries, the ruling regimes might ban gambling so that the government can establish a monopoly in the gambling industry. The immense revenue-generating ability of the gambling industry tends to be the prime reason why a government desire for a gambling monopoly. Examples of such countries follow below.

North Korea

North Koreans are explicitly banned from all forms of gambling. Hence no card and table games, no slot machines, no lotteries, no sports betting or other types of betting for the ordinary Korean. However, gambling is allowed on government-operated tourist-centric establishment found in the country’s capital. There is only one tourist casino in Pyongyang that caters to top government officials and tourists.

Countries in which association with criminal elements have made gambling illegal


Gambling had been associated with several large criminal organizations within the country for some time. This situation prompted the succeeding regime to enact laws to restrict gambling to only four regions in the entire country. This approach enabled the government to set up strict monitoring and control over these regions, hence curb all criminal activity related to gambling. These regions are Altai Krai, Krasnodar Krai, Kaliningrad Oblast and Primorsky Krai. Gambling is illegal over the rest of Russia.

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Online gambling poses a significant challenge in many countries that declare gambling to be illegal. Why so? Because implementing such a ban would require substantial technology infrastructure in addition to an elaborate policy framework. It is also worth noting that Islam does not condemn participation in competitions and sports in which winning depends on individual effort and skill. What Islam opposes is the placing of wagers in-relation to such tournaments or sporting events.