Countries Where Gambling is Illegal and the Penalties People Face



Staff member
May 3, 2008
Unfortunately, some countries seem to be behind on the times. Rather than creating safe places for people to place wagers, or regulating betting venues to ensure integrity, they ban it.

Of course, as history shows, this is totally ineffective. While most jurisdictions focus on penalties for the casino operator or betting hall, others target the individual players.
If you’re based in an area that permits gambling, but sometimes travel to other countries, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the local laws.

Middle East/ West Asia

Much of the Middle East operates under Islamic laws, which do not permit gambling of any kind. Although some areas permit betting on races, it’s generally best to avoid it altogether. There are a
few places which have clear laws against casinos and other betting venues, like Kuwait and Qatar, but the penalties for placing wagers is not obvious. Some reports indicate that at least one gambler
was beheaded in 2011 in Kuwait as a penalty for gambling, but this cannot be confirmed. If you travel to the Middle East and wish to gamble, even if it’s only online, be sure to verify whether it is
permitted in your exact location. A few areas with known policy are detailed below.

  • Bangladesh- Horseracing and some other contests involving prizes are permitted, but most other forms can result in one month of imprisonment and a fine of 100 taka.
  • Brunei- All forms of gambling are illegal in Brunei. They actually take it a step further, though, and anyone caught running away from a betting hall will receive the same
    penalty of a better, which is up to six months in prison and a 10,000 dollar fine.
  • Pakistan- Only bets on horseracing are allowed. All other forms of gambling may carry a 1,000 Pakistani-Rupee fine and a penalty of a year in prison.
  • UAE- Although some exceptions are made for poker and for sportsbetting, such as on horse or camel races, all other forms of gambling are illegal.
    Even though most betting websites are not blocked within the region, those who are caught using them can be imprisoned for up to two years and be fined as much as 20,000 dirhams.


It’s always a wise idea to double check local laws if you’re visiting anywhere in Asia. Although some countries have clear guidelines, others have surprising ones.
For instance, in Thailand, it’s illegal to even possess a deck of playing cards. Some of the better-defined laws are listed below.

  • China- Some forms of gambling are allowed, but they’re heavily restricted. Although the law doesn’t have a penalty for a casual ambler,
    someone who makes a living from it can be imprisoned for up to three years and be fined an undefined sum.
  • Hong Kong- There are only a few types of gabling permitted and it’s generally only allowed under certain circumstances.
    Those found guilty of illegal gambling may receive up to a 30,000-dollar fine and 9 months in prison.
  • Japan- Some types of gaming are permitted in Japan. However, if you opt for an illegal variety,
    you might be fined as much as 80,000 dollars and be imprisoned for three years.
  • Korea- Not only is betting banned in Korea, but Koreans are not allowed to gamble anywhere, ever.
    The penalty either way is the same, which can include 3 years in prison or a fine of as much as 20 million won.
  • Malaysia- There is only one casino in Malaysia where gambling is allowed.
    Outside of that, there may be a fine of 5,000 ringgit and a sentence of up to six months.
  • Singapore - There are only two betting venues that provide legal gambling opportunities in Singapore.
    Even online betting from another establishment can result in a 5,000 Singaporean-dollar fine and up to six months in prison.
  • Taiwan- It’s generally illegal to gamble in Taiwan, though there are some exceptions. Should you be caught betting,
    the police may confiscate all money on site and fine you as much as 3000 yuan, plus violators may spend as much as 3 years in prison.
  • Vietnam- The penalties for gambling in Vietnam vary by the total amount won or lost. For example, if you win or lose 50 million dong,
    you may be fined up to 30 million dong. However, it also comes with a minimum prison sentence of three years, but you could receive as many as seven.

Other Areas

Many other areas allow gambling, in its entirety, provided it’s done at a lawful, regulated establishment.
While Canada and the United States still have tighter restrictions on online gambling, the other countries detailed below are fairly lenient.
  • New Zealand
  • Spain
  • The UK

Laws throughout the world are continually changing, so if you travel and wish to gamble, always make sure you’ve checked the most recent gambling regulations.

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