Each country has its own view on online gambling. In the UK for example, it’s quite legal and there is no tax on applicable to casino winnings. This policy was adopted to accustom the bookmaking industry back in the day.
In the United States of America (USA) online gambling is illegal in certain areas although that doesn’t stop them from being the most ‘creative’ provider of online casino players. A 1961 law (“The Wire Act”) that forbids interstate telephone betting should of course theoretically apply to the Internet, but only around 19% of US Internet gamblers in a 2006 poll conducted by the American Gaming Association (AGA) thought that online gambling was illegal. That Act has never been enforced for Internet betting. There is an element of letting the individual States decide rather than a federal enforcement, but in 2006 the US senate passed the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act” (UIGEA) which has had a major effect on gamblers in the USA. Not only have a number of the safer casinos stopped accepting US gamblers, but banks and online funding options have been drying up rapidly. The UIGEA “prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.”
The States that definitely outlaw online gambling in the USA include Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. The UIGEA is designed to limit payment providers such as banks and eWallets from funding online gambling. A number of online casinos have stopped taking US players.
The UK Gambling Act passed in September 2007 and affects the operators more than the players. It is perfectly legal for UK residents to gamble online, however the only casinos that are allowed to advertise on the UK market are those based in recognised jurisdictions, such as Gibraltar, Malta, Alderney and Isle Of Man. The UK Gambling Commission didn’t explain in detail what changed between 2007, when Antigua’s white list application was rejected, and 2008, when Antigua was eventually accepted. But they said that as part of their regulatory work they carry out ongoing reviews of white list operators. Kahnawake still hasn’t been accepted though.
Many European countries have strict online gambling laws. It’s currently illegal in France, although that is under review, in areas of Germany and in the Netherlands where a state run operation exists. Sweden is similar to the Netherlands, although the state monopoly is being challenged. You’d do well to check that your country allows online gambling before you play or you might find it a problem getting paid if you win.
The fact is, that if you live in a country that prohibits online gambling, you’re the one at risk. Some casinos will not allow access to US gamblers at all and some also publish lists of countries they will not accept. The Netherlands is another area affected by this. However, many gamblers in the US continue to play online and therefore they remain a high-profile target audience. Just be aware that your casino of choice may have a T&C’s of play attached to players from your jurisdiction, and always read these before you deposit.
You will also find that some Credit Card companies forbid their cards being used at online casinos. Mastercard is one that has restrictions in territories where online gambling is illegal, and I believe Visa has followed suit in the USA. There are however Prepaid Credit Cards that provide an alternative to gamblers in these jurisdictions.
Licensing and Regulation
Every (honest!) casino is required to be licensed within the jurisdiction that they conduct base operations and in which they house their player servers. Consequently, this means that most casinos are operated from small island principalities. The most common countries offering online casinos a regulated (and taxed!) base for operation are Gibraltar, Costa Rica, Antigua and Barbuda, Curacao, Malta, the Isle Of Man, and a small Indian reservation in Canada called Kahnawake.
Each of these jurisdictions provides varying levels of regulation, but this is an important element for a player as good regulation can prevent a casino from, how best to put it… shirking their responsibilities! Of the above, both Gibraltar and the Isle Of Man (off the UK coast) have a strong reputation for ensuring operations are run smoothly and totally above board. If I see either of these touted on a casino’s website, I feel like I’m in the right place!
This is a list of jurisdictions that allow and regulate online casinos including my own perception of their strictness: Alderney (strict), Australia (strict), Antigua & Barbuda (not very strict), Costa Rica (not very strict), Curacao N.V (not very strict), First Cagayan Philippines (not very strict), Gibraltar (strict), Isle Of Man (strict), Kahnawake (not very strict), Malta (strict), Vanuatu (reasonably strict). this information is repeated on the how to tell if a casino is legitimate page in the Player Tips section as part of the process I use to decide where to play.
Opinion on the degree that which the other jurisdictions above respond to problems varies. I personally avoid Costa Rica as I have never seen any action taken by the powers that be when needed. Maybe it’s just very background…who knows. The latter one, “Kahnawake” is interesting. It’s where a large number of online casinos house their gaming servers and while few if any operate from within the Reservation, Kahnawake alledge to provide a level of regulation to support players. In truth, this has been tested on a few occasions in recent times with player complaints, and the response from Kahnawake has widely seen to be less than effective.
Nonetheless, it is accepted that Kahnawake runs a very secure environment for the gaming servers and knows the tech stuff inside out, so while the Kahnawake seal in itself may not mean much to some, it’s certainly not a negative.
Online Casino’s Terms & Conditions
The T&C’s of an online casino can be an absolute minefield! It is extremely important that you read the T&C’s of an online casino. Especially if you live in a country where online gambling is illegal, or if you intend to accept and use a “free Bonus” offered by the online casino. Even though many online casinos operate (relatively) fair and standard T&C’s, there are still plenty of little pitfalls to watch out for. Here you can read all about the ones that are likely to cause the most “pain”. Keep in mind that an online casino will always show the terms of play, but very often Bonus and promotion terms are kept separate from the main online casino T&C’s. Therefore you will need to check them both. Also, an online casino can change its T&C’s at any given time, and they frequently do. Therefore, check the T&C’s at the time that you download or before you start an instant play, and don’t rely on any information that you saw at any given time before.
Bonus Wagering Requirements
It’s wise to always keep in mind that ‘nothing in life is for free’. Because almost every casino offers a special signup Bonus, normally an amount relative to the amount you first deposited, BUT there are always strings attached. Usually, you will find that you have to make bets that total more than 15x the deposit and the Bonus combined (!). Let’s say that you deposit €100, and receive a “free” €100 which gives you €200 to play with. At 15x, you need to make at least €3000 of bets before you can withdraw any of your winnings. Additionally, you will find that certain games are excluded from these wagering requirements. This is basically to stop players from taking advantage of their free Bonuses simply to walk away with a profit and without any return. Therefore Casinomeister advises not to take any Bonuses because generally it really is more of a hassle than they are worth. Also, the T&C’s get so complicated sometimes that it’s really just easier to play with your own money.
Limited Withdrawal Amounts
Some online casinos limit the amounts that you are allowed to withdraw on any given day, week or sometimes even month. Usually, this is a sign that you are dealing with an online casino without adequate funds. You’ll rarely if ever, find this on Microgaming and Cryptologic software-based casinos as they license strictly. But elsewhere, if you see this, it’s better to reconsider playing at this online casino.
Jurisdictions And Age Limits
There has been a case where an underaged player signed up to online casinos from a country where Internet gambling was illegal. She actually won and quite big too! Of course she was aware of the fact that she was underaged, but because the online casino let her sign up and play, she thought it was fine to carry on. Obviously, this raised some moral obligation issues and the online casino suffered big-time in PR terms, but the upshot of it was that the player did not receive her money, as per the letter of the law. So always make very sure that you are old enough to play at the online casino before you sign up. Some will have 18+ limits, others 21+. ALWAYS check first!
Multiple Accounts from The Same Household
Pretty much all online casinos’ T&C’s will state that you can only have one account per household. Some will be more flexible about this if you contact them and ask, but this particular term is generally there to prevent the fraudulent “Bonus abuse”.