Short guide to legality of online casinos

What actually makes an online casino legal or illegal? The answer isn't straightforward, as it largely depends on several factors, including the potential player's country, local gambling laws, taxation aspects, and the country of the casino's registration, among others. It also depends on the type of casinos in question - land-based gambling or online casinos. The game rules often differ for online businesses in most countries. This guide does not cover any land-based casino regulations and is entirely dedicated to addressing questions related to online gambling.

To easily understand casino legality, we can look at laws in different places for both businesses and players. This helps explain the rules for everyone involved.

Dive into gambling laws

The various types of gambling regulations

Understanding the landscape of gambling regulations requires recognizing the spectrum of regulatory frameworks from strict and comprehensive, to ambiguous "grey-zone" areas, to regions where gambling is completely prohibited. Here's how this breaks down.

Strictly regulated markets

Why strictly regulated markets are good for player?

Transparency and security

All gambling software should be licensed and guaranteed to be fair and transparent for players, complete with an officially declared RTP (Return to Player) percentage.

Player protection

Players can rely on the regulatory body for assistance should they face issues with a casino operator.

Tax revenues and legal recourse

Regulated markets benefit governments through licensing fees and tax revenues.

Indeed, one of the more straightforward aspects of gambling legislation is the presence of regulatory bodies in countries with structured gambling markets. Countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden have established their own gambling authorities responsible for overseeing the industry within their jurisdictions.

These regulatory entities, such as the UK Gambling Commission, the German Federal Gambling Board (Bundeszentrale für Glücksspiels), and the Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen), have the authority to issue official licenses to casino operators. Possessing this license is a fundamental prerequisite for online casinos if they wish to offer their services legally to players within these countries.

By obtaining these licenses, online casinos demonstrate compliance with a range of stipulated requirements, spanning aspects like financial security, fairness, and responsible gambling measures. This system not only legitimizes the business operations of the casino but also offers protection to players by ensuring that the licensed casinos meet stringent standards designed for player security.

From that perspective, it's relatively simple for players to identify a legitimate casino: the key is to verify that the online casino has a valid license. That's it! This single factor is a significant indicator of the casino's compliance with legal standards and commitment to player protection. By choosing a licensed online casino, players can enjoy a safer gambling environment and peace of mind.

UK Gambling Commission logo
Spelinspektionen logo
BZGA logo

The murky waters of grey-zone gambling markets

Grey-zone markets exist in countries where online gambling laws are unclear, non-existent, or unenforced, leading to an environment of uncertainty. The absence of a specific gambling license in a player's country implies that if they wish to engage in online gambling, they must seek out foreign casinos at their own risk. This scenario is common in grey-zone markets, where the lack of clear regulation means players must exercise caution and often rely on their own judgment and research to find reputable online casinos.

Pros and cons of the grey-zone casinos

Best for players where country laws are ambiguous

For many countries, where the gambling status is not well-determined, offshore online casinos is the only convenient way to play.

Big choice of casinos

While heavily regulated markets often limit casinos in introducing new and innovative gaming experiences, casinos operating in grey-zone areas are generally more proactive in providing players with the most modern and groundbreaking games, along with the best bonuses.

Research thoroughly

Players should research casino reviews on their own, as well as make a decision whether it's safe to play there or not.

Offshore casinos: treading the line between legal and illegal

Offshore casinos may offer their services without a local license, operating in a kind of legal limbo where their status isn't openly illegal but also lacks official authorization.

While the realm of offshore casinos can seem complex, their legal status becomes clearer when considering their operational focus and licensing. An offshore casino, even without a license from a strictly regulated country, can operate legally provided it doesn't explicitly target players from that country and adheres to the regulations of its licensing authority. Many of these casinos hold one or more international licenses from regulatory bodies such as: Curacao eGaming, Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), Costa Rica Gaming Authorities, Gaming license in the Isle of Man and others. For players from certain countries, offshore casinos represent the only opportunity to engage in this kind of entertainment. For example, there are no legit south african casinos so the Curacao and Malta licensed brands are the only option to play.

Malta Gaming Authority logo
Curaçao eGaming logo
Gaming license in the Isle of Man logo

While these licenses allow casinos to operate legally in various global markets, they don't automatically permit them to target players in countries with strict gambling regulations. For instance, an online casino with a license from Curacao is legal but cannot legally serve players in the United Kingdom unless it also holds a UK Gambling Commission license. Therefore, while offshore casinos can operate legally within the confines of their licensing, players must understand their country’s restrictions when choosing to gamble on offshore sites. This awareness is crucial to avoid inadvertently violating their jurisdiction's laws and facing potential legal consequences.

Taxes on winnings: navigating withdrawals from offshore casinos

Another problem players from certain countries may encounter while engaging with offshore casinos is tax issues. In countries lacking specific gambling regulation laws, correctly declaring winnings withdrawn from an offshore casino can be challenging. This ambiguity can lead to uncertainties in a legal context, complicating players' financial and legal standing.

A freedom of innovation

Perhaps the greatest advantage players gain from offshore casinos, which are not constrained by strict and cumbersome authorities, is the freedom to innovate in software. While casinos licensed in the UK, Sweden, and Germany must operate within a narrow set of restrictions, online casinos with Curacao or Malta licenses enjoy the liberty to introduce slots featuring new and unconventional mechanics and logic. Additionally, they have the flexibility to offer the most attractive bonuses for players.

Player's viewpoint

What is legal gambling from a player perspective?

Most countries where online casinos are either restricted or have an undetermined status do not prosecute players who engage in online gambling abroad. Instead, their efforts are primarily directed at preventing casinos from operating officially within their territories. Some countries also attempt to penalize casinos that accept players from their jurisdictions. Consequently, it can sometimes be quite challenging for players to find casinos willing to accept them.

Even though, in most cases, playing at an online casino is quite legal for players, The Bonus Bay always recommends consulting a local lawyer regarding gambling regulations, as well as the legalities of withdrawing real money in the event of a win.

This website is for adult players only.
Feel free to use any information from website to make a proper decision about what casino is safe to play, what bonus you can trust and what casino terms are fair enough to get the best game experience and excited time spent.

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