Online Gambling Regulations
A region by region guide to the legality of gambling online
The internet has given rise to many new industries and revolutionized old ones, gambling is no exception. From its humble origins in the early 1990s, online gambling has exploded in popularity with both casual hobbyists and professional gamblers alike enjoying ever faster access to an ever growing selection of online casinos. With online casino games including Pokers, Roulette, Blackjack and other table games, Bingo, Keno, and of course slots games.
Online gambling has grown in popularity as the internet has become ubiquitous on all continents and as high speed internet has been rolled out by governments and telecoms providers. In recent years the market has grown exponentially thanks to the global uptake in smart phones and tablet devices making it possible to access the internet and online casinos almost anywhere, at any time.
The growth in popularity of online gambling has been fast enough that many governments are still trying to get to grips with this relatively new form of entertainment/gambling and laws and regulations covering this sector are still being tweaked, considered and drawn up.
Reputable casinos - such as those we review here at Free Slots 4U - abide by various regulatory frameworks depending on which regions they operate in online and with the appropriate gambling licenses, which allow them to accept players from different countries.
Is online gambling legal?
Most visitors to our website can rest assured that gambling online is legal, however, players should of course ensure that what they are not breaking any local laws and also take steps to ensure that the casino they are playing at is fully licensed - while most democratic countries offer little or no risk of you being prosecuted by the authorities for gambling online. There is always the risk that a disreputable and unlicensed casino will take your money leaving you with no licensing or regulatory authority to appeal to for help in resolving the situation.
All the casinos we promote at Free Slots 4U are fully licensed and regulated by the proper authorities in their respective regions.
While we can't possibly cover every country, we have attempted to list all of the major regions, based on the regions we get the most internet traffic from. Gambling laws and regulations are notoriously complex and we'll be updating any information below when necessary and also expanding on the regions we cover.
While the United States has one of the most active and enthusiastic populations in terms of internet use, internet gambling and gaming, and offline gambling. US law in regards to both offline and online gambling is notoriously complex.While the actual law is complex, we'll try to clear things up with a few simple bullet points that cover the key facts of interest to U.S.A based slots players:
1. USA based players are not currently being prosecuted for playing at online casinos run from outside the U.S.
2. Online casinos operating within the U.S. generally will accept players only from within the state they are operating in although this situation is likely to change as online gambling becomes more mainstream and popular - money talks, as they say!
3. In theory online gambling in the USA has been legal since 2011 when the authorities reversed their former stance on the Wire Act (1961 but each state is free to regulate or prohibit the practice within its own borders and online gambling remains illegal in most states with the exception of Delaware and New Jersey and the overseas territory; the US Virgin Islands. All of which passed bills expressly legalizing various forms of online gambling.
Due to the complexities of US law, and the very real threat of prosecution by the authorities, many casino operators currently shy away from the USA or have pulled out of the market in recent years. Casinos powered by the likes of Microgaming, Playtech, Net Entertainment and many other big name developers familiar to players outside the USA are not available to US players, however, USA Players can enjoy Realtime Gaming powered slots, Rival powered games, Pragmatic Play slots and many more so there's still a big variety of games to choose from.
U.S.A based slots players can check out our current list of approved U.S. friendly casinos.
While a growing number of Canadians enjoy gambling online, Canada does not allow any type of gambling at an establishment not owned or licensed by a provincial government. The exact regulations and rules for casino operators vary from state to state because gambling falls under provincial jurisdiction and hasn't yet fully caught up with the impact of internet gaming.
Not all online gambling websites accept players from Canada in part due to the uncertainty and complications of Canada's "gray area" laws and the ever present threat of prosecution although to date Canada has not blocked or prosecuted any casino operators in foreign territories.
Rival powered casinos do not currently accept Canadian players although this may change in the future. Canadian players can enjoy slots from the likes of Microgaming, Realtime Gaming, and Net Entertainment
The casinos listed on freeslots4u.com that do accept Canadian players tend to be licensed by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission and are all fully licensed and regulated to accept Canadian players.
It's no secret that gambling and slots (also know as "pokies") are hugely popular in Australia and players and casino operators are protected and governed by the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA). IGA regulations apply to all interactive gambling service providers, whether based in Australia or offshore, whether Australian or foreign owned.
The IGA actually makes it an offense to provide an interactive gambling service to a customer physically present in Australia, but, to be clear, it is not an offense for Australian residents to play poker or casino games online. Companies based in Australia are legally able to offer their gambling services to gamblers located outside Australia. Unlike the USA and the UK, sports betting online is also completely legal in Australia.
The Gambling and Racing Commission is the Australian Government devision that regulates gambling in Australia.
New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs states that all gambling in New Zealand is illegal unless it is authorized by or under the Gambling Act 2003.
Under the terms of the Gambling Act 2003, it is not illegal for someone in New Zealand to participate in gambling over the Internet if that website is based overseas. New Zealand players playing at foreign casinos are not protected by New Zealand's laws or regulations so would, in the event of disputes, be subject to the legal system of the country in which the casino operates.
There are certain forms of gambling that are specifically prohibited under the Act with online gambling being covered by Section 9(2)(b) of the Gambling Act under the definition of "Remote Interactive Gambling" (computers, telephones etc) although, just to clarify, this applies to companies operating in New Zealand only and there is nothing illegal about New Zealanders using their phones and computers to access online casinos operating in foreign territories.
Gambling operations based outside New Zealand are prohibited from advertising under section 16 of the Gambling Act 2003.
New Zealand enforces and regulates gambling though the New Zealand Gambling Commission.
Did you know that Gambling winnings in New Zealand are exempt from taxation?
In the U.K. both online gambling and slots are incredibly popular. As of 2005, all forms of online gambling are licensed by the Gambling Commission and can be legally provided in the country under a license from the Commission. The Gambling Commission website publishes the names of all companies and individuals who hold, or have applied for, operating licences in Great Britain.
It is legal for UK players to gamble online at both domestic and foreign casinos, however, under UK law players must be aged 18 or over.
Foreign casinos can operate and advertise in the UK provided they are licensed by a regulator that makes them whitelisted and are operating from a so-called "white listed" approved territory including EEA territory (European Economic Area), Alderney, Antigua, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Malta,Tasmanian, United Kingdom.
To make it onto the white list (as opposed to the black list of prohibited territories) governments must meet certain criteria and ensure that: gambling is conducted in a fair way, is not a source of crime and disorder, gambling is not used to support crime etc. Gambling operators must be subject to rules on money-laundering and financial probity. Players must have access the game rules (including rules in English), players must have access to their winnings within a long enough period of time and be able to easily get in contact with the appropriate authorities to resolve any disputes.
Online casinos which are in one of the white listed jurisdictions must adhere to very strict licence conditions and codes of practice as set out by the Gambling Commission.
U.K. players should, for maximum legal and financial protection, should ensure that they only play at casinos that operate from a white listed territory. Here at Free Slots 4U we only ever promote white listed casinos to our UK visitors.
France is the birth place of the mathematician French mathematician Blaise Pascal - if you're not aware of his maths you're almost certainly aware of his invention: the roulette wheel! In the nation that invented roulette, it's no surprise that gambling is perfectly legal in France (slots machines were legalized in 1988) and that includes online gambling which has been legal since 2010 when France opened its market to international operators following EU commission recommendations
Incredibly, gamblers opened over 1.2 million accounts on licensed casino sites and gambled a total of €83 million in the first month of legislation being passed!
While gambling on horses, sports and poker are legal, online slots casino operators do not receive a licence due to concerns from the authorities that casino games such as slots are too addictive. French players who bet on foreign gambling websites are not subject to prosecution, however, some online casinos may be blocked by ISPs.
Italy began to legalize online gambling in 2006 following an EU commission investigation. Since March 2010 when new gambling laws came into power, foreign gambling operators have been able to offer online real money games including slots to Italian players, however, all operators require a license to operate in Italy from Italy's gaming authority the AAMS. To acquire one of these licenses operators must meet strict financial and technical criteria.
Gambling is legal in Sweden but Sweden has a state owned gambling monopoly and does not grant licenses to foreign casino operators. Only operators licensed in Sweden can only be considered legal. Sweden can't prosecute foreign casino operators and, as a general rule, ISPs do not block their sites. Players in Sweden are not prosecuted if they opt to gamble at foreign sites.
Sweden's state backed Svenska Spel gaming operator totally dominates the Swedish gambling sector and this monopoly actually puts Sweden in conflict with the EU Commission and EU gambling laws and so it is probably only a matter of time before the monopoly is eventually broken up and the Swedish market opened up to foreign operators.
Gambling is legal in the Netherlands. The Holland Casino group has state-granted monopoly on gambling in the Netherlands with 14 casinos operating throughout the country. Online gambling is also currently a state monopoly too, although currently there is no officially sanctioned online casino, and unlicensed offshore casinos targeting Dutch citizens face fines but Danes who opt to play at foreign casinos can do so without fear of prosecution.
As with other EU countries, because of pressure from the casino industry and EU laws governing free trade, it is considered likely that state monopoly on gambling will soon be broken up and the entire sector opened up to competition and liberalized.
Gambling is legal in Norway but strictly controlled by the Norwegian government. In fact, only two state owned companies, Norsk Tipping and Norsk Rikstoto are allowed to offer gambling to Norwegians. In 2010 the Payment Act was passed by the Norwegian government. This act stops banks in Norway letting their customers use credit and debit cards in casinos outside of Norway. In the internet age, such legislation is rarely effective, however, and many Norwegians easily get around this restriction by opting to use alternative payment gateways. Norwegians who do opt to gamble in foreign casinos do not face prosecution.
Gambling is legal in Denmark and regulated, since 2012, by the Danish Gambling Authority or Spyllemindigheden. While unauthorized, unlicensed online casino operators may be blocked and fined for offering their services in Denmark players participating in gambling at foreign online casino sites are not prosecuted.
Gambling and online gambling are legal in Finland but heavily regulated with control of all legal gambling in Finland divided between 4 large gambling companies; For example, the state-owned company Veikkaus has been authorized to offer online betting, number games, scratch cards and bingo games while Finland's slot machine association (RAY) is authorized to offer online casinos, poker, scratch cards and gaming machines.
Finnish authorities may (but rarely do) grant limited exclusive rights for online gaming to specific companies.
Online gaming regulation in Finland is covered by lottery and cash gaming regulation. It is perfectly legal for Finish citizens to gamble online in casinos that operate outside of Finland.
Isle of Man
Gambling is legal on the Isle of Man and they actively encourage casino operators to set up businesses on their territory. In fact, the Isle of Man Government was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to introduce legislation specifically designed to benefit gambling and e-gaming firms and fully protect customers.
The Gambling Supervision Commission ('GSC') is an independent statutory board established in 1962 to oversee all aspects of gambling. In addition to the licensing and regulation of land-based gambling operations the GSC is now tasked with regulating all online gambling activities.
The Isle of Man is a U.K. government white listed territory.
Gambling is legal on the island of Jersey and is regulated by the Jersey Gambling Commission which came into force on the 3rd of September 2010 and has responsibilities for licensing, registration and regulation of gambling. Jersey has comprehensive Player Protection Legislation and its website shows a full list of Licensees, Permit Holders, and Approvals. Jersey granted its first online gambling licence in January 2015.
Jersey is a U.K. government white listed region.
Guernsey and Alderney
As with Jersey, above, gambling on the channel island of Guernsey ( also known as the Bailiwick of Guernsey) is legal. Guernsey and Alderney reached an agreement to allow e-gambling companies based in Alderney to relocate to Guernsey, while still remaining under the control of the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC)
Any casino operators wishing to conduct gambling transactions remotely from a server or servers based in Alderney or Guernsey must hold a licence from the AGCC must locate gaming servers in a hosting center approved by AGCC.
Guernsey and Alderney are U.K. government white listed casino territories.
Perhaps not many people outside Germany are aware that gambling is illegal in Germany. Germany had banned online gaming (with the exception of horse racing) in 2008 with the German Interstate Treaty however, The European Gaming & Betting Association requested the EU commission take action to over turn the ban as it was deemed to violate free trade rules. In 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that the monopolized gambling industry in Germany has to be liberalized although to date the state of Schleswig-Holstein is the only one to have issued any casino licenses.
While companies currently find it impossible to set up online casinos within Germany itself, it is not possible (due in part to EU rules) for Germany to ban foreign internet casino operators and German players are not prosecuted for playing at foreign online casinos and most of the major European online casinos welcome German players.
Gambling has been legal in Spain since 2006. The 2011 Spanish Gambling Act regulates online gambling and the central government in Madrid issues 10 year licenses to casino operators. However, Spanish players may find that some casinos will not accept them, due to Spain's tax laws and the difficulty in obtaining licenses.
Gambling is legal in Greece as long as it takes place in licensed casinos. Following several years of complaints to the EU, by the casino industry, of protectionism, the Greek government have made some steps on the path to open up and liberalize online gambling and more and more online casinos are now accepting Greek players (although some casinos may be blocked by Greek ISPs). Greek players can play at online casinos without fear of prosecution.
Gambling is legal in Portugal. Online gambling operators, both foreign and domestic, who accept Portuguese players must obtain a licence from the Portuguese authorities and pay taxes to the Portuguese state. The regulatory authority (the SRIJ) has the power to order ISPs to block unlicensed casinos but Portuguese players do not face prosecution if they choose to circumvent such bans and gamble online at such unlicensed casinos
Gambling in Belgium is legal but tightly regulated both by EU and Belgium laws. Online gambling in Belgium has been legal since 2002 however as with their land based casinos there is currently a strict cap on the number of casino licenses available. To gain a license to operate in Belgium an online casino operate must have a real world casino within Belgium itself which to all intents and purposes effectively locks out foreign based casino operators.
Did you know that at any one time there can only ever be a maximum of 9 casinos in Belgium?
Casinos that are unlicensed and attempt to attract players from Belgium are put on a "black list" and face fines and Belgium citizens can face fines too if they play at any black listed casino.
Because Belgium is a member of the EU (and, in fact, is home to the EU headquarters) it is not certain for how long Belgium can continue to restrict access to its country from foreign (eg other EU nations) casino operators - this is a dispute that the lawyers will be haggling over for many years to come, no doubt
Gambling was banned in Switzerland between 1921 and 1993 while online gambling was banned outright in 1998 via the "Federal Act on Games of Chance" legislation (a small number of land based casinos legally operate in major cities such as Zurich and Basel) . As such, there is currently no legal Swiss online casino industry at all. There is talk that Switzerland will move more towards a more European style regulatory framework sometime in or after 2019 and allow licensed casinos to operate within Switzerland.
Although online gambling is illegal, to date the Swiss authorities have shown no desire to prosecute players and many European casinos welcome Swiss players.
Both a Common Wealth country and EU member, the island of Malta has fully embraced online gambling and they were actually the first EU member to introduce online gambling regulations in May 2004. Malta is something of an online casino hub and is home to and regulatory authority of some of the world's most popular casinos.
Casinos licensed by Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) are also whitelisted in the UK as Malta is a U.K. government white listed region.
The former Communist country of Poland has some of the strictest laws to regulate land based gambling and online gambling. While gambling itself is actually legal in Poland and in theory it's even possible for foreign online casino operators to operate in Poland if they can meet the strict criteria and obtain a license (to date only 4 licenses have been granted), online gambling remains illegal (with the exception of sports betting)
Unlike other EU countries, Poland has actually taken steps to warn, discourage and threaten with fines Polish citizens who play at online casinos.
Despite the threat of prosecution, many Poles continue to use the internet to access casinos and gamble on slots and casino games. As an EU member state, it is likely that Poland's online gambling laws will eventually become less restrictive and more liberal, in line with other EU member states.
Russia has certainly had a complex relationship with gambling All gambling was outlawed in the country during the communist era, between 1928 and 1988. The first legal casino in post war history didn't appear until 1989
The collapse of the soviet regime saw the steady proliferation of casinos across the country, however, the situation was one corruption, organized crime and tax evasion and so new law were introduced in 1998 to better regulate and tax the industry.
In 2002, the Federal Sports Agency (FSA) was authorized to issue gambling licenses and its fairly liberal policies resulted in a huge increase in the number of licensed casinos and slot machines in Russia. This rapid expansion of the industry, however, lead to a backlash and a crackdown ensued resulting in a new Federal law being passed on December 29, 2006, prohibiting gambling venues with slot machines and table games through out Russia with the exception of just four designated gambling zones.
This prohibition on gambling also applies to online gambling and Russia takes steps to black list and block access to both foreign and domestic online casinos. Currently, Russians who can circumvent such blocks and can find casinos to play at online and will not be prosecuted by the Russian authorities.
Where is online gambling illegal?
Finally, here's a list of regions in which gambling online is totally illegal and there is a real risk of prosecution for players. In these regions we do, of course, strongly advise players not to gamble online: Poland, Cyprus, North Korea, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Brunei & Cambodia.
We hope you find our overview of online gambling laws and regulations useful. We'll be updating it when necessary, and adding more regions too. If you would like to see a list of reputable casinos that accept players from your region, a good place to start is with our handy casino reviews index.
If you wish to inform us of any errors or changes to laws/regulations please do contact us