Is it legal to gamble
online using your mobile phone?
legal position in the United
In September 2006 the US government enacted the Unlawful Internet
Gambling Enforcement Act ("UIGEA"). UIGEA represented the United State's
first piece of federal legislation attempting to address the issue of internet
UIGEA called on United States Treasury and Federal Reserve
Board, in consultation with the Department of Justice to put in place
regulations to require payment processors to block all transactions pertaining
to 'unlawful internet gambling'. The intent of the legislation is to
prevent the like of VISA, Mastercard, banks and the various virtual wallet
services from facilitating payments between US residents and offshore online
gambling operators, thus preventing Americans from being able to access offshore
casinos and sports books.
One of the key operational failings of the legislation is that it actually does
not define what 'unlawful internet gambling' is. This determination is
left to the agencies charged with UIGEA's enforcement and they have openly
stated that they don't have the resources or ability to make this determination.
So their regulations simply impose this burden on the payment processors...who
are even less qualified or willing to make the determination.
While the legislation has had the effect of dissuading some of the world's
larger online gambling operators from accepting American customers (Ladrokes,
Microgaming etc) its real effects on the regulation of payments pertaining to
online gambling have been limited to say the least. In fact, the final
regulations put into effect by the relevant agencies call for additional code
numbers for credit card transactions but expressly tell financial institutions
to not spend any time looking at individual transactions.
All confusion and enforcement failings aside, it is worth noting, from a player
perspective, that UIGEA, does not in any way target players. As stated by
often cited US gambling expert Professor I. Nelson Rose, “no United States
federal statute or regulation explicitly prohibits online gambling, either
domestically or abroad.” The UIGEA by its own terms it does not apply to
is also worth noting that as at May 2009, in the face of mounting local and
international ridicule as well as formal criticism from the European Commission
as an infringement of the free movement of capital as laid down in article 56 of
the EC-Treaty, moves are afoot to have UIGEA repealed and replaced with an
alternative regulatory framework.
legal position in the United
The legal position in the UK pertaining to online gambling, including mobile
casino gambling is both very different and also a lot clearer than the US
The recently enacted
Gambling Act 2005 ("The Act") came into effect in 2007 and provides an all
encompassing piece of legislation governing all forms of gambling in the UK (the
only exceptions being the National Lottery and Spread Betting) including what
The Act terms "Remote Gambling" which is defined to include casinos, sports
betting, poker rooms and any other form of real money wagering online or via
mobile telephony devices.
The Act is regulated by the newly formed
UK Gambling Commission and its key operative provisions relating to remote
gambling are as follows:
Any operator of a remote gambling
service with servers or any other remote gambling equipment located in the
United Kingdom must obtain a license from the UK Gambling Commission to be
able to offer that service to UK residents or abroad;
Operators of remote gambling services
that are based outside the UK are free to offer their services to UK
residents provided they are in compliance with the licensing requirements of
the jurisdiction in which their service is hosted;
Nothing in The Act makes it illegal,
or seeks to prevent, British residents accessing and using remote gambling
Remote gambling service operators
licensed in the UK, Gibraltar, EEA countries (European Economic Area)
and any other jurisdictions granted white listing status by the UK Gambling
Commission are free to advertise their product with Great Britain via the
Not surprisingly, the UK has become
somewhat of an internet gambling hub, with many of the world's largest operators
setting up shop there. Likewise, players are free to choose where they
gamble and have online or mobile options provided by large FTSE listed
legal position in Europe
Member States of the European Union ("EU Member"): members of the
European Communities Treaty ("EC Treaty"): Constitution of the
European Commission ("EC"): EU executive arm charged with upholding EU
member compliance with EC Treaty
European Court of Justice ("ECJ"): Adjudicates EU member
compliance with EC Treaty law
Member State of the European Economic Area ("EEA Member"): members
of the EEA
European Free Trade Association ("EFTA"): Charged with upholding
EEA member compliance with EC Treaty
European Free Trade Association Court ("EFTA Court"):
Adjudicates EEA member compliance with EC Treaty law
Europe Union ("EU") Overview
One of the key principles of the EC Treaty is known as the 'four freedoms'.
One of these freedoms is the freedom to provide services, and is set out at
Article 49 of the EC Treaty. Article 49 provides that, "Within the
framework of the provisions set out below, restrictions on freedom to provide
services within the Community shall be prohibited...".
Both EU Members and EEA Members are obliged by EU law to comply with the 'four
freedoms' and of particular relevance to this discussion, the freedom to provide
services. The clear intent of the freedom to provide services provisions
are to foster free trade between EU and EEA members.
do this, the law prohibits an EU or EEA member from banning the provision of any
services to its residents by another EU and EEA member operator where those
services are provided by local operators. In essence it is an anti
protectionism law. It doesn't prevent an EU and EEA member banning a
particular service on moral or ethical grounds so long as this is a blanket ban
applying to local operators as well.
Given this overriding requirement for European countries to allow services from
foreign operators it is curious to note that some have passed laws banning
foreign online gambling operations despite running local internet gambling
(lotteries etc) monopolies. However where those bans are a contravention
of EU law because of a breach of freedom of services provisions they are
Both Germany and France are cases in point and both have had to answer to the
EC. Over the past three years, the EC has been associated with Internet
betting-linked infringement proceedings against 10 EU members on the basis of
the “freedom of movement of services” pillar of EU law.
For its part, France has recently revealed plans to open up its Pari Mutuel
Urbain monopoly to competition in 2010. France presented a draft bill in
March 2009 that will open their market to online gambling and offer licenses to
operators. French Budget Minister Eric Woerth was quoted as saying that
the gambling market in France would be expanded to adapt “to Internet reality”
and help France “get out of an unsustainable situation in which the state is
losing a growing part of the betting market”
number of EU and EEA members have either foreshadowed, or are in the process of
drafting online gambling specific legislation. These include Sweden,
Switzerland, Norway and Ireland. Given the French experience they will be
wise to ensure compliance with the freedom to provide services requirements of
in the US and Australia, is should be noted that any EU or EEA member laws
regulating or banning online gambling (whether in breach or compliance with the
EC Treaty) are aimed at operators and not players.
Complete list of EU members:
- Czech republic
- United Kingdom
- The Netherlands
Complete list of EEA members:
legal position in Australia
Australia was one of the first countries to have internet gambling specific
legislation enacted. The Interactive Gambling Bill 2001 ("The Bill")
became law on June 2001.
The Bill's key operative provisions:
illegal for any 'interactive gambling service provider' (including
online/mobile casinos, sportsbooks, race betting sites, lotteries etc) not
holding an Australian interactive gambling license to offer its product to
illegal for any Australian licensed online/mobile casino to offer its
a) Australian residents, and
b) residents of any country around the world that chooses to opt in on the
Australian Government’s ban;
legal for Australian licensed online sports books, race betting and lottery
sites to offer their product to Australian and international customers;
illegal for Australian licensed online sports books to offer 'in-play' bets
to Australian residents.
advertising of any interactive gambling service on any medium within
Australia (including ‘Australian’ web sites) illegal;
One of the stated purposes of The Bill was to prevent Australians from from
accessing offshore online gambling sites and thus protect both local licensed
operators as well as problem gamblers. The effectiveness of the law in
practice has been questioned since it was revealed in a recent study that
hundreds of thousands of Australians have gambled at online casinos, sport books
or poker rooms based offshore. Further, local sports betting operators
have complained that 'in-play' restrictions they are subject to make it
difficult to compete with offshore competitors and now the government is
considering amending this provision of The Bill.
From a players perspective the important fact is that The Bill in no way renders
the act of of gambling online with an offshore interactive gambling service
provider illegal. Players are free to play where they choose and this
includes on their mobile phone.
rest of the world
Looking to the rest of the world, most countries are yet to pass legislation
specifically governing online gambling.
passed laws banning online gambling, and the nature of the ban varies
significantly from one case to the next, from outright blanket bans of all
gambling activity to restrictions on offshore operators from offering services
to local residents. And of course the other issue arising out of any ban,
as the US and Australia have found, is the question of its effective enforcement.
any case, set out below is a list of countries that, according to Google
Answers, have legislated to ban online gambling in some way shape or form.
As in the above cases it is likely these 'bans' target operators and not
With regard to the rest of the world, the vast majority are silent on this matter from a legal
perspective for the moment.
Disclaimer: MobileCasinoInfo.com is not
a legal authority. The discussion on this page is intended
as an information source and brief overview only compiled from
various authorities and does not constitute formal