Gambling in Saudi Arabia is strictly prohibited under Islamic Shari’a law, as in almost all of the countries around the world with a predominantly Muslim population. Saudi laws pertaining to gambling are stringent and well enforced. Gambling providers and players alike, face harsh punishments, including hefty fines and possible prison sentences.
Needless to say, that there are no legal gambling opportunities in Saudi Arabia, although gambling could benefit the expanding tourist and hotel sector as well as the country’s two horse tracks, the King Aziz Race Track in Riyadh and the King Khaled Race Track in Taif.
There are, however, illegal gambling dens and illegal bookmakers operating in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, although they are often subject to police raids. During such a raid in 2011, seven people, all members of an illegal gambling circle were arrested and taken to court*.
Online gambling, as all other forms of gambling in Saudi Arabia, is strictly prohibited. Internet censoring in the country is reported to be one of the most pervasive in the world. The sophisticated internet filtering system of the government targets, among other things, anti-religious content, gambling platforms and porn sites. The Communications and Information Technology Commission of the country openly admits to have blocked over 400,000 sites so far**.
Players, who place bets with foreign online gambling sites in Saudi Arabia are subject to the same punishments as those who partake in illegal land based gambling. Earlier this year it was reported, that the Saudi religious police hired hackers to prosecute owners of Twitter accounts, that were associated with gambling, porn and other moral offences***. Another risk Saudi online gamblers face is that an acquaintance of theirs notifies the police of their activities. Although, online gambling in Saudi Arabia always entails some risks, if done discreetly, chances of legal repercussions are very low for individual players.
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- Casino gambling in Saudi Arabia
- Bingo in Saudi Arabia
- Poker in Saudi Arabia
- Sports betting in Saudi Arabia
- Lottery in Saudi Arabia
- Bitcoin gambling in Saudi Arabia
- Online gambling websites accepting players from Saudi Arabia
Casino gambling in Saudi Arabia
Online casino gambling in Saudi Arabia: illegal
Land based casinos – as all forms of gambling – are prohibited under Shari’a law in Saudi Arabia. Players and operators of illegal gambling dens face harsh punishments if caught.
Online casinos and online gambling in Saudi Arabia is also strictly forbidden, and players, if caught, face monetary fines and possible prison sentences. However, I couldn’t find any reported cases, where a Saudi resident was arrested for gambling online form the safety of his home.
Bingo in Saudi Arabia
Online bingo in Saudi Arabia: illegal
Bingo, as all forms of gambling in Saudi Arabia, is strictly prohibited. There are no legal land based bingo halls anywhere in the country.
The ban applies to all forms of online gambling , including online bingo. Therefore playing on foreign online bingo platforms is considered a legal offence and the government blocks several such sites. Saudi players, who place bets on these platforms, if caught, are prosecuted. However, I couldn’t find a reported case where a player gambling online from his PC got arrested. Police raids target land based gambling dens and meeting places of gambling circles.
Poker in Saudi Arabia
Online poker in Saudi Arabia: illegal
Shari’a law does not distinguish between poker and classical games of chance in any way, therefore poker is just as illegal, as all other forms of gambling in Saudi Arabia.
The ban applies to online poker as well. The majority of foreign sites are blocked and players, if caught, face prosecution. However, if done in complete discretion, the chances of legal repercussions are extremely low for individual players.
Sports betting in Saudi Arabia
Online sports betting in Saudi Arabia: illegal
All forms of sports betting are banned under Saudi law. There are no legal bookmakers in the country. Wagering is also restricted on the two thoroughbred tracks of the country, the King Aziz Race Track in Riyadh and the King Khaled Race Track in Taif. Even wagering on Saudi horse races in foreign countries is tied to the specific consent of the governmental authorities of that country.
Online sports betting is in no way exempt from the prohibitions. The Communications and Information Technology Commission of the country blocks most of the major foreign, online bookmaker sites and players, if caught, face harsh penalties. However, I couldn’t find even one reported case online, where a Saudi citizen was prosecuted for placing bets with foreign platforms from the safety of his home.
Lottery in Saudi Arabia
Online lottery in Saudi Arabia: illegal
Since all forms of gambling in Saudi Arabia are illegal, there is no state lottery in the country and no other licenced commercial lottery operators either.
Many of the foreign online lottery sites are blocked by the authorities and players, if caught gambling on such platforms, can be subjects to hefty fines and possible prison sentences. However, in the case of a player participating in a foreign online lottery draw form the safety of his home this could only happen, if some acquaintance of his notifies the authorities, or if he brags about his winnings on Twitter, for instance.
Bitcoin gambling in Saudi Arabia
Bitcoin gambling in Saudi Arabia: almost certainly illegal
The use of Bitcoin is not restricted in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, there is a theory out there, which says that through having a money that inflates (any money, which doesn’t represent value in itself, like gold coins, basically means, that the banks collect interests) do not comply with the teachings of Islam, that forbid any loans with interests on them (usury). In this respect, Bitcoin is perceived by some as a more ‘Shari’a compliant’ currency than the traditional ones (see this reddit thread for a discussion about this).
Despite the legal uncertainty surrounding Bitcoin, it is safe to assume, that Saudi authorities do not exempt gambling in Bitcoin from their provisions, and players who wager on foreign Bitcoin gambling platforms could face the same charges as all other gamblers, if caught.
Online gambling websites accepting players from Saudi Arabia
Although all forms of online and offline gambling in Saudi Arabia are strictly banned and even private, individual players can face prosecution, if caught, many foreign online gambling platforms still accept players from the country.
Be aware of the risks if you decide to play online in Saudi Arabia.
The following online casinos and bookmakers accept players from Saudi Arabia.
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Last updated: 2015. 11. 04.