Sharia law and gambling – In Afghanistan – as in the whole Muslim world – all forms of gambling are forbidden by the Islamic law (Shari’ah). Sharia law was most strictly enforced in Afghanistan under the Taliban control of the country between 1996 and 2001.
After the NATO-invasion of Afghanistan the enforcement of gambling (and several other) laws became less rigorous, gamblers who fail to hide their activity from the police may face serious fines or even jail time. Knowing these prohibitions, it might be surprising that Afghanistan has quite a few traditional gambling forms, although they differ from the poker and casino games popular in Europe and the USA.
A low internet penetration rate also prevents most Afghans from accessing online gambling websites.
Gambling, or maisir is strictly forbidden by the Quran, and is considered the Satan’s handiwork.
The reasons for the prohibition are twofold:
- It is unlawful for the Muslim to gain wealth by gambling.
According to the Islamic teaching, one ought to earn a living by honest, serious work, and relying on luck to gain money is contrary to this principle.
- Muslims must not participate in gambling for recreational purposes.
The reason for this prohibition lies in the addictive quality of gambling, which causes the gambler to neglect his responsibilities to society and the Creator. Interestingly, gambling is mentioned in conjunction with drinking, emphasizing the similarities between gambling addiction and alcoholism.*
Legal status of gambling in Afghanistan:
- Casino gambling in Afghanistan
- Bingo in Afghanistan
- Poker in Afghanistan
- Sports betting in Afghanistan
- Lottery in Afghanistan
- Bitcoin gambling in Afghanistan
- Online gambling websites accepting players Afghanistan
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Casino gambling in Afghanistan
Online casino gambling in Afghanistan: illegal but players are not prosecuted
There are no physical casinos in Afghanistan as casino games are banned in Afghanistan. It is illegal for Afghans to participate in online casino games.
However, online activity is difficult to track and the state does not actively monitor the online gambling activity of it’s citizens. Several online casino sites accept people from Afghanistan.
Bingo in Afghanistan
Online Bingo in Afghanistan: illegal but players are not prosecuted
Bingo, as all other forms of gambling, is illegal in Afghanistan. Bingo also does not enjoy great popularity in Afghanistan, which means one is unlikely to find even illicit bingo games.
Those who actually played the most Bingo in Afghanistan were in fact not Afghans, but troops stationed in Afghanistan. Before their withdrawal from the country, the soldiers could participate in regular bingo nights.
Poker in Afghanistan
Online Poker in Afghanistan: illegal but players are not prosecuted
Poker – while not considered a game of luck in many countries – is considered gambling in Afghanistan, and as such is illegal. Similarly to Bingo, Poker was also played mostly by soldiers stationed in the country.
Online Poker games are accessible to the prospective gambler from Afghanistan, although – according to unofficial sources* – even this might prove suspicious to the police and be investigated.
Also, only about 10% of the population of Afghanistan has access to the internet.
Some major online poker sites do not accept players from Afghanistan, but there are several sites which do allow them to play.
The poker world knows of a single professional poker player from Afghanistan, Sherkhan Farnood. He has since retired from playing poker, but not before winning over $600 000.
Sports betting in Afghanistan
Online sports betting in Afghanistan: illegal but players are not prosecuted
Betting on horse races or other sport events is considered gambling and is forbidden (haram) under Islamic law. Some Muslims, especially in Iran and Saudi-Arabia circumvent this by stating that they are only “predicting” the outcome of the race.
However, it is not advised to use this excuse should one be apprehended by the authorities in Afghanistan.
Regarding online sports betting in Afghanistan, the same stands as for online Poker: it is illegal, might be risky (although currently players do not appear to be prosecuted) and not many foreign sports betting websites accept players from Afghanistan.
Offline sports betting, on the other hand, has quite a bit of a history and following in Afghanistan. Most well-known of these is bird fighting, most often featuring quails. Also banned by the Taliban, the sport has made a comeback since 2001.
Dog fighting, and even sheep fighting are sports Afghans enjoy betting on. Another such sport, albeit lacking the harm of animals, is kite fighting. In Afghanistan, kite flying has been a popular activity for over 100 years. The lines of the kites are coated with crushed glass, and the aim is to cut the line of your opponent’s kite with that of your own.
These traditional forms of sports betting have dominated the underground gambling market that has emerged since 2001.
Lottery in Afghanistan
Online lottery in Afghanistan: illegal but players are not prosecuted
Lottery is considered to be a game of chance, and is illegal under Sharia law. Some lotteries and raffles may not be considered gambling in the traditional sense: there are free internet lotteries and lotteries at trade fairs which are technically giveaways.
If there is a lack of exchange, i.e. participation in the lottery is free, it may be permissible to partake.
As for online lottery: some lotteries in the US accept players from all around the world, including Afghanistan.
Bear in mind however, that participating in online lottery from Afghanistan is also illegal.
Bitcoin gambling in Afghanistan
Bitcoin gambling in Afghanistan: illegal but players are not prosecuted
Bitcoin gambling is, strictly speaking, merely another form of gambling, which is categorically forbidden by the Islamic law. One might argue that bitcoin is not a regular form of currency, which means gambling in bitcoins might not be considered wealth gain in the traditional sense.
However, as mentioned earlier, the prohibition of gambling in the Quran also serves to discourage Muslims from turning away from Allah and to prevent addiction.
The enforcement of gambling bans might be even laxer when it comes to Bitcoin gambling, as authorities might not be up-to-date regarding this form of gambling, and anonymity is easier to achieve. This anonymity is what offers a great opportunity for Afghan women: often forced out of school at a young age, working for Bitcoins online is one of the very few ways for them to gain some measure of independence.*
Online gambling websites accepting players from Afghanistan
Even though online gambling is illegal within Afghanistan a few foreign online gambling websites still accept players from the country. These are:
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This page is part of Simon’s List – Legal Status of Online Gambling – a definitive guide to the legal status of all forms of online gambling in every country around the world.
Last updated: 2015 10. 05