The Arabic world can be said to encompass a number of different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. These include Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Israel and Somalia. While it is true to say that gambling is frowned upon in general by society in these countries, the reality is a little different. For most of these nations gambling is not regulated by law, unless you take account of those Muslim countries which follow the teachings of the Quran. The Quran states that games of chance are a "grave sin" and "abominations of Satan's handiwork” and so devotees will not indulge in any form of gambling, online or offline. However, not everybody in the Arab world feels the same and of course different religions take a different view on gambling. For that reason gambling still flourishes in this region, as we are about to discover.
As we have said, under Islamic Law all forms of gambling are outlawed. Take Somalia for example: because this is a country with a Muslim majority, gambling is prohibited. Naturally gambling activity does take place on an illegal basis, but the punishment for being caught gambling is potentially very stern. Under Shari’a Law anyone who is found to have gambled can suffer corporal punishment. This could mean a public flogging, which would be enough to deter all but the most enthusiastic bettors. Of course online gambling is difficult to trace and there are plenty of international companies which are happy to accept players from Somalia. The only problem is that the country is still very under-developed and less than 2% of the population currently have access to the internet. This means that even online gambling is not a common pursuit in this African state.
Egypt has a rich history stretching back thousands of years, and gambling has been a part of Egyptian life since the age of the pharaohs. In fact we know that there were laws prohibiting gambling in Egypt as far back as 3000BC, although the current climate is rather different. Even though Egypt is another country which has a Muslim majority, gambling is legal here. However, there is a catch! In order to stay faithful to the Quran, the Egyptian government decided to make gambling illegal for anybody with an Egyptian passport while allowing gambling for foreign visitors. This means that there are plenty of casinos in Egypt, but only visitors get to use them. Online gambling is a different matter, however, since there are no laws to cover this. This means that Egyptians are free to sign up with international online casinos and betting sites and play to their hearts content. There have never been any recorded prosecutions in Egypt for online gambling, and so a large number of people take advantage of this opportunity.
Libya in North Africa is an enormous country in terms of size, but has a surprisingly small population of just 6 million people. This is another country which is Muslim dominated - about 97% of the country follows the teaching of Islam - and is therefore subject to Shari’a Law. What this means is that both online and offline gambling are forbidden in Libya. The government is strict about enforcing the anti-gambling laws, and those caught engaging in illegal gambling can face fines or even time in jail. Of course, online gambling is still an option, as international companies are not controlled by the laws of Libya and will usually accept players from this country. This means that there are plenty of options for online gambling, and it remains a popular activity despite the best efforts of the government.
The country of Qatar boasts an annual GDP of almost $150,000 per person, making it officially the richest country in the world. Where there is money there is normally gambling, and you can imagine just how eager online betting companies would be to tap into this market. Unfortunately for them, gambling is illegal here also, as Qatar is another Muslim country. However, if you believe that no gambling goes on in this country then you are very wide of the mark. Illegal gambling is widespread in the country and hugely popular. One of the most popular sports here is camel racing, and you can be sure that huge sums are wagered on every single race. Online sites are happy to accept residents of Qatar - and their large bankrolls! - and the government has shown little desire or ability to prevent people from betting online. For that reason gambling is flourishing in this country, where clearly the laws do not match the wish of many of the people in this regard.
Israel is an interesting case study when it comes to gambling. Here gambling is legal, but with certain restrictions. What this means is that sports betting and lottery are both legal, as long as they are played via the official government operators. The lottery in particular is hugely popular among the citizenry. Other forms of gambling like slots and casino games are illegal, although cruise ships with onboard casinos regularly dock in Israel and are happy to accept players. As the gambling laws in Israel were passed in the 1970s, they obviously did not address the issue of online gambling. As a result, while online gambling is considered illegal there have never been prosecutions of players engaging in this activity. In fact online gambling is enormously popular here, and a multi-million dollar industry in Israel. However, Israeli companies are not permitted to operate online betting sites, so the international sites benefit from these Israeli players.
As you can see, the story of gambling in the Arab world is a complicated one. While the majority of countries abide by Islamic Law which prohibits gambling, this is not always the case. Even in those Arabic countries which follow strict Shari’a Laws, it is certain that gambling is still a popular recreational activity, both online and offline.