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The exponential growth of online sports betting in recent times has been an eye-opener for many. A two-century-old activity, sports betting is the practice of predicting results and placing wagers on outcomes of sporting events. 

Something that was once confined to stores and was monopolised by bookies, has now taken the digital space by storm with new innovations in the online space becoming more common as the online betting industry continues to evolve and progress at a breakneck pace.

For instance, by June 2018, wagering in the legal states of the United States of America was only done through retail stores. By October 2021, a whopping 84 per cent users moved to using mobile devices for betting, wagering a total of $7 billion for the month; representing a hike of more than 2000 per cent from $310 million in June 2018.

The growing trend of online betting has not only aided users but also benefited the sports betting companies as it boosted revenue that rose to $4 billion by the end of last year in the US alone.

Constant digitization has given companies a free hand in expanding their markets and as of today, given the jurisdiction, one can place a bet on a sport online that is being held on the other side of the globe. After all, that’s the power new-age digital innovations represent.

However, sports betting is something that is associated with heavy risks such as addiction and uncontrolled expenditures and different governments have tried to tackle these issues in their own way. 

So, the answer to the question, is sports betting legal, is a partial yes and no depending on which part of the globe you reside in. Here, we delve into the parts of the globe where sports betting is allowed. 

Countries where online sports betting is legal

Let’s start with Europe, shall we?

Europe has been one of the oldest betting markets and the European Union (EU) works as a single entity in several matters. As far as online sports betting is concerned, there is no sector-specific legislation plan set by the EU as the situation in each country is different.

The European Gaming and Betting Association has identified sports betting as one of the growing markets as they expect it to reach €29.3 billion in gross revenue in 2022, with online betting playing a substantial role in it. 

This means the activity has more or less been adopted by the top countries in the continent like Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Hungry, Italy, Poland, Russia, Malta, Gibraltar, Netherland, Portugal, Norway and Denmark.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom had legalised betting way back in 1961. Within six months of the law, more than 10,000 physical betting shops were opened. As the world moved to digitization, the UK moved along with the trend of online sports betting in no time, taking to it like a duck to water.

It is important to note that although the aforementioned countries have legalised sports betting,  there are differing rules and regulations for separate sports such as horse racing and Olympic sports, to name a few.

How about Australia and New Zealand?

Betting on sports, especially on-track races in Australia, has been done since 1810. The jurisdiction for other sports, however, was passed in 1980 and as of today, there are very few sports that you can’t bet on in Australia. Online betting on most mainstream sports is permitted.

The main restriction in Australia regarding sports betting applies to television and radio commercials. This is mainly done to protect children from getting exposed to the betting world. The only slot betting advertisements are allowed to occupy is 30 minutes before a sporting event.

As for New Zealand, only the platforms regulated by the government in the country are legal. This means overseas online gambling websites are banned in the island nation.

What’s the situation in the United States of America?

As of February 2022, online sports betting is partially legal in the United States of America. In 2018, the country’s Supreme Court gave the authority to individual states to make a decision on legalisation of sports betting.

As a result, there are about 30 states that have legalised online sports betting. This includes Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Oregon and Connecticut among others.

Furthermore, America’s neighbouring countries like Mexico and Canada have no restrictions on online sports betting whatsoever. In fact, the Tijuana football team is owned and sponsored by Grupo Caliente, one of Mexico's biggest betting companies.

Is online sports betting legal in South America?

There are only a select few countries in South America where online sports betting is legalised. This includes Argentina, Peru and Panama. The likes of Brazil, Chile and Uruguay have observed some kinds of online wagering, but the practice is officially banned on papers in these nations. Ecuador, in particular, has placed an outright ban on any kind of gambling.

The African condition

Online sports betting in the African continent is banned in most countries. The non-availability of a proper internet connection in many such countries is also a major factor behind the lack of growth in online sports betting in Africa. However, countries like Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa have legitimised sports betting of all sorts; online and physical. The only restriction Nigeria has is that no betting adverts are allowed to air on TV or radio. In South Africa, every betting advert needs a disclaimer accompanying it.

The Asian situation

While people in Japan, the Philippines, China and Kazakhstan have been betting on sports for a long time, nations like Taiwan, Bangladesh, UAE, and Indonesia have imposed an outright ban on the activity as it isn’t in keeping with the ethos and culture of these countries. The concept of gambling in the United Arab Emirates, in fact, is entirely against the culture and ethics of the country. 

Lastly, in North Korea, while the natives are banned from practising any kind of gambling, tourists with guided tours are not.

Is online sports betting legal in India?

There’s a distinct difference between game of skills and a game chance in India. This basically differentiates fantasy sports from sports betting in the country. Since skill-based games work on players’ knowledge, they are authorised by the government while games of luck such as betting are illegal; in most states. 

As of today, the only form of sports betting that is legal in the country is betting on horse races. As written in the Legal Service E-journal, “Sports betting in India is mostly illegal except for betting on horse races. All other sports betting is based on the laws of the individual states.”

And since gambling is a state-operated matter, Sikkim has become one of the breeding grounds for sports betting - both online and physical - in the country. Apart from Sikkim, betting on sports is also permitted in the state of Meghalaya as well as Goa and the union territory of Daman and Diu.

Author: Swapnil Bhopatkar

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Featured photo: PATRICK KOVARIK / AFP




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