Gambling Laws in North America

Gambling Laws in North America

There are multiple countries in North America and most of them have their own gambling laws. Out of all these countries, two stands out due to their sheer size and economies. These two are United States of America and Canada. Even these two countries don’t have a simplified version of laws related to online as well as land based gambling.

This confusion can be contributed to the fact that US has complicated federal and state laws. Each of these laws has its own versions and lack of clarity in federal laws makes the relevant legislations redundant for the states.

There is a whole lot of confusion related to the fact that whether the gambling laws of United States of America can be implemented on the gaming sites with overseas operations.

As far as Canada is concerned, the things are bit hazy there too. There is a federal decree which makes gambling illegal but each individual province has its own right to regulate gambling as part of their local economy.

gambling laws in North America

As in the case of United States of America, Canada too is struggling to give clear mandate about the overseas operations of local gambling sites. Apart from these two big countries, there are also other smaller nations on this continent. All of these countries have their own versions of rules and laws governing gambling.

United States of America

As mentioned earlier, the federal govt is not only the single entity to have control over issues related to gambling in United States of America. This is due the reason that each state has its own laws that prohibits or allows any form of gambling.

The laws related to land based as well as online gambling are quite different from state to state.

These state laws along with federal laws tend to create confusion rather than giving out a clear insight. As these laws are quite vague in nature, this allows the judges and prosecutors to have their own interpretations which can lead to unnecessary litigations.

Each state has the right to prohibit its residents from participating in any sort of gambling. Some states allow limited types of gambling while others have totally legalized it.

Check out all the gambling regulators and bodies in the USA


Canada provides a robust gambling industry for its residents. This gambling industry is controlled by Federal and provincial gambling laws which keep the things running smoothly. While other countries tend to have extreme views on gambling, the approach of Canadian govt is even handed. Despite the appeal of collecting large amount of money in the form of taxes, the welfare of the Canadian residents has always been a priority of both state and federal governments.

The serious offenses in Canada carry out a penal servitude of five years but gambling related offenses does not fall under this category. The general rule related to online as well as land based gambling states that any form of gambling is illegal if it is not licensed by either provincial or federal government.


Bahamas is a beautiful country comprising of a group of islands and it is situated quite near to the shores of United States of America. This makes it a holiday destination for thousands of US residents for all the year around. Land based gambling is legal in Bahamas since 1969 and it has been a major attraction for tourists from all over the world.

Even though gambling is allowed for tourists, the local residents are prohibited under law to participate in such activities.

Any sort of online gambling is also illegal here. Accessing overseas online gaming sites is also illegal but govt is not too keen to impose it. This means that neither the residents are bothered by local administration for participating in gambling through foreign online casinos, nor the websites are blocked for providing such services.


Panama officially legalized gambling via land based casinos in 1997. Currently all of the gambling activities in this country are controlled by three primary operators.

All the major casinos are controlled by govt or private companies. Panama does not prohibit its citizens from participating in gambling activities. There are eleven cities in Panama which caters to land based gambling and have more than forty gambling facilities for both tourists and residents. These facilities provide options of casino games and sports betting.

Panama is one of the smallest online gambling licensing jurisdictions. This country is best place to launch a gaming site because of its least bureaucratic interference, well maintained infrastructure and gaming friendly banking system.


Mexico is one of the fastest growing online gambling markets of the world. Even though lottery and sports betting were quite prevalent but the real push for liberalization for gambling was taken in 2004. After the legalization of gambling, it became a subject of the ministry of interior.

During this period some online gambling sites were allowed to provide their services. The residents were allowed to visit local casinos but were banned from online gambling. The interesting thing is that overseas operators of such sites were not banned from providing such services. This resulted in thousands of online gaming sites providing their services to the Mexicans.

Today any operator which is licensed by federal govt can provide gambling services and all the gambling related matters are federal subject rather than the states’.


Once upon a time, city of Havana was the gambling centre of the world because of its luxurious casinos and resorts.

Even today there is blanket ban on all types of gambling activities in Cuba. Both players and service providers are liable to severe penalties if caught doing so. Even now when Cuba and United States of America have improved relations, the gambling scenario still remains under suspension.


This beautiful nation does not allow any type of gambling activity on its land. All types of gambling are banned in Grenada under the lotteries and betting legislation of 1966.

There had been some amendments done to this act, but Grenada is still far away from providing gambling facilities to its residents and tourists. Even though lotteries and bingo tournaments are being sponsored by government but there is no casino or sports betting outlet.

The only things which come close to legal gambling are the slot machines. There are thousands of slot machines available everywhere. There is no legal age being imposed for accessing these games. Grenada does not allow online gambling.

On the other hand online gambling is also not regulated by the government. Grenadian government also offers licenses to online gaming companies. Due to lack of gaming infrastructure, the residents of Grenada opt for the services provided by foreign operators.

Costa Rica

The government of Costa Rica is known for its relaxed attitude related to online as well as land based gambling. This country does not have any specific legislation which deals with the subject of online gambling. The residents of this country are barred from availing services of online operators and online gambling is illegal.

The reason behind such a dichotomy can be contributed to the fact that people of this country are not allowed to gamble on any of the game which have a random outcome but as the server of online provider is not present there so gambling is not actually taking place!

Therefore it is legal for the online operators to provide their services in Costa Rica but it is illegal for the residents to avail such services. Costa Rica also introduced internet gaming license for the operators.

Though this license is not strictly required for the operators to operate; nonetheless, majority of them opt to apply for a license.