Is it legal to gamble with bitcoins?

As an online gambler who takes no chances on being on the right side of the law, you could be wondering whether it is legal to place bets using Bitcoin. Of course, no one, and I bet including you, wants a surprise raid from a swat team or sermons from law enforcers for breaking some law. In order to get a even clearer picture of this subject, you should read Introduction to Bitcoin and online Gambling for the critical basic information.

For the simple reason that we are not looking at a single country, it is not practical to simply say whether gambling with bitcoins is legal or not. Indeed, different jurisdictions react differently to online gambling in general. Whatever laws authorities in Antigua, Costa Rica or Panama have put in place, to govern the industry, are almost completely different from those by the US Department of Justice. The former are receptive to gambling using bitcoins and indeed have earned themselves the title of the main centers of the Bitcoin gambling industry.

And even in one country it is, in many cases, indeed a tall order to describe gambling using bitcoin as either legal or not. To form an opinion in this respect, you will need to look at numerous pieces of laws and get explanations from different law enforcing agencies as well as observe the activities of these agencies on online gambling.

Nevertheless, it is safe to state that, as things stand, there is no country around the world with a specific law that categorically bans playing blackjack, roulette or poker online using Bitcoin as the payment method. Therefore, this form of online gaming can only be illegal, or not, by association or in consideration of laws affecting other aspects related to it.

There are two aspects that majorly influence the legality of gambling using Bitcoin around the globe:

  • Legality of online gambling in general
  • Legal status of Bitcoin as a currency

Legality of online gambling

It is only appropriate to assume that laws that govern gambling online using fiat currency also apply to placing bets in gambling websites using Bitcoin. Indeed, before the advent of Bitcoin as a currency option in online gambling, many countries, especially in the West, had pronounced themselves legally on online gambling.

While some such as the Antigua and Costa Rica seized the opportunity to make themselves centres of online gambling through favourable statutes, a few others like the United States put laws in place to at least slow the industry’s development within their borders. Therefore, while there is no country that has specifically banned bitcoin gambling, there are those that do not approve of online gambling in general. It only follows then that Bitcoin gambling would not be welcome in such countries.

There is a twist, however, in some of the countries that do not approve of online gambling, which provide a legal loophole to online gamblers. For instance, the United States does not directly ban online gambling. And that is why millions of Americans are placing bets on online casinos based offshore on the daily basis but none has been prosecuted. To enforce anti-online gambling policy, the country’s Department of Justice has always targeted online casinos instead of the gamblers. One way it is doing this is by not licensing any to operate from within the country.

It has also made it difficult for gamblers to transmit money to those online casinos based offshore. Any bank or money transmitting service that facilitates the flow of money to online casinos based in Australia, Canada, Costa Rica or anywhere else in the world always risks losing its license.

The agency uses such laws as Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) and the Federal Wire Act of 1961 to force money transmitters not to facilitate online bets. This has been working given that the American gamblers could access online casinos based overseas, but they could not place bets.

That was until Bitcoin showed up. Bitcoin changed everything.

The peer-to-peer digital currency has made it possible for gamblers in the United States and other jurisdictions, which make transmission of money for betting purposes difficult, to participate in online gambling with little hindrance. They can now bypass traditional money wiring channels that are legally bound.

Since what has been illegal is transmitting money for gambling purposes and not gambling itself, it is safe to assume that Bitcoin gambling is not illegal in the United States. This is regardless of a possible interpretation that the targeting of money transmitters was occasioned partly by the lack of capacity by the law enforcers to go after individual gamblers.

With everything pointing to the fact that Bitcoin gambling is not strictly illegal in the majority of countries around the world, there are activities within the space that are serious crimes. For instance, match fixing can fetch you lengthy sentences and huge fines in many countries.
Therefore, if you participate in this is as part of sport betting, and you use bitcoin as the mode of payment; you are likely to face prosecution. However, this is only possible if you were playing a central role in the match-fixing. Also, there is the general requirement that participants in gambling must be over the age of 18. Allowing kids to gamble is a crime in many countries.

The legality of Bitcoin as a currency

The other aspect of legality when it comes to Bitcoin gambling is to whether the country from where you gamble treats the currency as illegal. In this case, Bitcoin gambling will be legal or illegal depending on how the law treats the cryptocurrency.

The good news, however, is that there are not many countries that have outrightly classified Bitcoin as illegal or made it a criminal offense to use it for whatever purpose including betting online. Therefore, there are few reasons why you should not continue playing the roulette, Blackjack or poker online and make the payments as well as receive winnings in Bitcoins. Make your choice of the online casino to play on carefully though. Give priority to those that have gambling license, which protects you in case there is a dispute.