You may have noticed that gambling is growing in popularity in Pakistan. On social media, it’s common to see gambling ads appear with exciting games and bonuses that accept Pakistanis and rupees.
With the proliferaton of gambling ads, you might be questioning the legality of play at online casinos and sports betting sites, after all, Pakistan is a conservative Islam country.
Pakistan’s gambling scene is connected to its historical background, complex legal framework, which defines permissible and prohibited games. The country’s cultural and religious influences, particularly Islam, have significantly shaped its approach to gambling.
So is gambling illegal in Pakistan? We unpack the legality of gambling for you. We explain the history, the current legislation and which games are legal and which are illegal.
Historical Roots of Gambling in Pakistan
For many centuries, gambling has been part of Pakistan’s cultural heritage. Over the years, several forms of card games, dice games, and other traditional gambling activities have been played as a form of entertainment. However as Islam grew as the dominant religion in the region, gambling has become to be perceived as a forbidden activity, as it conflicts with Islamic teachings that consider it a sin.
Development of Gambling Laws
In correlation, the gambling laws in Pakistan has developed in stringency. Co-inciding with the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the government legislated laws that banned all forms of gambling, including casinos, lotteries, and betting shops. The main objective was to protect citizens from illegal activities and curb corruption associated with gambling. The strict ban has continued over the decades, with occasional attempts to legalize certain forms of gambling, but none have succeeded on a significant scale.
Legalised Gambling Games
Despite the stringent prohibition, there are a few forms of gambling that are allowed in specific regions of Pakistan.
Horse racing is one of the limited legal forms of gambling in Pakistan, often regulated through licensed racing clubs. It remains a popular sport and betting activity in some areas. Usually betting takes place at designated racecourses, with Lahore Race Club and Karachi Race Club being the two most popular venues for horse racing in the country.
Gambling on horse racing, like in many other Asian countries, is a significant aspect of the sport. Placing a bet on horse races involves predicting which horse will win or finish in the top positions in a given race. Different types of bets can be placed, each with varying levels of complexity and potential payouts.
Lottery games are also permitted in Pakistan. Their lottery games are significantly different in design to those in Western countries. They have been legalized to allow participants to invest money (“bonds”) in return for the chance to win prizes. The bonds can be cashed out, with some monies returned to the bond holder.
The Pakistan Prize Bond is a popular and legal form of lottery in the country. It is operated by the National Savings Pakistan, which is a government organization. Prize Bonds are offered in various denominations, such as Rs. 100, Rs. 200, Rs. 750, Rs. 1,500, Rs. 7,500, Rs. 15,000, Rs. 25,000, and Rs. 40,000.
When you purchase a Prize Bond, you essentially lend money to the government, and in return, you are eligible to participate in regular prize draws held by the National Savings Pakistan. These draws are held periodically, usually on a quarterly basis, and winners are selected through a random draw. The prizes for the winners can range from small amounts to large cash prizes, and the prize money for each denomination varies.
The unique aspect of the Pakistan Prize Bond is that the bondholder can also claim a refund of the original purchase price whenever they wish to cash in their bond. This makes Prize Bonds popular as an investment tool as well.
While horse racing and lottery games are legal, a wide range of traditional and modern gambling activities remain strictly prohibited throughout Pakistan.
Casinos and Gambling Establishments
There are no legal casinos or dedicated gambling establishments in Pakistan due to the overarching ban on gambling. Therefore, if residents wish to attend a casino, the nearest physical casino is in India.
While there is no specific law addressing online gambling, the general ban on gambling activities can be assumed to extend to online platforms as well. But, with no explicit laws banning online gambling, there are many sites that accept bettors from Pakistan.
In addition, whilst it could be argued that the ban on gambling is assumed to extend to all forms, contradicting this assumption is the legality of horse race betting and lottery games.
Betting on sports events is illegal in Pakistan, reflecting the concern over the potential for corruption and match-fixing.
Enforcing the Gambling Laws
Enforcing the gambling laws in Pakistan has been a challenging task. While penalties exist for those caught engaging in illegal gambling activities, the focus has historically been more on targeting bookmakers and gambling establishments than individual gamblers. However, recent efforts have seen authorities increasing efforts to curb online gambling activities.
Rise of Social Media
Social media has seen an explosion of online casinos and sports betting ads attracting many bettors from Pakistan. The ambiguity of gambling laws that relate to online, has led to a loophole that allows gambling to proliferate. Accordingly, there are now several ways that Pakistanis can open an account with an online casino or sports betting site.
One of the most common methods to get started is with JazzCash.
The gambling scene in Pakistan is a mixture of history, laws, and cultural influences. The strong association of Islam with the prohibition of gambling shapes the country’s approach, with only a few permissible forms of gambling being allowed. As the landscape of gambling evolves, the enforcement of existing laws and the need for clarity on online gambling regulations become critical aspects for Pakistan’s gambling scene in the future.
Some forms of gambling are permitted in Pakistan, these include horse racing and lottery games. Other games such as casino table games, slots, poker and sports betting are illegal.
The laws in Pakistan do not explicitly address the form of online gambling, having not updated for the changing in technology or times. That said, it can be assumed that all forms of gambling is illegal, though confusing there are exceptions for horse racing and the lottery.