Pakistan has some of the strictest anti-gambling laws in the world. Most forms of betting and gambling are completely prohibited under the Prevention of Gambling Act 1977. Only highly regulated horse race betting at designated racetracks is exempted.
But does this blanket ban cover online gambling too? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine Pakistan’s betting regulations, penalties for illegal gambling, the rise of internet betting, and what options citizens have for accessing online bookmakers legally.
Gambling Ban in Pakistan
All forms of gambling, including lotteries and games of chance, are illegal in Pakistan except for paramutuel betting on horse races at accredited tracks. There are only four authorized racetracks in Pakistan located in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, and Hyderabad. The ban covers both organizing and participating in most gambling activities.
Penalties for Gambling in Pakistan
Anyone caught gambling illegally in Pakistan can face fines of up to Rs. 3000 under the Prevention of Gambling Act. The law also allows for prison sentences of up to 6 months. Non-citizens and tourists have even been deported for gambling illegally.
The punishments can be much harsher under anti-money laundering and organized crime laws if caught gambling at an illegal establishment. Many underground gambling operations have ties to criminal elements.
Enforcing the Online Betting Ban
Pakistani authorities attempt to block access to international online gambling sites and exchanges. However, the law does not distinguish between offline and online gambling. Placing cricket bets, accessing an online casino, or playing poker on the internet are all considered illegal activities.
While enforcement is challenging, police have used money laundering and organized crime charges against people gambling on illegal sites. So while rare,punishment for betting online in Pakistan is possible under the broad regulations.
Rise of Online Betting in Pakistan
Despite the strict laws, betting on cricket and other sports online using international gambling sites is hugely popular in Pakistan. The opportunity to bet with trusted, regulated bookmakers offering competitive odds and exciting features like live streaming and in-play betting is superior to the risky offline options.
Many Pakistanis also enjoy poker, slots, roulette and other casino games online. Accessing these sites does require using a VPN to bypass local internet gambling blocks. But reputable offshore operators still allow Pakistani residents to open accounts, deposit, and gamble digitally.
Funding Online Betting Accounts from Pakistan
Since banks and cards block gambling transactions, eWallet services like Skrill or Neteller are the recommended deposit options. These allow fast, secure transfers to betting sites while keeping your financial details private. Many Pakistanis also use local digital wallets or cash deposit services to add funds before converting to betting cash.
Winnings can be withdrawn back to the eWallet and either kept there or cashed out. It’s advisable to withdraw in incremental amounts and not suddenly in huge sums to avoid financial scrutiny.
Taxation of Gambling Winnings
Pakistan’s tax code requires individuals to declare any lottery, game show or competition winnings as taxable income. In practice, it is extremely rare for gambling winners to voluntarily file these winnings or pay owed taxes. But a crackdown is possible, especially on high-profile prize winners.
Why Most Gambling is Illegal in Pakistan?
As an Islamic republic, the basis for Pakistan’s anti-gambling stance rests in religious principles. Most forms of gambling are forbidden in Islam. The original laws banning gambling were established in British India before Pakistan’s founding and reflected Victorian social values.
Relaxing gambling prohibitions would also face extreme political opposition from conservative religious factions. So despite public participation, legalizing gambling seems unlikely for the foreseeable future.
In summary, almost all gambling activities including online betting remain strictly illegal in Pakistan. However, offshore gambling sites still offer betting and casino games to Pakistani citizens who use eWallets and VPNs to play anonymously. While not risk-free, prosecutions are rare, letting those who wish to bet access regulated online bookmakers. But Pakistan is expected to keep its Islamic prohibitions on gambling for the long term.