The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with a primarily Sunni Muslim population of around 35 million people. The country is the 12th largest in the world and is famously oil-rich with petroleum being discovered there back in 1938, making it now the second-largest oil exporter in the world after the United States. Being a primarily Muslim country means that there is a rather strong anti-gambling sentiment, no matter the activity or setting. Despite this, people are still able to play gambling games and place sports bets online, due to overseas operations still being licensed and authorized in their respective regions.
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While gambling is prohibited in Muslim law and therefore Saudi Arabia law, the focus on the government is much more on shutting down local operations than actual players. This combined with the fact that it is also the government’s responsibility to block access to any sites that provide gambling-related activities means that it is actually rather easy for people to still play online. Many players use VPNs to get around country restrictions, however, this does tend to breach the terms and conditions of the casino. It is still possible to find sites that don’t restrict access for players residing in Saudi Arabia, although varying the legitimacy of any of these sites should always be a priority, since black-market operations are much more attracted to restricted or unregulated gambling regions.
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There is no Saudi Arabian gambling authority, due to the fact that any type of gambling is strictly prohibited. This sentiment is also reflected in the Sunni Muslim majority population who adhere to these values. Local operations can face severe punishments, as can players and participants, although, the authorities tend not to spend many resources on chasing down individual players. Regulations for online activities were cemented in 2007 with an Anti-Cyber Crime Law that made those caught preparing, publishing or promoting anything regarding online gambling face a steep punishment including up to five years of prison time and up to three million riyals (around $800,000) in fines.
Online casinos based overseas are not directly subject to these laws as they do not reach outside the boundaries of the sovereign Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Most sites instead operate from countries that are far more welcoming to gambling operations like Malta and Curaçao. It doesn’t appear that the law will be changing anytime soon, so these sites appear to be the best bet for those still unwavering in their pursuit to gamble freely.
While some online casinos might still allow players from Saudi Arabia access to their site, it’s a whole other thing to expect localized content on these sites. As mentioned regarding the Anti-Cyber Crime Law above, the government is particularly attentive to operations that are directly promoting content towards the population of Saudi Arabia. Localized content like dedicated welcome offers and Arabic language options are not only very resource-intensive for what are relatively smaller markets, they are also more likely to draw the unwanted attention of the Saudi Arabian government. You will therefore need to settle for the default site options, which are usually in English and with the US and/or euro payment options available to you. There may also be extensive restrictions with regards to promotional events and game selections, due to the region you are playing from.
As with the above-mentioned localization options, riyal currency support and payment options are not something that you should come to expect. A happy coincidence regarding the riyal though is that is fixed to the US dollar at 3.75 to the dollar since 1986. Luckily, the vast majority of online casinos have wide selections of US dollar payment options and this is a much more recommended option than the other default currency of euros, which doesn’t have any fixed exchange rate to the riyal.
Another alternative a lot of casino players are opting for is the use of cryptocurrencies. It has become so popular that some sites only accept this new currency. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have gained in popularity due to the security technology and privacy that provide the foundation for each exchange. They do however require some degree of tech-savviness to fully understand.
The only local gambling operations you are likely to find in Saudi Arabia are the black market and underground kind. Not only is the activity completely illegal, but there is also a severe social stigma that can be attached to anybody speaking aloud about playing. The only refuge for those wishing to play is online, where there are hundreds of sites available and sites are based in much more gambling liberal climates. These regions are also benefitted from having dedicated gambling authorities and social support networks for those providing and those playing anything gambling-related. This allows the government much more oversight over the industry ensuring that standards and fairness are maintained.
There’s is of course the added benefits of the jobs this industry provides, as well as the additional taxes that can be collected and put towards social projects. Like most of the Muslim world though, it doesn’t seem that these benefits will ever outweigh the cultural values that the people of Saudi Arabia have possessed far prior to the establishment of the country.
A gambling license is intended to protect players, and one of its main functions is to provide a mechanism for resolving disputes when they come up. If you have a dispute with a casino, and the casino is being unreasonable, the gambling authority will help you. For many licenses, this means you can contact the gambling authority to get help processing your withdrawals, claiming money the casino has debited from your account, or resolving other disputes that might arise. The likelihood that the gambling authority will help you in ways that are effective, however, depends on the procedures they have in place for this. This is yet another reason why choosing to play at a casino that has a safe license is important.
Getting help directly from the gambling authority is not always necessary, or even an option. A lot of regulators have now enforced third-party dispute resolution. This means casinos must have an agreement with an arbitrator who will look into disputes on the behalf of players from a particular casino. This ensures your dispute will be reviewed by an objective third party. All trusted online casinos have information about arbitration on their websites if they use this option, or they’ll have the contact information for the gambling authority you should consult. However, you should always try to resolve your issues with the casino first, and a lot of casinos have separate email addresses specifically for handling complaints.
If you’re worried about the security of the transactions you’re making at a casino, you should look for a logo with the acronym PCI DSS. This stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, and this is something the payment industry has created. If you see this logo, it means the casino can be trusted for safe money transactions since they follow all of the rules set by the payment industry. Information about this can also be found in an FAQ section on the casino’s website.Another thing to look out for in terms of payments is where your money is kept while you play. Some gambling authorities, all of the best ones actually, regulate what the casino can do with your money while they are holding it. Your money shouldn’t go into a general bank account held by the casino; it should go into an account that is strictly for holding player funds. This means that as long as you have the money in your player account, it can’t be spent by the casino. Your deposit will be kept separate from the operating funds of the casino until your player account is empty, which will happen if you make a funds withdrawal or if you lose the money while playing.
The best known system tool for ensuring that a casino offers fair games is eCogra; however, there are other providers that also offer these kinds of systems. You want to make sure that the casino is using a certified third-party control system to ensure that the games of chance you’re playing are actually based on chance and not on other types of metrics. Rigged games are ones that have been set up to pay out less than they claim to or ones that give some players a greater chance of winning than others.
The eCogra logo can often be found in the footer of the casino’s website, but not all casinos choose to display it. If you can’t see this logo, go to the FAQs and see if you can find information about random number generators. If there are no FAQs on the site, check out their terms and conditions or contact the casino’s support and ask how they ensure their games are safe.
Most trustworthy casinos have information about site security in the website footer, so simply scroll down and look for the logo of a well-known security system.
The gambling license a casino operates under will have a big impact on your security. Not all licenses are equally safe for players for the simple reason that they are issued by different gambling authorities that work in different ways and have different rules. The rules and regulations may be quite similar, but the way they are enforced is a different story entirely. For example, if a casino doesn’t comply with the regulations, some gambling authorities may just issue a fine while others may revoke the casino’s license outright. How often gambling authorities show up for an unscheduled inspection or control will also vary.
The biggest differences between a safe, high quality gambling license and one that isn’t as good will usually show up in the areas of fair gaming, dispute resolution and the rules and systems for identifying and handling problem gamblers (responsible gambling). If your country of residence has its own gambling authority, playing at casinos that are licensed by them will be the safest option for you. Other international licenses that can be trusted are issued by the Malta Gambling Authority and the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. Curacao eGaming is getting better at protecting players whereas licenses from Panama and Costa Rica, for instance, are considered less safe. The worst option is obviously a casino with no license whatsoever.