Gambling Around the World

In 1665, all gambling was made illegal. In 1698, lotteries were made illegal, largely because those running them would claim one person would win in one area and another person in another area, which meant that they could get away with collecting lots of money in entries and paying out nothing because there was no efficient system of communication. Lord Beaconsfield was heard to remark that gambling was, “… a vast engine of national demoralization.”

Gambling in the United Kingdom Today

The illegality of gambling in the United Kingdom lasted nearly 500 years. It wasn’t until 1960 that Parliament enacted legislation, the Gaming Act of 1960, that legalized gambling. Beginning in January 1961, the first legal gambling was on card games of skill, such as bridge. Four months later, small gaming shops opened legally in the United Kingdom for the first time.

In 2005, the gambling laws received an overhaul. The Gambling Act of 2005 further codified the rules, regulations, and laws regarding gambling. The first thing the 2005 Act did was set the legal age for gambling, which is 16 for scratchcards, football pools, and the national lottery and 18 for casinos and most gaming machines. Even children may participate in non-commerical gambling, such as raffles or pools where there is an equal chance of winning. Basically, children aren’t allowed to gamble against any “house advantage.”

There are two popular lotteries in addition to the national lottery: the health lottery and the postal code lottery. Both of these endeavors support charities. In the case of the health lottery, 20p of every pound spent buying tickets goes to support health-related charities in the United Kingdom. In the case of the postal code lottery, 30 percent of all monies collected go to various charities around the world.

The Rest of the World

There are almost as many rules regarding gambling, particularly the legal gambling age, as there are countries in the world. Greece, for example, requires anyone who gambles to be 23 years of age, which is the highest across-the-board minimum gambling age in the world. In certain casinos, Portugal limits players to 25 years of age or more, if they’re Portuguese natives. Interestingly, Portugal only requires foreigners to be 18 years old to gamble.

The United States

Because, as the name implies, the U.S. is made up of 50 states, four territories, and the District of Columbia, there are separate rules for gambling in all of these in addition to certain national guidelines. Additionally, there are rules for each kind of gambling. In the State of Maine, for example, gamblers must 18 years of age to play the state lottery or participate in parimutuel betting, which includes horse or greyhound racing, and short-duration sporting events, such as jai alai. To enter a casino in Maine, a gambler must be 21 years old; however, a 16-year-old may play bingo even in a state-sanctioned bingo parlor. It should be noted, too, that parimutuel betting pits bettors against each other rather than against the house. In Utah and Hawaii, all forms of gambling are still illegal. To be sure of complying with all applicable laws and other regulations, persons wishing to gamble in an applicable establishment in the United States would be wise to check with the appropriate authorities before placing their first bet.


Casino gambling is illegal in Japan. The leading Japanese organized crime syndicate, called the Yakuza, operates illegal brick-and-mortar casinos throughout the country, however. They also operate illegal mobile casinos, some of which offer such quick games as rock-paper-scissors or longer games, such as Mahjong. Remember, casino gambling is illegal, so it’s best not to take your chances in such establishments.

Other forms of gambling are legal in Japan. You can bet on:

  • Motorcycle racing
  • Powerboat racing
  • Horse racing
  • Bicycle racing

Lotteries and pools are covered under special laws that ensure the proceeds support the legitimate government.


Pachinko is a culturally significant pastime in Japan. Pachinko machines are like a combination of pinball and slot machine. It is illegal to win cash playing Pachinko, but you can collect special tokens that you can redeem for prizes in the Pachinko parlour. Savvy gamblers can find out where they can “sell” their tokens for cash at other establishments nearby, though. Because they don’t actually win the cash in the Pachinko parlour, they break no laws. In many cases, the owners of the parlour own the nearby establishments where you can sell your tokens.

Monte Carlo

Perhaps the most famous casino in the world, the Casino de Monte-Carlo conjures up visions of glamorous princes and princesses sidling up to the Chemin de Fer table with stacks of cash in one hand and glasses of Chateau-Lafite Rothschild or Dom Perignon in the other. In reality, the casino there, although not a royal palace, is still sumptuously decorated and offers fair, exciting gambling in most any casino game of which you might have heard. You have to be 18 to gamble in the Casino de Monte-Carlo, and private salons require that you wear black tie.

Of course, there are other casinos in Monte Carlo, but the Casino de Monte-Carlo is the most famous. You might not see princes, princesses, or former members of the MIT Blackjack Team, but you’ll still likely have fun in this most famous of casinos.

No matter where you gamble in the world, it pays to be responsible and never play for more than you can afford to lose. Generally, it’s good practice to take only the money with which you intend to play and leave your chequebook, credit cards, and debit cards at home.