Online gambling is mostly illegal in the Bahamas and is very restricted, but something similar to online casinos exist on the islands. In , a referendum was held with the aim of legalising and regulating such web shops, as well as establishing a national lottery, but both proposals were rejected. Nowadays, the bigger establishments work very similarly to the electronic casinos of Europe, with terminals or on your mobile device if they have the required license you can access their online casino games, even sports betting, the ever popular numbers game in the physical locations, but only in the physical locations, not from your home.
Additionally, the big casino resorts have online gambling within their casinos spaces as well, as an addition to their gambling offerings. The new measures taken to legalize the shops were actually so effective that by there were only one illegally operating web shop chain remaining. It is also illegal for residents of the Bahamas to access foreign online gambling sites.
All gambling is overseen by the Gaming Board for The Bahamas. They are responsible for issuing license:. Unlike in most other countries the tax system rewards people who make more money. This is a goo idea, usually the smaller operators are more problematic and contribute more to problem gambling that the bigger ones, not to mention that the big casino resorts contribute to the Bahamian economy in many other ways as well.
The Gaming Act was set up to address the growing popularity of online gambling in The Bahamas. Under the new law, some internet betting was permitted with the proxy gaming, mobile gaming and restricted interactive gaming licenses. Bahamian casinos can now apply for gaming licences that permit some in-house internet gaming.
These allow players to bet online or on mobile within the casino property. However, online gaming from websites managed in The Bahamas is not allowed. Land-based casino gambling is legal in the Bahamas, and extremely popular among tourists to the country, especially those from the United States. However, locals, employees, people from abroad with work permits are banned from playing at all in the big casinos at the resorts Atlantis Paradise Island Resort and Casino and Baha Mar.
Apart from these big casinos, the gambling scene is dominated by the casino-like webshops for the locals e. Bahamian locals are not allowed to access foreign online gambling platforms either. However, such sites are not blocked and players are not prosecuted, and many online casinos accept players from the Bahamas. Click here for more info on casinos in the Bahamas. Bingo is legal in the Bahamas, and is offered by most of the big casinos in the country.
But Bahamian residents are not allowed to enter these casinos, and there are no bingo venues available for the locals. Charity bingo nights have been held by the Bahamas Humane Society, raising money for the well-being of cats and dogs in animal shelters. There are no online bingo sites based in the Bahamas. Participation in live poker games in the Bahamas is legal for tourists, but local residents are not allowed in the big casino resorts.
Poker games are available in all of the big land-based casinos in the country. With the yearly event of the online poker giant Pokerstars taking place here, it might come as a surprise that poker and online poker are illegal for Bahamian residents.
However, in reality, these rules are not enforced and players, who play poker online are not prosecuted. Sports betting has been legal in the casinos of the Bahamas since , and most casinos on the islands have seized the opportunity, offering several options for gamblers. Guests of the casinos can follow live event on several HD video feeds.
Wagering opportunities include both sports games and horse races. The webshops, the quasi online casinos have online sports betting of course accessible only the physical location since the Gaming Act. As the referendum aiming to establish a national lottery was rejected, there are currently no national lottery. However, the now legalized webshops continue to offer online lottery. Access to foreign lottery websites is not blocked, and many foreign online lotteries and lottery agents let people from the Bahamas purchase lottery tickets online.
Bitcoin gambling is not specifically mentioned in the Bahamian gambling regulations. However, all forms of online gambling are illegal for residents of the islands except for the very limited online gambling with a restricted interactive gaming licence. And as all other forms of online gambling in the Bahamas, Bitcoin gambling is also not prosecuted and websites are not blocked.
The following online casino websites accept bitcoin, litecoin and ethereum, and accept players from the Bahamas:. Please let me know in the comments section if you think we might have gotten something wrong or if you have additional information, clarification about the legal status of online gambling in this country, especially if you are from the Bahamas or nearby.
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In gambling, the many must lose in order that the few may win. THE gambling debate in the Bahamas has always been surreal — part of a weird fantasy world that is difficult to navigate with logic. There are two zones to this strange world — one in which three or four hotel casinos operate legally as a tourist amenity, and another populated by hundreds of illegal Numbers sellers catering to tens of thousands of Bahamian gamblers.
The casino zone originated in the s, when Prohibition in the US offered a chance to make huge profits from bootlegging. Money flowed freely, and millions were invested in real estate, with new resorts like the Colonial and Montagu Hotels coming on stream. Although organised gambling was officially banned nationwide, a small casino called the Bahamian Club began operating seasonally in on New Providence, catering to a very restricted clientele.
The Numbers zone dates back to 16th century Europe and has been thriving here since the s at least. This game of chance is associated with poor communities around the world because punters can bet small sums of money and get credit from their bookies. Our first anti-gambling law was passed in , and was gradually strengthened to create an absolute ban on the operation of lotteries and gaming houses for profit.
But in the law was amended to allow exceptions to this rule. The effect was to create a licensing procedure, and the two small foreign-owned casinos were immediately regularized. These early certificates of exemption carried few conditions, but they always excluded minors, persons born here, employed residents, and civil servants from gambling. Only visitors and non-Bahamian retirees living here could legally gamble in the casinos.
Between and , there were several applications for casino licenses from reputable groups. But all were denied on the basis that the exemption law was not designed to provide for the introduction of casino gambling on a large scale or on a permanent basis. In , Shirley Oakes Butler a daughter of Sir Harry Oakes tried to acquire the Bahamian Club to operate as a year-round casino, with half the profits earmarked for charity.
The following year, a group of top hoteliers met with Sir Stafford Sands who was then Tourism Minister to propose a government-controlled casino and convention centre, from which the entire industry could benefit. But planning was already in hand for a private hotel casino on Paradise Island.
This dramatic expansion of casino gambling in Freeport and on Paradise Island was a direct result of the Cuban Revolution, which had forced American casino operators to look for new territory. The Bahamas was right next door, and the developers of Freeport were desperate to build a resort industry on the island of Grand Bahama. But the pro-casino policy promoted by Sands and others was hugely controversial due to intense opposition from the powerful religious community. When the Progressive Liberal Party took office in it continued the exemptions for casinos on Grand Bahama and Paradise Island, but passed a new law in to set up a regulatory agency the Gaming Board and provide for the taxation of casinos.
Restrictions on Bahamians and residents gambling in casinos were left unchanged. Some commentators have claimed that these restrictions were racially motivated, but the record is clear that they were the result of opposition from the churches — an attempt to insulate the issue from public concern in the belief that casinos were important for the economy.
No efforts to challenge this bizarre status quo have gone anywhere over the past 50 years. Casinos remain legal but Bahamians cannot use them legally, while the Numbers racket is illegal but patronized by most Bahamians without any consequence whatsoever. The last FNM administration floated the idea of a referendum to change this by legalising lotteries and ending the ban on Bahamians gambling in casinos. He promised a referendum in his next term, should he be re-elected.
The PLP promised the same thing. And Prime Minister Perry Christie has confirmed that a referendum on the matter will be held before the end of this year. Aside from a few Islamic countries, the Bahamas is almost alone in not permitting its citizens to gamble in one form or another. Nearly two-thirds of that came from lotteries and casinos — which operate in at least countries these days.
Just as the internet disrupted other business models, it is also changing the gambling industry. Over the last decade, anyone who had an internet connection and wanted to gamble was able to do so. This is why web shops are able to operate openly here. So these businesses are licensed and legal.
The law does refer to the printing and selling of tickets or chances in a lottery or drawing, and this is what makes the Numbers draw illegal. Retired assistant police commissioner Paul Thompson told me recently that one of his first postings as a young officer in was to a special squad of detectives that raided the Numbers houses.
We considered it more important to focus on serious crime. And it has been that way ever since — occasional raids, followed by long spells of non-interference. In fact, at one time, the biggest Numbers boss on the island was the treasurer of the PLP. And it is common knowledge that you can go almost anywhere today and buy numbers easily and painlessly. While there is no way to know what the Numbers operators earn, it is clearly a hugely profitable business with no regulatory oversight other than the occasional fine or political contribution.
Restrictions were gradually strengthened in the US during the 19th century in response to abuses, so that by virtually all forms of gambling were prohibited — even bingo. But attitudes began to change during the Depression, when legalised gambling was seen as a way to stimulate the economy.
Growing opposition to tax increases helped to establish state-run lotteries in the second half of the 20th century. Today, 43 states have lotteries, mostly marketed as voluntary taxes for education, and 12 allow commercial casinos. So what are the key issues in the Bahamian gambling debate? Many politicians see legalisation as an easy way to extract more revenue from the private sector.
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