Algeria, officially known as the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in North Africa and is the largest one by total area on the continent and among other Arab countries. Many consider Algeria the gateway between Europe and Africa, with the country also being a member of the Arab League (League of Arab States).
When it comes to the legal status of gambling in Algeria, as one would assume, this type of activity is strictly forbidden by law. This is not surprising, considering about 99% of Algeria’s population is Muslim. As the legal system of the country is largely based on Sharia law, any form of gambling is strictly forbidden.
Despite the strict ban on gambling in the country, a few activities that may be considered forms of gambling have been legalized in Algeria. As all of them incur a huge tax of 40%, however, they can be considered a form of charity rather than gambling. What is more, legal betting activities play a huge role in funding public services and charity causes.
History of Gambling in Algeria
While nowadays gambling is strictly forbidden in Algeria, this is not to say that this type of activity has not been around throughout the country’s history. In 1909, when Algeria was still a colony of the French, horse racing tracks were introduced on the territory of the African country. Unfortunately, in 1977, placing wagers on races that were organized abroad was banned. This seriously affected the horse racing betting sector in Algeria.
In 1962, handball gained huge popularity among Algerians thanks to the introduction of the Algerian Handball Championship. This is also one of the sports that individuals residing in Algeria can bet on via Pari Sportif Algerien (PSA).
One of the key moments in Algeria’s legal framework was the passing of the Algerian Family Code. It established Sharia law as the main guideline for the country’s regulatory system. Based on the teachings of the Quran that deems gambling as sinful, the Algerian Family Code bans gambling on the territory of Algeria.
A ministerial decree No. 98-257 was passed in 1998, requiring internet service providers to restrict access to any content on the web that may be considered offensive or immoral. Websites that provide gambling-related products would also fall under the category of blocked content.
The Algerian lottery was first introduced thanks to a decree in 1937. Following the changes in the legislative framework of the country, this form of entertainment was reintroduced in 2006. With the changes in the lottery regulations, a 40% tax on winnings was also introduced, with these funds being used for funding welfare causes.
To further reinforce restrictions on inappropriate content found online, in 2010, internet censorship was introduced after there were several political movements from the opposition parties. Under these amendments to the law, the country can block any website that is seen as a threat to public decency and morality. Even though the decree that required internet providers to block specific websites was repealed in 2012, online censorship prevailed.
Gambling Regulation in Algeria
1The Algerian Family Code
Like in many other Islamic countries, Algeria’s gambling industry is regulated by Sharia law. The main piece of legislation that is largely based on the teachings of the Quran is the Algerian Family Code which was enacted in 1984. Under Article 222 of the same piece of legislation, all games of chance are illegal in Algeria.
You will not find any local authorities regulating gambling in Algeria or licensing any of the legal betting activities. The current legal framework of Algeria is mainly comprised of laws and codes that are included in the penal code that is implemented by the law enforcement agencies in the African country.
2Part Ⅵ Articles 165-169 of the Penal Code
While gambling, as well as most other things in Algeria, are regulated by the Algerian Family Code, gambling is also mentioned in the Penal Code of the country. Under Part Ⅵ, Articles 165 through 169, one could find definitions of illegal activities as well as the penalties that those who break the law will face.
The articles under this part of Alegria’s penal code are only concerned with those providing gambling content online or operating land-based betting shops. Meanwhile, the penal code does not mention anything about individuals who participate in gambling activities. According to the said articles of the penal code, penalties will apply to any individual who conducts or is a part of the operation of illegal gaming activities. Those who break the law may face a jail time of 3 to 12 months and also pay a fine that may range between DZD 500 and DZD 20,000.
Lotteries and Skill-Based Betting in Algeria
As mentioned before, there are just a few forms of wagering that have been legalized in Algeria, all of them incurring a huge tax that is used to fund various charitable causes. The lottery was one of the first activities that were legalized in the African country even before the Algerian Family Code was enacted. In 2006, the lottery was reintroduced and the extremely high tax rate of 40% was applied to winnings that are won via lottery games.
This sector is run by the Pari Sportif Algérien (PSA), with the organization offering scratchcards and two variations of traditional lottery games. The first draw type of lottery game is known as Loto Erriadhi. The goal of players is to guess correctly six numbers that are drawn in a game with a total of 49 balls. The other lottery game that Algerians can play is known as Loto Mohtaref which will grant a win to those who match seven numbers out of a total of 35 numbered balls.
Through lottery shops operated by the PSA, Algerians are also allowed to bet on a limited number of sports. Exotic betting markets are not among the options punters can make use of but they will be able to make basic bets on a few sports. The money collected via legal sports betting is used to support Algerian athletes.
The sports that Algerians can bet on include football, handball, and volleyball. These are sports that are extremely popular in the country, with Algeria boasting great athletes in all three sports. Like in many other parts of the world, football is the most popular sport in Algeria. The national football team of the country managed to qualify for the FIFA tournaments four times, with the latest one being in 2014.
One of the reasons why handball has become one of the favorite sports of Algerians is the Algeria Handball Championship. It was established in 1962, shortly after the country gained its independence, and is still running annually.
As for volleyball, it is also a major sport in Algeria, with the Algerian Men’s Volleyball League and Algerian Women’s Volleyball crowning a national champion every season. The two volleyball leagues rank among the best ones in Africa, with the teams also showing great performances in various international competitions.
Horse racing betting is also legal in Algeria but the requirement that must be met is for punters to be present at the racetrack and place their bets there. There are a total of nine racing tracks located in Algeria. The organization that provides horse racing betting is Société des Courses Hippiques et du Pari Mutuel.
Online Gambling in Algeria
As it was already established, according to the Sharia law all forms of gambling are forbidden and Algeria, as a Muslim country, is following the law and has deemed gambling activities illegal. The restrictions in the African country apply to both land-based and online gambling. The only exceptions are the few skill-based betting forms mentioned above.
While there is no option for operators to apply for licenses to launch gambling in Algeria, there are still some legal loopholes that are used by some people to gamble online. Offshore websites are often a way for some people to gamble online, with players typically using VPNs to access foreign gaming sites. Although this is still considered illegal, there are still no cases of Algerians being prosecuted for gambling on foreign sites using VPNs to avoid the internet censorship that has been implemented in the country.
Gambling Licensing and Taxes
Even though the government of Algeria has permitted a few organizations to offer some skill-based betting activities, there are no authorities that are responsible for licensing or overseeing the betting that is conducted by the said operators. As there are no licensing bodies, there is no way for other companies to obtain a permit for offering skill-based betting games.
The few betting options that have been legalized in Algeria are all used to fund charitable causes. A 40% tax rate is applied on all winnings that have been accumulated through betting. Even those who are betting on an offshore Algerian website will have to keep in mind the tax requirements. Typically, in such cases, there is no tax applied to one’s winnings but if the government ever decided to investigate one’s online betting experience, they might be accused of tax evasion.
To put it simply, gambling is and will most likely continue to be an illegal activity in Algeria as the country’s legislation is based for the most part on Sharia law. Games of chance are harshly criticized in the Quran, they cannot be legalized in the African country. That said, there are just a few skill-based forms of betting that have been legalized in Algeria.
Although lottery games, horse racing bettings, and basic bets on a few sports have been legalized in Algeria, winnings collected from these types of betting are subjected to a 40% tax. The money collected through these taxes is typically used for funding charitable causes or supporting Algerian athletes.
While there are no signs of introducing more lax regulations, there are some speculations of the Algerian government amending its laws to tackle some legal loopholes. This could mean that those resorting to VPNs to gamble online on offshore websites may have a difficult time continuing to do so. That said, currently, there are no changes to the main laws regulating gambling in the country.