Pakistan, also known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia, bordering India to the east and Afghanistan to the west. The country also shares borders with China to the northeast and Iran to the southwest. Pakistan ranks as the fifth most populated country in the world, with a population of over 225 million.
Pakistan has a long history of being a part of different empires, starting from the Indian Mauryan Empire and finishing as a colony of the British Empire. In 1947, following the Pakistan Movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the country was announced for an independent nation. In 1956, a new constitution was approved, with Pakistan being proclaimed an Islamic republic. Like other predominantly Muslim countries, Pakistan has also deemed all forms of gambling illegal.
Online gambling also counts as an unlawful act in Pakistan. In fact, those who are caught gambling at virtual casinos can even face jail as wagering at online casinos may count as operating a gaming house. There are a few laws that regulate gambling on the territory of Pakistan. That said, the key law under which any form of gambling in the country is forbidden is the Prevention of Gambling Act of 1977.
While gambling is illegal in Pakistan, that is not to say there are no attempts to break the law. In this piece of article, we will try to cover all of the legalities concerning gambling in Pakistan and the consequences one might face if one breaks the law.
As already mentioned, any form of gambling is illegal on the territory of Pakistan. The current law under which such activities are deemed as unlawful is the Prevention of Gambling Act 1977. This act is largely based on the Public Gambling Act of 1867 which came into effect during the time of the British Empire. In 1978, the provincial versions of the Gambling Act were adopted.
The amended version of the law acted as a replacement for a number of previous laws that were responsible for the regulation of gambling in different regions of Pakistan. Some of the laws that were replaced by the Prevention of Gambling Act 1977 include the Prevention of Gambling Ordinance in Baluchistan, West Pakistan, Punjab, and Sindh, all enacted in 1961.
Since the Gambling Act was adopted before online gambling was really a thing, it is understandable why it is not specifically mentioned in the law. That said, online gambling is still considered illegal in Pakistan and anyone caught gambling online may be penalized according to the section forbidding participating in gambling in a common gaming house.
Even though all forms of gambling are deemed illegal in Pakistan, the lack of regulation on online gambling provides a legal loophole that some offshore sites take advantage of. It can be difficult, however, to find a reputable gaming or betting website that accepts registrations from Pakistan. Even though there might be some websites that cater to Pakistani players and punters, one should keep in mind this still counts as an illegal action that may lead to severe penalties.
Horse Race Betting
While all forms of gambling are illegal in Pakistan, tote betting on horse races became legal in 1979. The decision to legalize wagers on the sport was made by General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, the then military ruler of Pakistan. While this move seemed unreasonable to many, there were speculations that this was the General’s way to win over numerous politicians who supported his regime and were racehorse owners themselves.
Even though placing wagers on horse races has become legal, the activity is entangled with numerous corruption cases. Often horse owners and bookmakers purposefully throw a race, profiting from the losses of the public betting on the horses favored to win.
Naturally, as Pakistani punters developed an appetite for betting, underground cricket gambling has also become popular in the country. At the beginning of the ’90s, bookmakers located on the territory of Lahore were accepting record-high numbers of crickets bets, joining forces with bookies based in Mumbai, India. Unfortunately, this sport was also corrupted by numerous attempts to bribe cricket players to throw several games and bring some influential Pakistani bettors guaranteed profits.
Horse Racing Betting Taxes in Pakistan
Being the only betting form that has been legalized in Pakistan, horse racing wagers are subjected to taxes. These are determined by The Punjab Horse-Race Betting Tax Act which came into effect in 1958. Under that piece of legislation, punters who place wagers on horse races are required to pay a tax that should not exceed 20% of the amount they have spent for their bets.
The taxes collected by bookmakers should be given to the manager responsible for the betting tax collection on behalf of the Government. Under the same act, it is also stated that the Government has the right to decide the specific time and place at which bookmakers are allowed to accept and settle horse racing bets. The same law also requires that winning bets must be paid to punters in the form of a cheque.
The manager appointed by the Government is responsible for overseeing the bets collected by bookmakers or totalizators as well as the taxes collected by punters. It is also under the manager’s remit to make sure that winning bets are paid accordingly.
Although Pakistan has been a colony of the British Empire for numerous years, even after it has become an independent country, many of its laws have remained just as stringent as before. As Pakistan was announced to be an Islamic country, it comes as no surprise that gambling is not tolerated by Pakistani laws. As expected, all forms of gambling are currently illegal on the territory of Pakistan, with those breaking the laws facing harsh penalties.
Currently, gambling activities on the territory of Pakistan are regulated by the Prevention of Gambling Act of 1977. Being adopted at a time when online gambling was not a thing, this piece of legislation does not provide any specific clarification on the legality of virtual gambling. This is why some offshore online casinos accept players from Pakistan, offering them various games to wager real money on. That said, one should keep in mind that, except for horse racing betting, all forms of gambling are considered illegal in Pakistan, which applies in some form to online gaming as well.
While some believe that the country needs to update its laws and decriminalize some gambling activities, currently, there are no signs of changing the legal status of land-based or online gambling in Pakistan.