The legalities of various types of gambling vary between countries and even between states. Certain types are illegal almost everywhere, but most places recognize the exceptions and allow some form of legal gambling.  Some places have gambling exceptions outlined in statutes that make certain forms illegal, while others only recognize them in practice, making them officially illegal but unlikely to be prosecuted.


Five Common Legal Types of Gambling


Legal forms of gambling differ between places, but there are five legal types of gambling. These types include:

  • Social gambling
  • Lotteries
  • Charitable raffles
  • Bingo
  • Dog or horse race betting


What Factors Determine the Legality of Gambling?


There are certain factors that are considered when deciding whether a form of gambling is legal or illegal.


Skill or Chance

Games that require skill are usually given more leniency than games that are purely ones of chance.



Games that place all players on equal footing are more likely to be legal. Games with high house odds are less likely to be legal.



Games that only require players to make small bets are more likely to be allowed than those with high stakes.



In most cases, gambling in private settings is more legal than in public settings. Holding a Saturday night poker game among friends in your home, for example, is more likely to be legal than holding it in a community center for the public.

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Online Gambling


If you’re playing online casino games, there are some legal loopholes at play depending on the gambling laws of where you live. Take Canada, for instance. It is technically illegal to operate an online casino in Canada. However, it is legal for a Canadian to gamble at an online casino.


If you look at the fine print, you will find that most online casinos hold their gaming license in a country where it’s legal to run online casinos. If it’s legal to play offshore, then you’re not breaking any laws by gambling online.


What is Considered Illegal Gambling?


The rules aren’t exactly clear, but some types of gambling are considered illegal in most jurisdictions. Most of them involve placing bets with “bookies” or bookmakers, animal fighting, underage betting, or amateur events that don’t have gambling permits.


To identify whether a certain form of gambling is illegal, it can help to be knowledgeable about the laws in your jurisdiction. While individual laws may differ, legal gambling generally requires that you place a bet on something that provides an opportunity to win, even if only by chance.


While social betting is legal in most places, underground betting is not. Most commonly, this involves bookies, which facilitate taking bets, setting odds, and accepting and paying out money. They often make money by lending to gamblers and charging transaction fees. If placing your bet seems like a business transaction, it might be illegal. You can spot a gambling scam using the same logic needed to spot other types of financial scams. Using common-sense can help to avoid participating in illegal schemes.

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Final Thoughts


As a general rule, there are five types of legal gambling. These include social gambling,

lotteries, charitable raffles, bingo, and dog or horse race betting. Gambling laws are different in every jurisdiction, so be sure to know the laws for your specific area. While there are plenty of illegal gambling activities and scams, basic common sense combined with knowledge of gambling legalities can help you avoid participating in illegal activity.





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