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Qatar Online Casinos

QatarThe very small nation of Qatar is probably best known throughout most of the world for the fact that it will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Located along the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, you would probably expect this Islamic nation to have a pretty hardline stance against gambling, and for the most part, you would be right.

But that doesn’t mean that you can place a bet in the country at all. Sure, even the racing industry here (based more on camels than horses) is designed to operating without taking any (legal) betting, but you don’t have to confine yourself to the physical world. There’s plenty of opportunity for playing at online casinos, even if the local government isn’t so happy about the fact that so many sites still operate here.

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Islamic Culture Limits Opportunities for Gamblers

As with many of its Muslim neighbors in the Middle East, Qatar has very strict laws regarding where and how individuals can gamble within their borders. In this case, that means absolutely no legal gambling at any time, anywhere in the country.

If you know a little bit about Qatar, the complete prohibition might come as a bit of surprise, particularly because the nation is one that has become very invested in the world of sports. We mentioned the World Cup up top, but cricket has also become quite popular here in recent years – and it is common knowledge how much betting happens on these sports. But all sports betting is officially prohibited here.

That ban extends to parimutuel wagering as well. That might make you less interested in checking out the exciting races at Al-Shahaniya Racetrack near Doha, where you can see camels speed around the very long courses set before them. Typically held between November and February, professional camel racing has been staged here since 1972, and continues to this day. Even how you watch the races is exciting: rather than sit in a seat and try to keep track of the camels as they race off into the distance (these races are sometimes up to 10 kilometers long), you’ll be able to follow them around on an outside track while traveling in an SUV.

In between the camel track and the one used by spectators is one where the owners of the racers drive around – not just to follow the action, but also to influence it. How this works goes back to a major change in the races that took place in the last decade. Children were once the primary jockeys in these contests, but this proved to be a controversial practice: many of the children were abused, and even more would suffer serious injuries from being thrown from their camels during races.

But in 2002, the United Arab Emirates became the first nation to ban the use of those under 15 as jockeys in racing. Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, followed suit in 2005. That still left the question of who would replace the kids, and the solution was a novel and interesting one: all camel races are now held using small robot jockeys. The camel owners can issue instructions to the robots to whip the camels, pull back on the reins, or issue vocal orders. It’s an incredible sight to see, and many tourists have now made these races the highlight of their trip to Doha.

While gambling is entirely illegal in this country, there is certainly talk of illegal games that are set up across the country. There have been news reports out of the nation about gangs that have run underground card games, typical in empty houses throughout Doha, with the locations changing on a regular basis to stay under the radar. We wouldn’t exactly recommend seeking these games out, but it is a sign that at least some locals want to gamble, even if the culture as a whole doesn’t support the activity.

Many Online Sites Available

Obviously, Qatar takes just as strong a stance when it comes to Internet gaming as they do for activities taking place in the real world. The national government even makes an attempt to block many foreign sites from operating with its borders, though these efforts are only partially effective. And while some operators have decided to respect the government’s wishes and keep out of the country, others are still actively participating in the market today. This means that many Qatari citizens play real money Internet gambling games on a regular basis.

How does this work? Many operators regard this and similar nations as grey markets, due to the fact that there is absolutely no regulatory oversight. That means there are no licensing systems to navigate, and even if the government may not want them around, some companies are willing to ignore this, especially since there isn’t an alternative, regulated system for anyone to operate here.

While the decision of any particular site on whether to operate in Qatar is up to the owners, you’ll find a number of different Internet casinos operating here with a variety of different software packages. A few of the major software providers who allow their products to be used here include:

  • Microgaming
  • Betsoft
  • Net Entertainment
  • RealTime Gaming (RTG)
  • Rival Gaming

Change Unlikely, At Least From Within

Given the very anti-gambling stance of the Qatari government, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on any changes that could take place that might make it more difficult to get to your favorite online betting sites within the country. Surprisingly, those changes might not occur because of the government itself, but rather from operators who decide to clean up their regulatory profile.

For instance, take the example of what PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker did in 2014. That October, the two sites – now both owned by a public company, Amaya Gaming – dropped out of 30 “grey market” nations, including Qatar and many other Middle Eastern countries. The move was likely one made in order to limit Amaya’s exposure to markets that is wasn’t clearly legal to operate in by dropping out of a number of nations where they weren’t doing that much business anyway. It’s certainly possible that more operators could make this move in the future, though we hardly think there will ever be a shortage of casino sites offering their games here.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for gambling restrictions to loosen in this nation, you’ll likely be waiting a very long time. The cultural and religious opposition to gaming runs deep, and even charitable gaming or similar initiatives are likely a long way off in Qatar.

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