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Gambia, often also referred to as The Gambia, is a very small African country of only about 4000 square miles, with a population of about 1.9 million people. It is among Africa’s poorer countries, with a per capita purchasing power GDP of only about $1800 a year, and a third of the population living under the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. (1)
The three biggest industries in The Gambia are farming, fishing, and tourism. Many of the people here are sustenance farmers, which isn’t unusual for poorer African countries, and beyond that, while Gambia does have an open economy and they seem to want to improve economic conditions here, they aren’t really making that much progress.
Being such a small country, the smallest country on the African mainland, their lack of natural resources certainly is an impediment to growth, as is their rather small population. The Gambia certainly needs to make due with what they have, and one of these resources has been tourism, but in a recent decision they are moving away from that and have been criticized by many for not having the best interests of the country at heart.
The Gambia is 95% Muslim, and Muslims generally avoid gambling, at least Muslims in other parts of the world anyway, although this has been far from the case in Gambia, where gambling has been rampant.
Not long ago, there were 8 casinos operating in Gambia, and very few countries in Africa had more casinos, which was even more impressive given The Gambia’s very small size. On top of that, they had a national lottery, and many gambling and sports betting dens, spread throughout the country.
So in March 2015, by way of presidential decree, gambling became illegal in The Gambia, and all of the legal gambling operations were forced to shut down. You still see casinos listed here as being open on several sites on the internet, but at the time of this writing, they are now all closed down. (2)
While the gambling market here has certainly raised revenues for Gambia, unlike in some countries, particularly some African ones, where a lot of the gambling that goes on is mostly undertaken by tourists, gambling in Gambia is much more of a grass root movement, and the government finally became concerned enough that it was affecting the welfare of their citizens negatively enough that they turned their backs from the extra revenue it generates and the additional tourism it attracts and just ended it. (3)
Now this doesn’t mean that this will stop gambling here, and in fact when we look at other countries who have banned or severely restricted gambling where it was very popular among the people, well the will of the people tend to win out, and they simply turn to underground gambling to satisfy their demand for it.
So this may be a little naïve of the government of The Gambia to think they can just make this problem go away by decree, but what they can very effectively make go away is their share of the gambling market, and may just be turning these profits over into the hands of far less scrupulous operators as tends to be the case when gambling becomes entirely deregulated.
This does not mean that the law will remain in effect long term, and it very well may be that this decision becomes reversed to some degree anyway, and we may see legal gambling in Gambia return in some form at some point. This looks like an overreaction where other solutions may have been more suitable, like for instance keeping the casinos open, which are for the most part well out of reach of the people, and the casinos are still there, so we may see them reopen at some point, although there are currently no plans for this at this time.
Playing Poker In Gambia
Gambia did have one poker room, at the Kololi Casino, back when it was allowed to operate, although poker here really hasn’t caught on yet among the people very much, and this poker room did cater to tourists mostly. (3)
With no land based gambling options available as of now, poker players here are relegated to either underground games or playing online, and there probably isn’t that many underground poker games that go on here, if any, once again due to the relative lack of demand toward the game, as opposed to the demand for other forms of gambling that are popular here, such as casino games, sports betting, and lottery type games.
So this really only leaves internet poker as a viable option, although prior to this new law that was the only real option anyway, as a poker room with 3 poker tables simply isn’t going to represent much poker playing for sure.
The Gambia has a surprisingly good percentage of its people with internet access, about 20%, which may not sound like much compared with developed countries, but it’s 10 times what some African countries have these days, ones in the same boat pretty much as far as the degree of poverty goes.
Of course with such a small population as Gambia has, this doesn’t cash out to all that many internet users, less than 400,000 right now, but that’s still a decent potential market for online poker anyway.
As of right now anyway, players can still play online without any interference from the government, but this law is still fairly new and we’ll have to see if the government seeks to restrict access to online poker sites. The Gambia is infamous for its internet restrictions already and people already can’t access a lot of material on the internet so it’s likely that gambling sites will be included at some point. (4)
Most of the world’s top online poker sites still accept players from Gambia, although we may see a movement away from this in time as the dust settles from their new prohibitions on gambling. Online gambling wasn’t really targeted with this new decree though although it does specify that all forms of gambling are now illegal in Gambia so this presumably includes online gambling as well.
So online poker players may at some point need to turn to a virtual private network, or VPN, to connect to the internet, although Gambia is one of those countries where it is very useful anyway due to the already significant restrictions the people face here.
Top Online Poker Sites Accepting Players from The Gambia
If you are from The Gambia and are looking to try out online poker, or you already play online poker, and in either case are looking for advice on the best online poker sites out there that will accept you, we have a list of our top 4 for you.
These 4 online poker sites are all on our top 5 best in the world period, so you will be assured that in playing at any of these top sites, you will be playing at not only the best that you can play at being from Gambia, but the best out there period.
888 Poker is as good as it gets for online poker no matter where you live, and they have been around for a long time now and have grown in popularity each year, finally reaching the pinnacle of online poker rooms over the last several years. This is a first class poker site all the way and players who try this site out really tend to love it and to stay.
The iPoker Network is another very popular place to play online poker, with lots of traffic and a lot of different variations of poker as well. Two of our top 4 picks for you come from this network, Titan Poker and Bet 365 Poker, and while all of the sites on this network offer you the same great games and traffic, these two in particular are very well run and also reward players very generously for their loyalty.
Speaking of that, all 4 of these picks for you offer first time players some free bonus money to try them out, and this also includes our final pick for you, Black Chip Poker. With the gambling scene in such a state of flux in Gambia now, Black Chip Poker in particular can be counted on to stick with you, as they are not scared off by governments and even still offer play to Americans. This is also a very good poker room in its own right and well worth a try as well.
1. The Gambia