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The gambling laws here aren’t quite as strict as in some Muslim countries, where all forms of gambling are outlawed, and in Bhutan it is legal to bet on the state run lottery, but that’s the entire extent of it, and all other gambling activities are strictly prohibited. (2)
Illegal gambling here, by way of statute, is defined as wagering something of value on either a contingent event or a contest of chance, not contingent on a player’s sphere of influence. (3)
While we may wonder what is meant exactly here by sphere of influence, for example in playing the game of poker, the outcome is at least partly within a player’s sphere of influence, it’s doubtful that the courts would see this as excluding it, and what is probably meant here is a contest that is not entirely contingent upon one’s sphere of influence.
Whether or not something like betting between people having an arm wrestling contest would fit this law or not may be another matter, but poker is almost certainly going to be considered illegal gambling here.
While the crime of gambling is deemed to be a petty misdemeanor in Bhutan, the punishment for it is not so petty, with a minimum punishment of a month in jail to the maximum of a year.
Given such rather harsh penalties, and given that this is a Muslim nation, people who aren’t known to be in favor of a lot of gambling generally, especially illegal gambling, you may think that illegal gambling wouldn’t be much of an issue here, like it isn’t in Saudi Arabia for instance, but illegal gambling is actually pretty rampant in Bhutan.
There is said to be a lot of illegal gambling dens in Bhutan, particularly in the capital of Thimphu. Even members of the government, the people who are supposed to be controlling this activity, are said to be frequent players at these illegal gambling establishments. (4)
There are a lot of private money lenders who charge rather high rates of interest who are said to do a lot of business with Bhutan gamblers, and when people borrow money at high interest to gamble, you definitely know that there is a problem here. The government is considering cracking down on these lenders and the fact that money is being lent to gamblers as well factors into their concerns. (5)
When people really want to gamble though, they tend to do so anyway, and especially in some Asian countries where the will to gamble does seem higher than it is in some other places in the world generally.
It is not likely that we will see gambling legalized here beyond the lottery that they have now, but they do have that at least, so they aren’t completely opposed to the idea, but changes aren’t on the horizon right now either.
Playing Poker in Bhutan
Poker in Bhutan isn’t popular at all, and in fact there’s no evidence of any live poker being played there at all, and while there may be some that goes on online, there probably isn’t much of it, from looking around the internet.
Bhutan is certainly in need of the game of poker being more popularized here, and while it is quite popular in some Asian countries, this is not the case here as of yet.
There is at least a good amount of Bhutanese people that have access to the internet these days though, about 25% of the population, and it isn’t a country that is really that restricted as far as poker sites being willing to accept players from here, there are some sites that don’t take Bhutanese but most do. (6)
It might be that the player base in Bhutan is so small that some sites don’t even bother adding it to their list of restricted countries though, but in any case, if you are from here and you want to play online poker there are some very good online poker sites who will allow you to play with them.
Bhutan does have some internet censorship and some websites are blocked, but this is limited to sites that they don’t feel are appropriate from a political standpoint, and gambling sites are not included here.
Online gambling isn’t all that popular here yet though, but in time this may end up growing more, and we may even see online poker experience some growth as well as more people become introduced to the game from having access to the internet generally. Expanding the reach of the internet will no doubt help this as well.
So if you are from Bhutan and you do wish to play some online poker, it’s probably illegal to do so but it’s also very difficult and actually near impossible to catch people doing this, and this is certainly much less riskier than gambling at live locations which can be raided, which isn’t uncommon here, and see you thrown into jail.
Top Online Poker Sites Accepting Players from Bhutan
In spite of the government’s opposition to online gambling, online poker players from Bhutan may be pleasantly surprised to discover that there is actually some pretty great online poker sites that take players from here. Players also get rewarded with bonus cash for trying out any of these top sites.
888 Poker has a great combination of excellent traffic around the clock, very nice welcome bonuses, and an overall 5 star site. 888 has won awards for being the best online poker site, period.
Titan Poker and Bet365 are the two sites we like the most on the massively popular iPoker network, and they also offer online players some great action along with generous rewards both for trying them out and for staying with them.
Black Chip Poker hasn’t been around as long as these 3 other sites but they are even hungrier for your business and have grown a lot lately doing what they do best, which is making their players happy and providing them with good poker.