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After decades of Portuguese rule, East Timor finally declared its independence, but in the same year they were invaded by Indonesia, and it wasn’t until 1999 when Indonesia relinquished control of the country that they finally gained true independence. (1)
Due to the influence of centuries of Portuguese rule, and their promotion of the Catholic religion, East Timor is almost entirely of the Roman Catholic faith and this is said to influence their view of gambling, at least officially, where the government here has taken a rather hard line stance toward it, at least thus far, and all forms of gambling are presently illegal here.
East Timor is a very poor country, with a third of the population having to get by on less than $1.25 per day, as well as half of the country being illiterate. Nevertheless, gambling is quite popular here, as it is in some other countries in Southeast Asia, and the fact that people are so poor doesn’t seem to stop a lot of people from wagering their meager resources.
The recent struggle with Indonesia has also taken its toll on the economy, what little they did have that is, and this has especially affected the outlying areas, where masses or people have left the countryside for what seems to be better prospects in the capital of Dili, where a quarter of a million of the countries’ 1.2 million reside.
This just ended up putting more of a strain on this urban area though, as you tend to see in many cities in the third world, but one of the things that this has done is put more people in easier reach of gambling, and Dili is certainly the gambling capital of East Timor, even though all of it is illegal.
So part of the reason why gambling continues to be prohibited here is the impact that it has upon the country’s poor, and that has been a big roadblock to reforming the gambling laws here, although there has been some attempts to do so, and in fact back in 2010 there was a lot of talk about legalizing gambling here, but it didn’t come to pass due to too much opposition to the idea. (2)
East Timor Gambling
The idea behind this is that it would be better to regulate the various forms of gambling that go on in East Timor, such as cock fighting, bola guling, and kuru-kuru. The thinking was that these things go on anyway so it’s at least better for the government to be controlling it directly, rather than just looking to shut it down which has been of limited effectiveness, as is the case everywhere with illegal gambling really.
The police definitely do look to crack down on gambling here, although they really aren’t making that many arrests, although from time to time you do see them shut down gambling operations, as was the case with a big raid here that took place in 2007, with 50 slot machines confiscated and 94 people arrested. (3)
For the most part though, Timorese prefer these traditional games for the most part, not modern casino games or the game of poker. People here aren’t even that familiar with modern gambling games and much prefer something like cock fighting, which isn’t something that fits into casinos very well.
Casinos are targeted to more affluent players as well, and the minimum stakes they require would be way too high for the average Timorese gambler anyway, and they don’t really get much tourism here, so plans of casinos may not be very realistic anytime soon.
Still though, the government here is now talking about building a casino in a particularly destitute area of the country, in an attempt to create a free trade zone to attract foreign investment by not charging them taxation, and one of the things that is being looked at is casinos, although we’ll have to see if that particular idea generates any actual interest, as it may not be viable. (4)
Playing Poker In East Timor
Poker is not a popular game at all at this point in East Timor, although it’s starting to catch on a bit these days, especially with the arrival of poker machines that have been added to the arsenal of the gangs that run the gambling operations here. (5)
This isn’t a country that is very connected at all to the rest of the world though and while poker has spread quite a bit in some other countries in the region, this has yet to happen very much in East Timor. Poker Stars and the Asian Poker Tour did get involved here recently in extending charity to the country but this is very far away from being a stop on the tour or a country with much poker significance at all.
It’s hard to say if you could even find a game of real poker at a real poker table running in this country, there aren’t any reports of this though, but people tend to be fairly quiet about underground gambling, no poker games have been busted here though and there probably aren’t many home games if either, if any.
There’s always the internet, and the internet does offer much more modest buy ins than you ever see at commercially run live poker events anyway, due to the very low cost of running a virtual table.
Access to the internet in East Timor is virtually non existent, and at last report, there were only 1200 internet customers here, a tenth of a percent of the population. The war with Indonesia practically destroyed their telecommunications network, which wasn’t much to begin with, and is still in a state of disrepair. (6)
Internet access here is very expensive, slow, and unreliable, and not that many people here can afford it even if were widely available. The vast majority of people here do not even have a phone of any type, either landline or cellular, so there is a long way to go here to improve telecommunications.
So needless to say, when you look at how few internet users there are here, and how much poker suffers from a lack of popularity, online poker here is pretty much non existent. There are a few, but it’s a very few, and hopefully that will change as the conditions in this country improve. At least people here aren’t under any restrictions as far as sites they can access through the internet, which is at least a start.
Top Online Poker Sites Accepting Players From East Timor
East Timor doesn’t even seem to be on the radar of a lot of the larger online poker sites, although one of the sites we like, Party Poker, doesn’t take players from here. There still are some very good ones that do though.
888 Poker is an excellent choice no matter where you live and the people of East Timor are fortunate that 888 doesn’t have a problem taking players from this country. This is a top notch site and is considered by many to be the finest online poker site there is.
Titan Poker and Bet 365 are on the same network, the biggest online poker network in the world, and like 888, the traffic is top notch as is the variety of games you can play and both of these sites know how to treat their players.
Black Chip Poker is another one of our favorites and accepts players from just about every country in fact, including East Timor. This one is well worth checking out as well and while they don’t have quite the traffic our other recommendations have they are still a very good site.
So if you are from East Timor and are able to get online and have some money to play online poker, some nice bonus cash awaits you for just trying out any of these recommended sites.
1. East Timor