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Gambling is strictly forbidden in Qatar, as it is in several other strict Muslim countries in the Middle East. So there are no casinos, no betting shops, no poker rooms, no bingo halls, no lottery outlets, or any other legal places to bet here, although this doesn’t mean that gambling and poker doesn’t take place here. (1)
There’s actually quite a bit of illegal gambling that goes on in Qatar, and it seems that in spite of this being a Muslim country, a lot of people here like to bet. Betting on camel races is particularly popular, but it’s far from limited to this.
A lot of the illegal gambling in Qatar is run by several gangs, who operate out of private homes, either by bribing the owners or using unoccupied residents, and they also tend to move their locations frequently to stay one step ahead of the authorities. Players are informed by text message of the locations, and the games typically run during the middle of the night, usually starting after midnight. (2)
Online gambling here is illegal as well, and the government actively looks to block people from gambling on the internet, although like other countries who try to do this, it is of limited effectiveness, and only really prevents more casual gamblers from partaking, those who are not familiar with workarounds to this, using virtual private networks to connect to servers located in other countries, servers that their government don’t have control over. (3)
Most of the focus to block sites is on online sports betting operations though, which is the most popular form of gambling here, and there’s no reports here of online poker sites being blocked specifically, and it seems that players here do have full access to the online poker rooms that do accept them, although the list here is limited and some major online poker rooms, such as PokerStars and Full Tilt do not accept players from Qatar anymore, although there are several good ones that still do.
Oddly enough, a look at the law of Qatar as written, as it pertains to gambling, only prohibits betting that is to some degree based upon luck, and although it’s hard to see how this would apply to camel race betting and other forms of sports betting, they still interpret this as prohibiting all forms of betting, whether luck is involved in the outcome or not. (4)
People found to be gambling here face both a fine and a sentence of three months in jail, although if you are found to be gambling in a public place, the sentence gets doubled to six months and the fine is also increased. Like some other Muslim countries, they are more concerned with what goes on in public than in private, although they do look to prosecute offenses in private as well, where some countries don’t even care about this and for instance will only make things like public gambling and public drinking illegal.
Playing Poker In Qatar
So in spite of their looking to block online bookies, sports betters in Qatar aren’t put out by this, and there are said to be a lot of people who bet on sports online here. As far as poker goes, there are also a fair number of online poker players from Qatar as well, in spite of poker not being a popular game here traditionally. (5)
The coming of the internet has changed this though, and in areas where people have widespread access to the internet, the game of poker does tend to catch on. Qatar has the second highest internet penetration in the Arab world, second only to the UAE, who only have a very slight lead on them, and about 90% of the people from Qatar now have internet access, an impressive number indeed. (6)
We won’t be seeing the World Poker Tour coming to Qatar anytime soon, and this is one of the least likely places to ever open up a poker room or a casino, but as is so often the case, when people want to partake in live gambling, the law doesn’t really stop them very much.
The illegal betting dens here actually focus on poker for the most part, and if you’re going to run this out of a residence, and especially if you are a mobile operation, you aren’t going to have a lot of gambling equipment, and with poker all you need is a deck of cards and chips, so this is a perfect game for this sort of thing, and is helping grow the game of poker in the country.
There is also said to be at least some private games that go on here as well, although as is the case with the betting dens, you have to be in the know to get in on the action here, but that’s always the case with private games.
Playing live poker does carry with it the risk of getting caught though, especially at an illegal gaming den, and the great thing about online poker is that this reduces the risk here to virtually zero, as it’s just you and your computer that are getting involved, and when you bring others into the mix there’s always the risk that the word will get out, but this isn’t an issue with online play of course.
It’s probably wise though to use a virtual private network to play poker here though, as it’s at least possible that the government may be spying on your online activities, although this takes a lot of resources and is extremely rare, and there’s no reports of Qatar authorities doing this, but it does pay to be smart here. Using internet wallets to move money in and out of online poker sites is also recommended, which is a good idea in any country where online poker is illegal.
Top Online Poker Sites That Accept Players From Qatar
Players from Qatar tend to be pleasantly surprised at the selection of top quality online poker rooms that they can play at. While big sites like Poker Stars, Full Tilt, and Party Poker, among others, say no to players from Qatar, some real top sites are still saying yes, which is very good news. All of our recommended sites offer nice bonuses to new players, so they are well worth trying if you haven’t tried one or more of them before.
You don’t get much better than 888 Poker in fact, and although PokerStars gets more traffic, no other site does, and the competition at Poker Stars is fierce, so even if they did take players from Qatar, 888 is still a better choice. This may be the finest online poker site on the internet in fact.
Another great place to play is on the iPoker Network, and both Titan Poker and Bet365 Poker is on our list of our top recommendations for you, and both offer full access to this very popular and well liked poker network. This is the third busiest place to play poker on the internet, and they offer very good game selection and very good customer service as well.
Black Chip Poker is a bit down the list as far as traffic rankings go, but they still make our list, based upon the overall appeal of this poker site. They offer access to the Winning Poker Network which has grown tremendously lately, and with all the casual players here, this is a real good place to have an account, especially if you like doing well at the tables.