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Syria is a fairly conservative Muslim country in the Middle East, although not as conservative as some countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia. Syria used to even have three casinos operating in the capital of Damascus at one time, although they became all shut down during the 1970’s from pressure from the religious right in the country.
It’s not surprising that religious authorities here were opposed to casinos, as mainstream interpretations of the Holy Quran prohibit gambling, and even though some countries do allow betting on horse racing due to an interpretation that the Prophet Muhammad condoned such betting, not all Islamic countries allow this, and it’s widely accepted that casino betting does not fall under acceptable activities for those of the Muslim faith to practice.
In fact gambling is generally seen as a vice and vices in Islam often become subject to punishment under Islamic law, along with a number of other activities that are seen as permissible in the West, such as drinking alcohol.
So the law here makes gambling of any type illegal. Games of chance are particularly not permitted, and poker would generally be considered to be a game of chance, although no one here is worried about it being considered more of a game of skill instead, it’s still gambling and it’s still outlawed. (2)
In any case, gambling was tolerated in Syria until it got shut down some years ago, although it did make a brief comeback in 2011. While gambling remained illegal in Syria, the son of the casino operator from the 70’s opened a casino in Damascus, and while it wasn’t considered legal at all, or had a license to operate, it seems that the authorities were prepared to look the other way on this, for a time anyway.
The people did appear to be divided on this though, with some being happy about it and others being pretty opposed, although it did attract quite a strong following among the wealthier Syrians, some of whom may have been behind this getting off the ground again. (3)
So after months of preparation, the Ocean Casino was finally opened, however it only stayed in operation for a little over 3 months before the Syrian government ended up shutting it down, once again caving in to pressure from the religious right in this country. (4)
So now the closest casino is over the border in Lebanon, once again, and there is no legal gambling at all in Syria these days.
Playing Poker in Syria
With no legal gambling establishments in operations, this of course means that there’s no legal venues to play real money poker either. Whatever underground gambling and underground poker there is here, it’s completely underground, as there aren’t even any reports of this sort of thing going on in Syria.
Poker isn’t all that popular of a game in Syria in the first place, and with no place to play it live and limited access on the internet, and even limited access to the internet period, it doesn’t’ seem that this is poised to be a poker hotspot anytime soon.
Syria certainly isn’t one of the countries who are considering regulating online poker anytime soon either, and views towards gambling will have to change dramatically here before that even becomes a possibility, and tolerating land based casinos once again would be a start at least, but that’s on hold for now, and it may even be quite some time before we see this even attempted again.
As far as the internet goes, access to the internet here is pretty limited, and it is heavily filtered as well. About 20% of Syrians have internet access these days, up from zero only 15 years ago. However, Syria isn’t shy to limit people’s access or block sites, and they even have an Electronic Army here whose mission is to hack both domestic and foreign websites to try to interfere with them or bring them down, as well as distributing viruses and engaging in other subversive activities.
The internet also goes down here completely from time to time, which the government blames on terrorists, and there has been several incidents of a country wide internet blackout. So this is a country that is quite embattled both by land and by electronic means as well.
For the relative few Syrians who do enjoy poker, an opportunity can be found to play it online, if you are willing to navigate the restrictions that are in place, which never really prevent anyone from playing online, as long as you have access to the internet and it is up and running and have the will to play. Our top TWO poker site options for Syrians are listed at the very top of this resource page – ENJOY!