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Costa Rica is a modestly sized country in the southern region of Central America, just north of Panama, which a population of about 4.5 million. Costa Rica is the second most prosperous country in Central America, with a PPP GDP per capita of about $15,000 a year. (1)
Costa Rica has a fairly well-developed economy compared to some other countries in the region, in spite of about a quarter of their population living in poverty. Their internet penetration rate is amazingly high for this part of the world, at 85%, comparable to the United States, and therefore a lot of their residents have access to online gambling in addition to the land based gambling that is here. (2)
Costa Rica also attracts a lot of tourists and is a very popular destination, especially for eco tourists, and although a lot of their tourists come for reasons other than to gamble, they still do have 47 casinos that cater to them as well as local residents, although they are on the smaller side compared to some other countries in the area like neighboring Panama for instance. (3)
These smaller casinos, attached to much larger hotels, have a more peaceful atmosphere, and aren’t said to be all that busy either, so don’t expect Las Vegas style excitement or amenities here, although Costa Rica is known for its pretty tranquil setting and this extends to their casinos to a large degree as well. The tables here are also big and comfortable, and the atmosphere is for the most part relaxed. (4)
There’s a wide selection of both slots and table games at them, although curiously enough, you won’t find any blackjack here as it is not legal for whatever reason, but they have come up with a similar game called Runny to get around this.
In addition to the legal casinos, there are several hundred other places to gamble in Costa Rica, including a fair number of unlicensed betting establishments, which aren’t legal to be operated, and visitors are warned to be wary of those, although they mostly cater to local residents who presumably are familiar enough with them. So gambling here isn’t exactly wide open, regulated gambling though is very widely available though.
Playing the lottery is particularly popular here and is the favorite means of gambling among Costa Ricans. Horse and dog racing is legal here as well, but Costa Ricans never did take very well to that, and the last racetrack was closed here in 1995.
Costa Rica does have regulated online gambling of sorts, as there are quite a few online operators that are based out of here, although they aren’t licensed or regulated by the government, they merely get a business license and set up shop. So no licensing fees required, and the tax rate here is friendly, but they aren’t allowed to offer play to Costa Ricans, although the rest of the world is fine. (5)
It’s actually illegal for Costa Ricans to gamble online, although this doesn’t stop them very much, and many do choose to partake in online gambling anyway, and there really isn’t any effort to stop them or even slow them down.
Costa Rica Poker
Several of the casinos in Costa Rica offer live poker, and poker is a popular game here, more so than we see in many other Latin American countries. Live poker games are easy to find, especially in the San Jose region where many of the casinos are located and where a big percentage of the people live.
There are a total of 4 casinos that offer full time poker rooms here, in addition to ones that offer it on an occasional basis, where they may run tournaments. (6)
There are also quite a few expats that live here, particularly Americans, who have come to retire and enjoy Costa Rica’s lower taxes. Some online poker players have also come here from the United States to be able to gain access to more online poker sites and be able to still make a living playing online poker. Some of these folks no doubt are involved in the live poker scene as well.
There are also quite a few international poker conventions that are held in Costa Rica, due in part at least to Costa Rica’s prominence as a hub of sorts for online gambling operators, but poker is still something that quite a few people play here, and there’s plenty of poker tournaments that run here as well.
The fact that Costa Ricans aren’t officially allowed to play online poker probably is due to the government not wanting them exposed to the many online gambling operations here, so to shield their people from this, they had to make it that that their people weren’t allowed to play.
There have been some less than reputable online gambling operations that have operated out of Costa Rica, including some pretty infamous poker sites such as Ultimate Bet, and since no one is regulating these sites, it’s not a big surprise that Costa Rica would attract more than its share of disreputable ones, where you just have to buy a data license to be able to set up shop.
The law against Costa Ricans gambling online isn’t really enforced though and in fact some sources believe that you can play online poker legally here, and the government is much more concerned with the companies that offer gambling here than their people playing online poker, which is often the case with countries that allow online gambling operators.
So the poker scene in Costa Rica is a pretty good one, with some good options for live poker in addition to the online scene, and the online scene is where almost all poker is played these days regardless of the country, and regardless of whether you’re supposed to play online poker or not.
Top Online Poker Sites For Players From Costa Rica
There are several very good options for Costa Ricans who wish to play poker online, and we have the best of the best for you here, the top options. All of our top recommendations offer new players some nice cash rewards for just giving them a try.
888 Poker is considered by many to be the finest online poker site in the world these days, and they flew under the radar of a lot of people for many years, but are coming to be much better known now, and more and more people are finding out how great this site is. They get a tremendous amount of traffic now to go with all the other things they are so good at.
Titan Poker and Bet365 are pretty close though. The network they are on gets almost as much traffic as 888 does and they are both very well run operations. We especially like that they put the happiness of players at the forefront. They have both done very well at this, as evidenced by their current popularity, and continue to work hard to make their players happy.
Black Chip Poker has really taken an aggressive approach toward making their players happy, and this is a particularly good site if you like to play against weaker opponents, and while their traffic numbers aren’t quite what the other 3 sites boast, this is a very nice balance between traffic and soft competition, and one we really like.
1. Costa Rica