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Guatemala spent most of the 20th century engaged in domestic conflict, the most recent of which as a civil war that lasted from 1960 all the way to 1996, pitting the U.S. backed government against leftist rebels. Things have improved since then, although Guatemala remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America, not only in terms of per capita GDP but also from the wide income disparity, with a large amount of people living in poverty.
Guatemala’s economy is largely based upon agriculture, and for a period of time was essentially run by dictators put in place by the United Fruit Company, which is now known as Chiquita Brands International, who actually ran several other countries as well at one time, and this is where the term banana republic came from. (1)
Gambling is actually illegal in Guatemala, by way article 477 of the Guatemalan Penal code, which prescribes heavy fines and prison time for those found to be running gambling operations. However, there’s plenty of gambling in Guatemala anyway, and it’s very much in the open, as this law is ignored. (2)
In fact gambling not only exists here but is growing at a fast pace, but being officially illegal the government isn’t in a position to regulate it, so they are looking at making new laws that would officially legitimize it and also allow them to control it through licensing and regulation.
In spite of this being a poorer country, Guatemalans certainly do like to gamble, although the focus is primarily on low cost games such as the lottery and bingo, and they also have a lot of slot parlors which are also very popular.
So gambling here is more grass roots so to speak, and there is a limited amount of larger venues, and in spite of the country getting a fair bit of tourism, there aren’t a lot of casinos here and what they do have cater primarily to locals and not tourists, although tourists are welcomed as well. (3)
There is some domestic online gambling that goes on here but it’s limited to the lottery right now although locals here can access most online gambling sites without any problem.
So the gambling scene is vibrant but perhaps not as organized as it could be, although it is really growing and in fact new regulation will likely look to stem this growth if anything, but gambling will likely continue to prosper here regardless, and the government here really isn’t opposed to it, they just want to get their cut.
Playing Poker In Guatemala
Guatemala has a very limited selection of live poker, there are no dedicated poker rooms here and while casinos do offer poker type games such as video poker, there isn’t much head to head poker going on here at least at these establishments anyway. The gambling market here seems to much prefer things like slots and the sort of instant gratification that they provide, and preferences need to change for more people to really enjoy a game such as poker more, although some certainly do already.
It’s not that there isn’t any live poker here and for instance they do lay out Texas Holdem at the Guatemala Princess Casino, one of the newer venues here, so people who enjoy the face to face action of live play can at least find some, and perhaps as the live gambling scene continues to grow here we will see more of this. (4)
Some of the other casinos also offer a little poker as well, and there are a few poker tournaments that run here from time to time, although poker needs to grow in popularity here more before we see this emerge on the larger scale that poker players desire.
However, the popularity of the internet is changing that though, and there are actually quite a few Guatemalans that have taken to online poker, so the game is definitely growing here, although it certainly could stand to grow more.
About 20% of the people here have access to the internet, which is below average as far as Central American countries go, but is still pretty decent, and there are quite a few people living in Guatemala, about 16 million, so the over 3 million people that do have the internet these days is still a pretty good amount.
For comparison though, about 45% of people in neighboring Mexico have the internet now, so they have some real catching up to do in order to even get to that level, and Mexico isn’t one of the more developed countries in the world either, and developed countries are in the range of 85-90%, but Guatemala is making some real progress here lately and that should continue.
So with poker being only modestly popular but growing, and internet access being only modestly available but growing, we at least have the foundation for a good online poker market here, and the market should continue to expand in the coming years.
There are no restrictions on access to online poker rooms here and most online poker rooms willingly accept players from Guatemala, so this isn’t an issue at all really like it is in many countries these days actually.
Top Online Poker Sites Accepting Players From Guatemala
One of the sites we really like, Party Poker, for whatever reason doesn’t take players from Guatemala anymore, but Party Poker is by far the fussiest of our top 5 online poker sites overall and the rest of the top 5 have no problem with players from here.
All of these top picks of ours offer nice welcome bonuses for players to try them out if they have not had an account there before, so if that is the case with you, we warmly encourage you to take advantage of these deals and get some experience playing at some great poker sites at the same time.
888 Poker is a higher rated site by us anyway, and the highest rated one actually, and they have worked for many years to build their brand into what many consider to be the finest around, and a lot of players agree, as this is a very popular site. They even offer a bonus even for players who can’t make a deposit yet.
Titan Poker and Bet 365 Poker are sister sites on the iPoker Network, which is another place to play online poker which has a lot of traffic, and some sites might be good overall but don’t have enough, and traffic is certainly important. Both of these poker sites take care of their players well, as is the case with all of our top picks, as that’s important too.
Black Chip Poker doesn’t have quite the traffic that our other top picks have, but they are really catching up fast and this is a poker site that’s really taken off lately, and is our diamond in the rough here, as there are a lot of sites with lesser traffic but this one really stands out and there is still plenty of that to make this site a worthy selection.