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Panama is most famous for the Panama Canal, which comprises a lot of the economy here, although Panama’s economy is pretty diversified these days, and they have the largest economy in Central America and one of the largest in Latin America. (1)
So there is definitely some money to be spent on gambling by Panamanians and gambling is completely legal and wide open here, and is very popular. Panama has a total of 37 casinos spread across 12 different cities, which is pretty impressive considering they only have a population of 3.6 million. (2)
Most of the action is in the Panama City area where almost half of the people in Panama live and most of the casinos are located. The gambling scene here extends well beyond just the casinos though, and is very vibrant and has a lot of variety as well, with not only casinos but the lottery, bingo halls, horse racing, poker, and a well run sports betting industry.
So unlike some other countries, gambling is very accepted in Panama and the government has no reservations about it at all. The Panamanian government rakes in 80% of the profits from land based gambling here though, so they definitely have a big stake in things as well.
The government used to run all of the casinos here at one time, but nowadays they permit private interests to have a stake in it as well, which has helped expand the gambling industry further.
So this is as gambling friendly of a country as there is in the world, and it is all overseen by the country’s gaming commission, the Junto de Control de Juegos, who keep everything running smoothly.
Panama does get a good amount of tourists, and the law states that all casinos must have a hotel attached, interestingly enough, which would seem to suggest that they are set up primarily for tourists, but Panamanian residents are permitted to play at them as well with no reservations about this, and they most certainly do frequent these places often.
Panama even dabbles in issuing licenses to online gambling sites, although these are primarily issued to cater to foreigners. There haven’t been many takers as of yet, just 3 sites so far and none of them offering poker, although that could expand in the future. (3)
Online gambling is legal here as well though and Panamanians are active in online gambling as well as land based, and both have their own plusses, with land based gambling providing a social experience as well as a gambling one, where online gambling lacks the face to face social setting but is unparalleled in convenience.
The casinos here offer a full selection of casino games, including slots, roulette, blackjack, craps, casino poker, and some also offer traditional poker as well. The atmosphere at these casinos is said to be more relaxed than you generally see at traditional casinos, and overall is of a high quality.
Horse racing is also popular here and Panama also has several racinos where people can watch and bet on horse racing and also play casino games when the horses aren’t running.
Playing Poker In Panama
Many of the casinos offer live poker, although some just offer what’s called Casino Hold’em, which is like poker meets blackjack, and players at the table all play against the dealer, the house in other words, and not against each other.
Casino Hold’em is fairly popular here, although some of the casinos do offer actual poker, particularly Hold’em, although other variations are offered as well, where players sit down against each other at the table as is customary.
There are several casinos that do offer full time poker tables, and three of them have actual poker rooms, with the Veneta Poker Room at the Veneta Panama casino being the most impressive and extensive. (4)
The Latin American Poker Tour has a stop in Panama, and this year they had to change venues, due to the growing popularity of the game here, moving to the Sortis Hotel Spa and Casino in Panama City to better accommodate players and spectators. (5)
Some of Panama’s live poker options employ state of the art technology where you can play at electronic tables with real opponents. They also offer higher stakes live poker in their VIP rooms in some locations where you can play for some serious money. (6)
Panama is second only to Costa Rica in Central America as far as internet penetration goes, with over half of the population in Panama having the means to go online, and this means that there is a pretty good sized potential online poker market.
While there are a few Panamanian licensed online gambling sites, they don’t host any poker sites, and even if they did, these sites aren’t directed at Panamanians anyway, and even if they were, there would be no reason to choose them over the very best online poker sites that the world has to offer.
Panama has also seen a number of poker “refugees” come down from the United States to relocate in order to access a full assortment of online poker sites, and is definitely a poker friendly country. We may see more of this depending on what happens with Mexico, which has been the main destination for these “refugees” thus far, and Panama, unlike Mexico, has no plans on restricting online poker access. (7)
Most of the best online poker sites accept players from Panama, and all of our top picks no matter where you live take Panamanians, except for Party Poker, but Party Poker has a long list of restricted countries and a lot of them don’t make a lot of sense, like Panama, and in fact there may be no other country in the world that embraces gambling with such open arms as Panama does.
Top Online Poker Sites Accepting Players from Panama
Regardless though, we do have four very prime recommendations for you if you are from Panama and want to get involved with online poker, or may already be involved but are looking for the best places to play. Perhaps you play at Poker Stars and are sick of getting kicked around like a dog or sick of fighting for scraps with all the other strong players there.
This is exactly why they aren’t on our list, we’re not out to promote anyone though, we’re just looking to give you our best selections, and these truly are the best online poker sites in our opinion, when all factors are taken into account, and we’ve found over the years that a lot of players care how they do at these sites, so that’s definitely factored in.
888 Poker is loved by players and critics alike, we’ve liked this site a lot even back when they were a B traffic site in the earlier days when they were known as Pacific Poker, because it’s always been a great place to play. Now that the word is out more it’s even better, as they get tons more traffic now.
Titan Poker and its sister site Bet 365 Poker share the same network with many other sites, and it’s the biggest poker network in the world, although these are the two best and the ones worthy of your trying out. Both of these online poker sites really know what they are doing and in particular have some great rewards to want you to keep coming back.
Black Chip Poker rounds out our list of our top 4 picks for Panamanians, and like the other 3, they offer a nice welcome package to new players, including some free bonus cash to add to your stack as you try them out for the first time. This is another well run site and Black Chip Poker in particular will fight hard to earn your business and keep it.