Pakistan online sports betting laws
Pakistan, where hockey and cricket are king, has strict anti-gambling laws. Gambling is also unlawful in Shariah. Despite this, it is estimated that the Pakistani population bet regularly. Cricket betting accumulates huge figures, while prize bonds, card games, dice games, roulette and other sports are also popular.
Pakistan had never embraced any form of legal gambling until tote betting on horse racing was legalised in 1979. This was such an unlikely event. Only in 1930 were we established as a separate Islamic majority state. Only in 1956 we gained full independence becoming the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Though we had a more democratic constitution in 1973 we took Islam as our national religion as part of that constitution. To legalise horse betting was to rejection of the Sunnah, or so many thought.
Horse racing is now explained in most every book on Islamic law. The Holy Quran explains that gambling is an evil activity of Arab society, and Arabs used horse racing for gambling. However, because breeding a good horse is required for defence and other purposes, horse racing is allowed. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) made horse racing lawful when a third party (Mohallil) is added. This means if funds are put up as a prize, and at least one competitor has the chance to win that prize (without he himself gambling) then this is lawful. Although this can still be debated, horse race betting is allowed in the Islamic Republic of Iran based on the same interpretation.
Prize Bonds Popularised in 1981
Shortly after horse racing was legalised, prize bonds became popular. These existed prior but took their current form in 1981. This is not actually gambling. This involves bearer instrument bonds. These pay no interest. Instead, a drawing is held quarterly for a prize. Today there are many prize bonds available including Savings Account (SA), Pensioner’s Benefit Account (PBA), Special Savings Account (SSA), Student Welfare Bond (SWB), etc.
Again, these pay no interest but rather provided a chance at a prize. First place prizes are very large. For many, this is only legal chance at becoming wealthy overnight. The available denominations and sizes of the prizes are shown in the table.
There are many Pakistan laws regarding prize bonds. They were first mentioned in the The Public Debt Act, 1944 but with far more details in the Public Debt Rules, 1946. There were also rules published in 1981 before all was redrafted in the Prize Bond Rules, 1999 (no English copy available). The latter has been amended many times. There is also a 10% income tax withholding on prizes as specified under the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) of Pakistan, 2001 – Section 156(1) Division III of part V. To learn more about the laws of the land regarding prize bonds see: Pakistan Prize Bond FAQ by State Bank Pakistan.
Although legal under local law such activity is not halal. It is not permissible to purchase these bonds because they include both interest and gambling. The money spent on prize bonds is a loan because no person would purchase these for business as no interest is paid. There is however interest – instead of giving it to one person, it is given to the winner of a lottery draw. The fact this is gambling has not stopped much of Pakistan from participating; prize bonds are very popular here.
Though unlawful in Shariah, with horse race betting and prize bonds legal under the laws of Pakistan it didn’t take long for cricket betting to become popular too. This started with bookmakers that were available trackside at races. It was in 1991 that Lahore bookies began offering betting in rupee to the general public. When this happened, they also began booking cricket bets for the crime syndicates in Mumbai who controlled the odds.
Match Fixing an Immediate Concern
During the 1980’s, the general public used an Asian betting syndicate in London to place bets on Pakistan horse races. It was believed during this period many horse races were fixed. It wasn’t long before similar allegations came to cricket.
In 1994 three players from Australian cricket claimed Pakistan’s captain Saleem Malik offered them bribes to fix a match. He was initially suspended but then found innocent and was allowed to continue his career. He would play his last Test match in January 1999 ending his career in disgrace. He was banned in May 2000 as a result of the Justice Qayyam’s inquiry into cricket match fixing where Shane Warne was amongst the players to testify that Saleem Malik attempted to fix the 1994-1995 Test.
The introduction of online betting sites around 1998 was a huge break for both Pakistani bookmakers and punters. The odds were now widely known on the internet. This reduced their reliance on Mumbai bookmakers who until this point controlled cricket odds and were alleged to be heavily involved in match fixing themselves. But, it still did not make online gambling legal, it is not in Pakistan.
Many of the online betting sites are owned by UK bookmakers, and bookmaking is fully legal in the United Kingdom. www.betfair.com is a betting site that launched in 2000. They are peer to peer betting exchange that takes more volume on cricket betting than other source. Their company has a team that monitors suspicious betting activity and works closely with sports bodies, gambling regulators, police and other law enforcement. When suspecting a fix, they have numerous times refused to pay out bets until a match was cleared by the governing sports body.
Even with regulation, match fixing still occurs. I have a detailed article on match betting fixing that covers many instances including the recent spot-fixing scandal Pakistan was involved in. However, many sports bodies are in favour of legal gambling. While still Chief Executive of International Cricket Council (ICC) Haroon Lorgat commented he would like for India to legalize cricket betting to help reduce match fixing. Another former ICC chief Ehsan Mani also urged India to legalise cricket betting . While there is much talk in India, at this time cricket betting remains illegal in Pakistan and in our neighbouring countries.
The law that makes gambling illegal in Pakistan is the Prevention of Gambling Act, 1977. The penalties are up to a 1000 PKR fine and up to one year in prison for gambling. There are many articles that falsely claim small time gamblers are never arrested under this law, or they even say it does not apply to the internet.
Only in December, 2012 multiple people were arrested for gambling. It has been legally interpreted that connecting to a computer network (the internet) for online betting is in fact operating a gambling den. There are also other ways gamblers are prosecuted. One such charge is illicit conduct and another is money laundering. Both have been used to prosecute casual bettors.
Even though the laws are strict there are only a few hundred Pakistanis arrested per year for internet gambling with foreign bookmakers. This is a very small because our population is very large. Those who are careful are not caught. For those who are careful the risks are low.
The majority of our people do online betting with website legal in the United Kingdom. www.bet365.com is popular for the vast amount of cricket odds they offer both in-play and prematch. Betfair and Ladbrokes are two other sites Pakistani punters use. All have Pakistan banking options, and also have casino games and online poker too from the same website.
Of the many options to deposit are Skrill and Western Union. Skrill is an e-wallet that is very popular. Accounts are opened online at www.skrill.com. For players to connect their bank account they need to know their swift code. They get this by calling their bank or from this webpage. Pakistan Skrill accounts take a while to setup. Once set up, they are easy to move money between Bet365, Betfair, and Ladbrokes and to and from Pakistan bank accounts.
The other option Western Union is a little more risky when using Ladbrokes and Betfair. This is because such payments are sent in their company name, so the agent knows this is for gambling. This is why many use Hundi to transfer to these sites. They do so even though they know Hundiwalas operate illegally and could get caught at anytime. A much safer option is using BetOnline.ag.
Betonline.ag is based in Panama and accepts players from all countries, heavily targeted towards “illegal” US customers. When depositing to them via Western Union, the transfer is sent to a personal name – not a company name like Betfair and Ladbrokes use. Pakistanis can open an account on their website and then contacting live chat to ask for Western Union deposit instructions. Because a personal name is given it is then possible to use legal Western Union agents to transfer. BetOnline sends winnings to Pakistan using Western Union too.
Pakistan is one of the fastest multiplying countries in the world with our population increasing by more than 2% per year. It is expected by 2030 we will surpass Indonesia to become the largest Islamic country. We are also a young country due to fast birth rate. Our median age is only 20 and there are over 104 million of us age 30 or less.
The bulk of our population has been exposed to gambling that is legal under the laws of the land. They are born into a nation that has access to prize-bonds and horse race betting. The internet also makes is easy to do other forms of betting such a cricket, other sports, casino and poker. Although it means abandoning Sunnah, like it or not, gambling is now part of Pakistan culture. It is here already and online betting will only become more popular in time.