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Can You Bet Abroad When on Holidays?

We know the feeling; you’re soaking up the sun in a foreign country but have one eye on the 3pm kick-offs back home. Can you bet while abroad on your holiday? This is a question that millions of bettors have, and we’ve got all the information you need today. You’re going to learn the different rules and regulations that exist abroad, how you can use a foreign bookmaker, and why VPNs aren’t a good solution even though they can help you to bypass certain regulations when away from home.

Gambling Laws and Licenses

First things first, the fact that we have mobile devices and access to the internet wherever we are in the world means that gambling laws and licenses have gone through a period of adjustment. With this, it means that we don’t necessarily have access to all of our favourite platforms when in a different country. While some countries have advanced gambling laws, like in the United Kingdom, others still restrict gambling altogether.

Considering that each country in Europe seems to have unique laws, it makes betting on the continent incredibly difficult. When trying to bet abroad, you need to keep the following in mind:

  • The regulations of the country
  • The service of the bookmaker

With this second point, just because the country allows betting it doesn’t necessarily mean that your bookmaker operates there. Before operating in a market, a bookmaker needs a license to ensure that they meet all the appropriate gambling laws. For some bookies, they don’t want the hassle and therefore only operate in the UK. For others, they go to great efforts to make the service available around the world.

Market Types

Lots of the information available online is confusing in this area, so hopefully, we can help to clear it up. For example, there are five different types of market:

Licensed and Unrestricted – Firstly, this is where betting websites need a license while also meeting the various tax and gambling laws. As long as the website has a license, they can operate in the country.

Licensed and Restricted – In some countries, the laws differ, and it could mean that your UK account is inaccessible when on foreign soil. Depending on the country and service, you might have access to limited markets or only certain sections of the website. Similarly, you may lose access to certain games and promotions.

Regulated – Next, this is where online operators don’t need a license, but the market is still regulated somewhat. As you can imagine, this causes lots of confusion and grey areas for operators. As long as you remember that customers are responsible for knowing local gambling laws (more on this later!), you can prevent costly mistakes.

Unregulated – Immediately, you might shy away from this option because it sounds like betting you would do in the shadows or on the black market. In reality, this title is given to a country that lacks specific regulations and licensing as opposed to countries where they allow anything. Remember, if something goes wrong in an unregulated market, you don’t have much protection.

Illegal – Unsurprisingly, the fifth and final market is an illegal one. In these countries, gambling is heavily restricted or completely illegal. Often, people will say that the way around this is to use a VPN. While a virtual private network will connect your device to a server somewhere else in the world, and therefore allow you to bet, it could also land you into trouble. By betting in an illegal country, you could face an account closure, fine, or even a more severe punishment.

Is My Site Legal?

From this information, we know that one of the popular questions will regard your own favourite betting platform. How do you know if betting is legal and if your favourite bookie is available? It might sound simple, but research is your answer. Within seconds, we found hundreds of high-quality articles that listed each country and their respective gambling laws. Since you know your destination or location, it will be even easier for you to find answers.

How do you know if your bookie operates in this country? Your research will tell you, but you could also just try to launch the website or app. If the website loads and you can place bets, and gambling is legal in your location, nothing is stopping you. Alternatively, you might get a message preventing you from accessing your account.

Put it this way; companies are more worried about operating in the right countries than you are about following the right regulations. To prevent illegal operations and potentially future-threatening fines, companies are normally hot on where they can and can’t operate. If the website loads and you’re able to bet, this isn’t normally an accident. Your bookmaker will either allow you to log in or it will display a message explaining that the service isn’t available.

Using a VPN

In recent years, virtual private networks have improved greatly. Now, we can log into a VPN to access a server close to home. By doing this, we bypass local restrictions and can access betting websites, Netflix, and all other services. However, we would advise against doing this.

Firstly, as mentioned earlier, you would go against the local betting laws. Also, you would ignore the terms and conditions signed when first opening the account. If the bookie learned of what you were doing, they could easily close your account while also cancelling all bets placed while using a VPN.

In a world of technology, most bookmakers are now able to detect when somebody is trying to access the website through a VPN while in another country. In our opinion, it’s not worth taking a huge risk just to put on an outlandish 10-team lower-league accumulator. Instead, wait until you are home.

Unlicensed Countries – Regulated, Unregulated, and Illegal Markets

In a dream world, every country would have a licensing system so that customers knew whether or not they could bet and where they could bet. Unfortunately, this isn’t a dream world and we have a huge grey patch in the industry filled with regulated, unregulated, and illegal markets. If you’re using a VPN for legal reasons while abroad, logging into the bookmaker’s website isn’t much help because it will probably let you in regardless of the local laws.

In this case, we want to reiterate that the responsibility to check gambling laws is on the bettor. Especially in regulated, unregulated, and illegal markets, you need to know what you can and can’t do under the law. If you go against the rules in an illegal or restricted country, a closed account and withdrawn bets are the least of your worries. Technically speaking, the lawmakers could impose a fine or throw bigger charges your way.

When in this position, you don’t really have anywhere to turn. With most bookmakers, they will make it clear in the terms and conditions that the onus is on the player to check local laws and legally access the website.

Tax – Before moving on, we should also mention tax because these rules also differ from one country to another. The reason we don’t need to worry about tax in the UK is that the betting website effectively pays the tax on our behalf – we then cover these costs as the bookie adjusts their margins. In many other licensed countries, like Germany, your stake and winnings will be hit with a 5% tax penalty. Even if you’re just visiting, this tax penalty applies. If you access your bookie when in a country with these laws, be ready to lose a percentage of your winnings.

Betting Abroad FAQs:

To finish, here are some frequently asked questions (and their answers!).

How can I bet legally when abroad?

This is a great question, and we’ve discovered that the first step is research. If betting isn’t legal in the country, it won’t be an option. If gambling is allowed, use a bookmaker that has a license or is allowed to operate in the country. If we look at William Hill as an example, they are available in many countries around the world.

Alternatively, you can visit a physical betting shop in the location. For example, Las Vegas allows people to place sporting bets in many casinos. Watching a local and learning how to place a bet in another country can even be a fun experience.

Should I sign up for a foreign site?

No, we recommend sticking with a UK bookie or using a small, physical shop. Often, foreign sites require users to have a permanent address in the country. If you’re just visiting, this is impossible for you to provide. You may also lose legal protection when in an unregulated market.

Can I bet in GBP?

If accessing a British bookie, you shouldn’t have an issue betting in British Pounds. Normally, you can choose your currency regardless of location.

Can I deposit and withdraw when abroad?

Yes, but we recommend waiting (if you can) or informing your bank that the transaction is going to take place. If you’re located away from home, the anti-fraud team might pick up on the transaction.

Carl Hughes - Editor

Carl Highes is a leading expert on sports and casino betting. Carl began his career with a BSc in Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences from the University of Birmingham before working within the industry for some of the bigger names (GVC and Bet365) and has been praised as being "a leading sports betting commentator".