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Betting in Saudi Arabia

Published on: 07/02/2016

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is situated on the Arabian Peninsula. Its neighbours include Oman, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia is the 14th biggest country on the planet and the population is roughly 28 million. Riyal is the official currency and the language most widely spoken is Arabic.

For more than two centuries, the House of Saud has exerted influence in the area. Historically, they assisted the British government in extinguishing Ottoman Turk rule during the First World War. The Saudis eventually achieved power and in 1932, a government was founded. The country became known as Saudi Arabia and the Wahhabist interpretation of Sunni Islam became the official religion.

In 2005, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud became the king of Saudi Arabia and reigned until his death in 2015. There are thousands of people who profess to be related to Saudi Royalty, but in reality only a couple of hundred people possess any political weight through blood relation to the king’s line of succession.

Gambling in any form in Saudi Arabia is considered a sin, The Koran speaks of gambling as “an abomination and the work of Satan”, betting on games of chance “causes the faithful to believe in luck and not Allah”. The Muslin faith believes that an individual’s fate is pre-determined, not subject to chance.

The city of Mecca is Islam’s holiest area and is situated in Saudi Arabia. Of all the Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia has the most ardent attitude towards gambling and forbids all forms of it, including horse racing which other Muslim nations allow under Prophet Mohammed’s jurisdiction guidance.

Ironically, the Saudis are very fond of horseracing, and they produce the best quality thoroughbreds in the world. The main horse racing track in Saudi Arabia is called The Equestrian Club of Riyadh and was founded in 1965. The club is a member of the French-based International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA). The authoritative body has set rules regarding off-shore wagering, and stipulates that betting options for foreign countries can only be honoured by government officials and the gambling laws set for each country must be adhered to. Basically, foreigners are not permitted to wager on any races taking place in Saudi Arabia without royal say so. This explains why gambling companies based abroad do not participate in the Riyadh race events.

The internet does not comply well with Saudi Arabia’s culture - it is regarded as a bad influence and measures are taken to prohibit its citizens from gaining access to gambling services, as well as sites involving religious conversion, pornography and drugs.

However, despite there being state-of-the-art filtering systems in place, citizens still seek out online gambling opportunities. In fact, over 450 off-shore sportsbooks welcome wagering from players who have Saudi Arabian addresses, and a few companies even provide information using the Arabic language.

There are serious risks for citizens involved in gambling, with punishments ranging from violent physical acts such as beheading and stoning, to life imprisonment.