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This article explores the history of gambling in Pakistan, examines existing and past laws with regard to betting, reviews how easy it is to access online gambling sites, and explores the attitudes of global bookies towards Pakistani punters.

Below are some initial considerations about using betting websites if you live in Pakistan and would like to bet online.

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Underground Betting Thrives in Pakistan, But You Can Bet Legally on Horse Racing

Pakistan is the sixth largest country in terms of population with a growing number of people using ICTs, this makes it potentially an interesting market for online bookies. Nevertheless, Pakistan being an Islamic state where majority are devout followers of the religion, gambling is often frowned upon.

Pakistan is an independent country, which became autonomous in 1947 after having been a part of British India. The government announced that it would govern the state on Islamic tenets as soon as it took over. In 1956 Pakistan was declared an Islamic republic and many legislations and acts were put forth based on the teachings of Koran since then. This did not bode well for gamblers because gambling is regarded as a sin under Islamic law.

Gambling is generally illegal in Pakistan even before it became as we know it today under the Public Gambling Act of 1867.[1] For example during the following century, this was done by different acts and laws that were implemented in various areas however all of them were replaced through introduction of Prevention of Gambling Act of 1977, which cancelled out all other laws and applied to Pakistan as a whole. This recent legislation was straightforward about equating any form of gambling or betting with a criminal activity. [2]

After the Prevention of Gambling Act of 1977 was put into effect in 1979 and very soon afterwards, General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, then the military ruler, made an amazing move by allowing tote betting on Horse Racing. The decision appeared eccentric considering that reportedly it was meant to gain favor with many politicians who had formerly been supporters of the regime of the General and who also happened to have racehorses.

Over the next few years, racehorse owners and bookmakers often worked together to prevent their horses from winning by making gains from the general public’s losses. Gambling addiction was on the rise in society and before long, underground cricket betting became rampant.

It was in the early 1990s when bookmakers dealing with cricket bets in Lahore, Pakistan began to increase and where they worked alongside their counterparts based in Mumbai, India who were responsible for setting odds.[3] They say that where there is betting, corruption follows closely behind and it was not long before it slipped into pakistani cricket. In 1994 Australian cricketers alleged that Salim Malik, Pakistan’s captain had tried to bribe them so as to adjust a match. But this just touched off the beginning of the problem.

In spite of the illegality of cricket betting, the advent of the internet and subsequent explosion of online betting companies worldwide opened cricket matches up to manipulation and infiltration by betting syndicates. In 2010, a number of players from Pakistan’s national team had charges pressed against them when they were accused of receiving money from bookmakers to manipulate their international test match against England. This scandal shows how much wagering has become part of the Pakistani way of life even if it happened in the UK and the bets were placed outside Pakistan.[4]

Due to current corruption and an extremely fragile political and religious situation, future reforms or amendments of the law seem highly unlikely. However, this does not prevent hundreds of illegal betting houses and stalls from earning millions of dollars in Lahore and Karachi where they are found in abundance.

In order to mitigate the risk of being caught, some of the bookmakers will run their business from hotel rooms. While participating in gambling only attracts a fine of $10, it does not act as a deterrent enough.

What about the online sphere? The government out rightly prohibits all types of betting (with the exception of horse racing) and although it does not mention online gambling specifically, actions involving bets in the internet are governed by the general provisions of the Prevention of Gambling Act 1977.

Is it true that the biggest overseas bookmakers respect the laws and follow the orders given by Pakistan’s ruling regime, which forbids them from taking any clients from this country? Well, in brief, no. Most of the leading betting firms are ready to take customers from Pakistan and some even make efforts to attract citizens of this state.

Flag of Pakistan

Bookmakers Available for Pakistani Punters

Most of the foreign bookmakers have not been very keen on considering Pakistani laws as suggested above. Some of the globally renowned betting companies in Pakistan are also known to serve Pakistani customers. They are rarely available in Urdu, but this does not really matter since a majority of the population speaks English as their second language.

Betfair, a globally renowned betting exchange, is also not opposed to serving Pakistani clients. This is a compilation of other chief operators who give the possibility for registration as well:

  • 188bet
  • BetVictor
  • Betsson
  • Ladbrokes
  • Pinnacle Sports
  • William Hill
  • WBX

United Kingdom’s Coral, Ireland’s Paddy Power and Europe’s Bwin are three major companies that have been left out of the list.

E-Wallet Should Be the Preferred Choice of Moving Money Around

It is evident that US dollars are the most common default currency as Pakistani Rupees have no available deposit option in any of the major sites. There exist several different methods that can be used to fund accounts, including:

  • Debit Cards – Visa/Maestro
  • Credit Cards – Mastercard/Visa
  • Bank Wiring
  • E-Wallets – Skrill, Skrill Tap, Click2Pay
  • Ukash
  • Cheque

Due to the fact that it is illegal in Pakistan, gambling should be paid for using an e-wallet or a similar method. In this case, the third party was created which makes it anonymous and reduces chances of getting caught by security agencies. There are some companies which do not operate in Pakistan such as paypal and hence one should open up a Skrill account through a well-known company.

Methods of deposit that include credit card/ debit card, online bank transactions and cheques are not the safest way since they create a path to the betting company.

Cricket Is the Top Sport in Pakistan to Bet On

It is without a doubt that cricket is the most loved sport in Pakistan, which was brought to the country during British rule and has been played and observed by millions of ardent followers. By June 2014, Pakistan National Cricket Team had become the fourth best Test team globally and third in T20 format of cricket. Shahid Afridi has been one of the most famous players over last years who developed his career from 1998-2010 and even broke numerous records during that process.

For years now, the Pakistan Super League has been waiting in the wings. Initially it was to have been started in 2013 with five teams participating in a game of Twenty20 but various factors stood on its way. The league owners, due to the passion that exists for this sport, and their availability of funds, are able to give players huge amounts of money so that they can take part and thus their recruitment is targeting top talents from nations such as New Zealand and Australia.

As previously mentioned in this article, cricket betting is very popular. Pakistani supporters, on the other hand, are cognizant of the Pakistanis’ sport and wish to make some money out of their knowledge about Test matches, ODI’s, or Twenty20s.

Throughout the ages, Pakistan as a country has been successful in Field Hockey. Although during the last few years, success for the Men’s team has been waning; between 1956 and 1984 Pakistan won three gold medals, three silvers and one bronze medal. For the first time in their history, Pakistan failed to qualify for the 2014 Hockey World Cup after bowing out of the Asia Cup.

Pakistan’s horse racing community is not as widespread as its Indian counterpart. However, it still receives a lot of attention from fans. Karachi and Lahore have the most famous race tracks, and the former was there since 1913.

Even though not many people like the game, Squash is a discipline in which Pakistan has been number one. The time of this domination was from 1980s to 1990s when Jahangir Khan’s record was almost unbeatable. During his career he won the British Open ten times and secured six world open championships and that is why he could remain undefeated for five years in the early Eighties.

However, likewise with Hockey. Pakistan’s grip in Squash was broken off a few years ago. No player has reached the final of any major tournament since the new millennium began and all those big names have gone. Squash, being a minor sport, has not been big in gambling circles.

Football is the most popular sport globally, which is why Pakistani gamblers are able to place large bets with most bookmakers, both at home and abroad.

Nevertheless, the national team has been struggling since inception and is ranked 164th by FIFA currently, having never qualified for the Asia Cup or FIFA World Cup Championship.

Bicycling, tennis and golf are also popular sporting activities in the nation played at amateur level.

Fines Are Not a Deterrent, So Gambling Will Continue to Grow

In Pakistan, one can observe very clear connection of legal provisions with religious beliefs although there are a growing number of people who bet despite the fact that it is illegal for them to do so. There has been an increase in the number of options available for betting especially after the internet was introduced and due to the fact that foreigners are willing to accept bets from Pakistanis.

The most beloved sport in the nation is cricket, which gives the citizens of this country diverse opportunities to bet on international matches and domestic games being played in other nations. Fines were not strong enough to act as a big deterrent and with the coming Pakistan Super League, it seems that betting will increase.


[1] Public Gambling Act of 1867 – LJCP

[2] Gambling Laws in India – Glaws

[3] Profitable betting industry exists in Pakistan – AlJazeera

[4] How gambling has made our national game a disgraceful affair – The National

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