7 Places Where Online Poker Will Never Be Legalized

By Robbie Strazynski
August 09, 2014

As poker fans and proponents of the game, we naturally tend to be in favor of legalizing online poker in as many jurisdictions as possible to help grow the game. In particular, ever since Black Friday, we’ve been hoping for online poker to make a comeback to America’s (virtual) shores. While only three states have thus far adopted legislation allowing for online poker (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware), hopes are still bright that many other states (as well as countries around the world) will eventually join the legal online poker club. That said, beyond the shadow of a doubt, there exist a number of places where there isn’t even the slightest indicator of theoretical legalization, nor is there ever likely to be one. Here, then, is a list of 7 places where you’re more likely to see pigs fly than see online poker legalized.

legal online


When Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley back in the late 1840s, he certainly wasn’t carrying a set of chips and a deck of cards. In the succeeding 160-odd years, the Beehive State has remained a bastion of Mormonism, with over 60% of state residents belonging to the LDS Church. Consistent with the religion’s conservative values, no form of gambling has ever been legalized in the state – including even lottery play. If you’re in Utah and looking for some poker action, whether live or online, you best head over to neighboring Nevada.


North Korea

As their Supreme Leader goes, so goes North Korea. Pretty much hermetically sealed off from the outside world, save for occasional visits from Dennis Rodman, North Korea is ruled with an iron fist by Kim Jong-un. Among the most oppressed people in the world, I’d be surprised if most North Koreans were even aware of what the Internet is. So, online poker is pretty much out of the question north of the Military Demarcation Line. Interestingly, however, if Kim Jong-un wanted to, he could propaganda blast his people with the message that he’s the best online poker player in the world and they’d believe him (or otherwise probably be sentenced to death). Shame he lost that haircut prop bet though, eh?

North Korea


Alright, I know I’m shooting myself in the foot here. In the past I’ve written about how much of the online poker industry is actually based in Israel. I’ve also written about how, currently, the legality of playing poker online in Israel falls into a gray area. If there’s anyone who’d love for online poker to officially be legalized here, it’s me. That said, there are political realities and dynamics among the Knesset parties here that simply make the passing of such a law unfeasible. While pigs probably won’t fly here before we see online poker gets legalized (you know, that whole keeping kosher thing…), the best we can reasonably hope for is no change in the status quo.

Online poker in Israel

Muslim Majority Countries

Put plain and simple, Islam forbids gambling. Thus, it stands to reason that legal gambling would be impossible in any country in which Islam is the majority religion of the people (there are 48 of them). To the best of my knowledge, there are no exceptions. Nonetheless, online poker is quite popular in many Arab countries, despite the official ban.

If any readers out there know of a Muslim majority country that expressly allows for legal online poker, please let me know in the comments section – I’m always open to learning new things.

Muslim world

Sub-Saharan Africa

You know that gigantic land mass below Europe? Save for at its southern tip (South Africa), there really isn’t much online poker being played there. Sadly, the African continent just seems to have way too much going against it for online poker to ever establish much of a base, let alone a legal base.

  • First off, the overwhelming majority of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa aren’t connected to the Internet.
  • Secondly, most of Sub-Saharan Africa’s inhabitants don’t know anything about poker.
  • Thirdly, disposable income, online poker’s lifeblood, is very hard to come by on the Dark Continent.

Thus, while there’s obviously so much potential for progress in Sub-Saharan Africa, it just makes sense to write it off as a no-fly zone for legal online poker, unless you’re in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, etc.

Sub-Saharan Africa

(Ed. note: Yes, I’m plenty aware that many African countries are also Muslim majority countries, but I think I’ve made my point.)


Rapidly rising on all fronts, China boasts the world’s largest population. Ironically, though gambling is known to be incredibly prevalent in Chinese culture, the People’s Republic expressly forbids it, both in its live and online forms. The lone exceptions to this rule are the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, with the latter serving as the active world leader in gambling revenues.

Though not isolated from the world to the extent that North Koreans are, Chinese citizens are heavily restricted in their Internet usage. Indeed, legalizing and regulating online poker would ostensibly yield untold riches for the Chinese government, but I just can’t see it ever happening. In the highly unlikely event that online poker was somehow to be legalized in China, I can practically guarantee that it would be ring-fenced within the mainland.



Plenty of cold-blooded creatures traverse the Antarctic continent. There are whales aplenty and schools of fish as far as the eye can see. It seems like the perfect online poker paradise for any species… except humans, that is.

Officially designated as a scientific preserve by dozens of nations, no single governing body actually has the authority to legalize online poker in Antarctica. Let’s say though, for argument’s sake, that it was legal. Aside from a few bored scientists looking for something to do day after day and night after night without the sun rising, there just wouldn’t be anybody there to actually play!

So, unless hell freezes over… Oh, wait a sec…




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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]


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