From Iceland — Ask a Professor: Why Are Casinos Illegal In Iceland?

Ask a Professor: Why Are Casinos Illegal In Iceland?

Published January 10, 2020

Inês Pereira
Photo by
Háskóli Íslands

Daníel Þór Ólason, Professor of Psychology at the University Of Iceland, is the preeminent expert on the science and history of gambling in Iceland. Here, he explains why you’ll never need to learn card counting in Iceland.

At the beginning of the last century, Icelanders were participating in foreign lotteries, causing the authorities concerns about a flow of capital leaving the country. This led to the country’s first gambling law in 1926, which stated that any gambling operation in Iceland was illegal without specific permission and that any participation in foreign lotteries was also illegal. However, a discussion led in Congress in 1933 permitted the University of Iceland to start operating a monthly lottery. Since 1933, only five other licenses for gambling operation have been issued, each by a specific law that specifies the type of gambling allowed for each license.

Iceland’s policy for gambling could, therefore, best be described as a licensed based monopoly system where certain non-governmental institutions or charities are licensed to operate certain types of gambling to fund their organization. Thus, the legal gambling market today consists of three-monthly lotteries, EGMs (electronic gambling machines), scratch cards, National Lotto, Viking Lotto, Euro jackpot and sports pools.

Casinos are, however, not permitted in Iceland, and any forms of organized betting on card games (e.g., poker) including internet gaming (casino games) is illegal. The most probable reason for this is a concern that increased participation in casino games could lead to an increase in problem gambling.

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