We have carried out extensive research on whether online casinos in Iceland are legal. While reviewing multiple online resources to ascertain the current legal framework in Iceland.
In addition, we have liaised with Icelandic cultural commentators and journalists to ensure that our information on gambling legislation is both current and correct.
Long story short
Gambling is not legal in Iceland. Gambling platforms and online casino games based in Iceland are not permitted. Having said that, if you are an Icelandic person wondering if you can gamble online, the answer is "Yes, you can".
The law says you can't, and we always recommend following the rules.
However, in Iceland, players cannot be prosecuted for gambling via off-shore licensed gambling platforms. You can play without legal risk because gambling legislation applicable in the European Economic Area protects you.
The European Union also protects the freedom of players. It is not forcing any legal changes in local laws. It does, however, actively advocate gambling legislation in member countries. In short, they want Iceland, and other members of the EEA, to legislate gambling.
What the law says
According to the General Penal Code, gambling in Iceland has some implications.
Article 183: "Any person who makes gambling or betting, or inducing other persons to indulge in them, his or her livelihood, shall be fined …1) or imprisoned for up to 1 year in the case of a serious offence. It shall be decided by a court judgment whether gains from gambling or betting are to be returned or confiscated."
While not very clear, this article states that generally, all actions of gambling are illegal in Iceland. Of course, this doesn't mention the historic legal cases where the Icelandic Government has issued a licence.
Article 184: "Any person who earns income, directly or indirectly, from having gambling or betting take place in premises under his or her control shall be fined …1) or imprisoned for up to 1 year."
Again, this general statement indicates that making an income from gambling is illegal.
What are the exceptions?
There are legal gambling options in Iceland. To be able to operate a gambling establishment, you must donate all profits to charity.
At the time of writing this text, only two bodies have gone through the process of applying for such a permit.
The University of Iceland can operate video slot games and sell lottery tickets. And Íslandsspil is permitted to run slot machine games and sports betting to support its charity, emergency rescue and humanitarian activities.
Action Plan 2020
As of 2020, the Icelandic Government created a thorough document explaining everything they need to do to create a safe environment for players in Iceland.
Here's the summary:
Online gambling (bingo, sweepstakes and lotteries): in Iceland, gambling activities were lacking supervision until the Money Laundering Unit of the Directorate of Internal Revenue (DIR) took over responsibility in 2019, according to the 2018 Anti-Money Laundering Act.
From 2020 onwards, the DIR is required to create a risk-based supervision programme based on a thorough analysis and risk assessment.
Slot machines: this sector suffers from a lack of supervision and also a lack of risk awareness. From 2020 onwards, the Icelandic Government wants to publish guidance on:
- red flags/typologies of abuse
- risk assessment
- national risk assessment
- customer due diligence (CDD)
Betting: much like slot machines, supervision and awareness of risks needs to be improved. The Icelandic Government will focus on creating a safer environment for players.
What's new in 2023
Unfortunately, few significant developments are expected. There are frequent debates in the Icelandic parliament regarding reforms in Iceland’s gambling legislation.
Some parliament members are keen to amend the current regulations in line with other countries, while others have less interest in permitting gambling. And currently, the relevant governing bodies will maintain their existing policies, without making any significant changes.
We could write more about the current legislative environment for gambling in Iceland. However, all signs suggest that the regulations will remain as they are for the foreseeable future.
If you are a potential participant in gambling, it is essential to know that it is not currently legal in Iceland.
However, many reputable online gambling platforms will accept players from Iceland. Among them are the best online casinos in Iceland. That means you can play without legal risk.