Viking history, gigantic National and Saga historical centers, the geothermal capital city of Reykjavik, the original Geysir named Gullfoss Waterfall, the national parks in Snæfellsjökull, sensational scenes, massive glaciers, lava fields, volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, the Blue Lagoon spa, Thingvellir National Park, the national parks in Vatnajökull, the Route 1 “Ring Road,” whale watching, bizarre delicacies, and the Northern Lights; these are few of the numerous reasons Iceland is widely visited. However, the gambling industry of Iceland is confusing to some degree and the greater percentage of gambling activities and facilities have been totally illicit for quite a while.
Gambling has had quite a history in Iceland. While the first appearance of gambling is generally unknown, gambling is believed to have existed in the country for a very long time. From the Old Commonwealth (a period of its own independent rule for three centuries after the Viking explorers settled in the 9th century) and being ruled by Norway (after internal affairs weakened the country and ended the Commonwealth) to the later Danish rule and the eventual creation of the Republic of Iceland in the mid-20th century, gambling sparingly existed in the country.
The first law of gambling in Iceland, the Lotteries and Tombolas Act (numbered 6/1926), was approved in 1926. Just like every other pioneering act, the Act made any gambling activity operated without a license or permission from the Ministry of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs is illegal. Also, participating in offshore lotteries was made illegal. Apparently, the aim was to maintain an organized gambling market and prevent illegal gambling.
In 1933, permission – which was the very first of its kind – was later approved to the Lottery of the University of Iceland to offer a number of lotteries in Iceland, in which the money generated would be used to fund the university. From there, Iceland had a relatively small gambling market in comparison to other European territories. There was only three lottery draws per month, a handful of Payazzo (Finish low-stake, coin flicking slot machines), and sports pool provided once a week. This came to an end in 1994 when slot machines were legalized in Iceland.
Over a couple of years from the 1990s to the 2000s, many forms of gambling were also legalized. Scratch cards, bingo, slot machines, monthly lotteries, sports betting with fixed odds, football pool, Viking Lotto, and the National Lotto are legal as of writing. Casinos, poker and like games, and online casino games were equally illegal.
Moreover, the Icelandic jurisdiction did not restrict the provisions of the legal gambling activities to any specific type of establishment – but the greater percentage of revenues generated through gambling must be donated or used for charitable purposes. In fact, most of the revenues fund the Red Cross and contribute substantially to the country’s financial sector.
There are no certain age requirements except for slot machines, which are restricted to people 18 years or older. Meanwhile, some gambling facilities set their own minimum age and this is licit according to the law. Some arcades and pubs limit their slot machines to people aged 18 or higher; buying lottery tickets or scratch cards is sometimes limited to people who are 15 years or older; often, football pools and sports betting with fixed odds are restricted to people aged 18 or higher.
A special lottery committee, in 1999, suggested the lottery law of Iceland be reviewed and revised. This was not put into consideration until March 2004 when the Surveillance Authority of the European Free Trade Association sent a letter to the Icelandic administration, identifying their violation of the European Economic Area treaty by limiting the licensing of lotteries to only companies native to Iceland.
In accordance, the parliament approved a new bill in April 2005 and became effective as Law on Lotteries (numbered 38/2005) in July 2005. The Law permitted new lotteries within Europe to receive a license in Iceland. In addition, public order and gambling problems were acknowledged and meticulously dealt with.
While the Law allowed the licensing of foreign lotteries, those lotteries were not encouraged to receive an Icelandic license considering the fact that the Icelandic law limited the operation of lotteries and tombolas to only establishments in the European Economic Area with a single motive of charity or public development. Actually, all revenues generated must be donated to Icelandic charities or non-governmental institutions. Therefore, there is a little percentage of the profit left for the lottery operator.
Additionally, another section of the Law stated that the Ministry of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs can – at any time – limit an operator’s advertising permit and even request funds for the research of problem gambling in Iceland.
As stated earlier, casino gambling is illegal in Iceland. While some forms of gambling (such as slot machines, bingo, lottery, sports betting, and football pools) are limitedly legal, other forms are completely illegal. Therefore, there are no casinos in Iceland. However, some outlets (such as bars, pubs, and gas stations) do offer slot machines but they are mostly small and very far from what is called a casino.
Iceland is a remarkable land with many attractions and historical features. Yet, Iceland is not a place suitable for gamblers or punters, as its gambling industry is small and limited.
There are no casinos in Iceland.
Although there are no casinos in Iceland, there is a number of noteworthy gambling forms in the country. For example, a lot of gambling websites welcome Icelandic players; although online gambling is illicit, this works because online gambling is not monitored by the government. So, Icelandic players can easily access offshore gambling websites but only gambling activities legal in Iceland can be participated in without any legal prohibition or fine. As a result, online gambling is very popular in Iceland.
Pari-mutuel betting on horse or greyhound races is also illegal in Iceland and almost nonexistent. Bingo, football pools, sports betting with fixed odds, scratch cards, lotteries, National Lotto, and Viking Lotto are the only licit forms of gambling in Iceland.
Particularly, the lottery is Iceland’s favorite form of gambling. With games like Lotto Askrift, Lotto, Joker, and Viking Lotto, there are six main lotteries in Iceland: the Lottery of the University of Iceland, Icelandic Getspa, the Association of Icelandic Heart and Chest Patients, the Lotteries of the Retired Seaman’s Home, Number Lotteries, Video Lottery Machines, and Sports Pools.
Further, sports betting is very popular in Iceland and greatly offered online by Icelandic Sport Web. Glima (Viking wrestling), football (soccer), basketball, baseball, mountain climbing, swimming, tennis, golf, hiking, and handball are very popular.
At the end, many people gamble illegally in Iceland. Most illegal forms of gambling are secretly available in Iceland and quite popular on the streets.
There are no casinos in Iceland.
– Although it varies, the minimum gambling age in Iceland is mostly 18 years.
– In 2015, Iceland profited €28 million out of €82 million of gambling revenues. Slot machines contributed 48.5 percent, lotteries and scratch cards contributed 23.2 percent, National Lotto and Viking Lotto contributed 21.2 percent, while seven percent came from football pools and sports betting with fixed odds.
– As of the early 2010s, about 81 percent of the population of Iceland own a computer and the greater percentage have access to an Internet connection. 80 percent of the population also own a smartphone. With these figures, online gambling is potentially large in Iceland.
– Many studies have recently found that 72 percent of Icelanders participate in at least one form of gambling.
– According to the Criminal Code, it is a crime to engage in professional gambling, encourage others to take part or profit from such activity.
– While Iceland is a member of the EEA, EFTA, NATO, OECD, and UN, the country is not a member of the EU. If Iceland was a member of the EU, the Union would have pressured them to legalize casino gambling.
– There are about 277 gambling websites available for Icelandic players.
– In 2010, the Ministry of Industry proposed the establishment of a casino which the Ministry of Health opposed immediately. According to the Minister of Industry, there will be a 60 percent tax rate. Similarly, a member of the Icelandic Progressive Party, Willum Þór Þórsson, has proposed the full legalization of gambling in Iceland three times (the last proposal was in 2015).
– The Icelandic Foreign Exchange Act makes Bitcoin illicit. Therefore, Bitcoin gambling is illegal in Iceland.