What Are Iraq’s Views On Gambling?

Al Ekleel, 2015 WAHO Trophy Winner of Iraq. Image credit
Al Ekleel, 2015 WAHO Trophy Winner of Iraq. Image credit

Not every country in the world is as liberal as the United Kingdom when it comes to gambling laws. For example, in Iraq all forms of gambling are illegal. According to the 1969 Penal Code of Iraq, anyone who participates in gambling activities can face a fine or a prison sentence, and the sentences are even harsher for the operators. As a result there aren’t any legal casinos to offer popular games such as blackjack, speed poker or roulette, online gambling is illegal too and all foreign gambling websites are blocked by the government. Despite being illegal, some forms of gambling still occur in Iraq.


Russian businessman, Vitaly Kouznetzov operates the last known active casino in all of Iraq. There was a time when there was a large number of them, but years of conflict have seen the vast majority of them close down. Casino Suleimaniya, located in the northern city of Suleimaniya toward the Iranian border. Many players will come to the establishment armed but there is a room for all weapons to be deposited on the way in and collected on the way out.

Horseracing & Camel Racing

Gambling on horseracing was banned during the regime of Saddam Hussein but is thriving once again following his fall. In fact, the Baghdad Equestrian Club held their first race just ten days after the bombing during the invasion of Iraq. During his reign, Hussein ordered that a giant mosque be built on the site of the main racetrack. This forced the racetrack to relocate to the outskirts of the city in 1995, where it still is today.

Camel racing is also popular throughout the Middle East, traditionally riders will have been boys aged from 4 to 16. The boys would likely have been kidnapped from Pakistan or Bangladesh and then trapped the saddle with Velcro. Since 2006, robot jockeys began to appear in the sport that are operated by remote control.

Cockfighting & Dog Fighting


Saddam allowed cockfighting during his regime, but in many cases the police would crack down on all activity or demand bribes. Cockfighting has been very popular in Iraq for many centuries and a number of birds are regularly imported from countries like Turkey, Jordan, Thailand and Syria. It’s not unusual for fights to take place every evening in the more populated cities, while once a week is the norm in quieter places.

Similarly, dog fighting is just as popular in many of the Kurdish provinces. This vile pastime is obviously not for the faint of heart, and it is regular to see gambling take place.

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