Panama is a very gambling-friendly nation thanks a government that does not attempt to prohibit or regulate the industry to death. In fact, some would argue that Panamanian gambling laws are too lax. There is a great deal of freedom both on the consumer side and business sides of things. We will cover all that in greater detail soon.
But to begin, let’s discussion the situation on the ground for everyday gamblers. Whether you’re just visiting or you live in Panama, online casinos and land-based casinos are both widely available. There is also no lack of poker games, sports betting and lottery options across the country.
It should come as no surprise that Panamanian casino sites are numerous. Many international brands accept Panamanian players and even provide Spanish versions of their websites and all games. If you live in Panama and want to play real money casino games online, the following sites are the best places to get started:
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We rank these as the best Panama online casinos because each of these brands is trustworthy. Trust is always our number one rating factor above all others. Without trust, nothing else matters. However, the above casino sites do offer quite a bit more than just trust. These are some of the largest, highest-paying online casinos in the world. They provide numerous payment options, fast withdrawals and a whole range of gambling options beyond just casino games (sports betting, poker, etc.).
Panama is also home to its own online gambling industry due to the government issuing licenses to online casinos wishing to base their operations out of Panama. However, Panamanian online casino regulations are notoriously lax and do little to inspire confidence among players. For that reason, we think it’s best to just stick with casinos that are licensed by more demanding regulatory jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom. The casinos recommended above are all headquartered in such jurisdictions.
Generally, online casinos targeting legally questionable markets such as the United States opt for a Panamanian license. Such sites choose to incorporate in Panama because authorities here tend to not ask too many questions.
A Panamanian gambling license is therefore not a reliable indicator of quality either way. It is simple a neutral statement that this particular casino met the minimum standards to acquire a license. In other words, it does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with a casino that holds such a license, but it is also not a guarantee of safety.
Fortunately for us, we have way more options than gamblers in the United States. We are under no obligation to play at locally-licensed casino sites; we have an entire world of casinos to choose from.
Panama Gambling Laws and Licenses
Panamanian gambling laws permit most forms of gambling both online and in the real world. Casinos, betting shops and a national lottery are all readily available across Panama. Tourists areas and resorts are home to the biggest brick-and-mortar casinos, but many smaller establishments also serve the local population. The Junta de Control de Juegos (Gaming Control Board) regulates all gambling across the country.
Panama has had gambling in some form or another since the 1940s, but it wasn’t until 1997 that the state gave up its monopoly over gambling and allowed privately-owned casinos to enter the market. Dozens of casinos now operate across the nation.
In 2002, new legislation was passed to permit the Gaming Control Board to issue licenses to Panamanian casino sites. Gaming licenses cost $40,000 up front and require an annual fee of $20,000 for the lifetime of the license. The Gaming Control Board is said to closely monitor all licensed online casinos in Panama, but the extent to which the board actually monitors licensees is questionable.
Even so, Panama has situated itself as an attractive licensing jurisdiction for online casinos targeting the US and other “legally challenging” markets as the laws here do not require licensees to conform to the laws of other nations. Panamanian online casinos are free to accept customers from any country in the world. Additionally, favorable tax laws, an effective banking system and modern broadband infrastructure make Panama particularly enticing for online casinos interested in serving the North American market.
Individual gamblers remain free to play at both locally-licensed casinos and those headquartered abroad. It has been our experience that gaming sites based out of European nations actually offer a better experience due to tighter regulation and the highly competitive nature of the international gambling market. So although Panama does have plenty of local casino sites, we still prefer bigger, international sites hosted elsewhere.
Wes Burns co-founded OnlineCasinoSites.com with a mission to help gamblers understand and navigate the regulated online casino market in all countries around the world. Wes is a respected gambling journalist, working in the industry since 2008.