Like its Arabic neighbors, the Islamic Republic of Iran derives its laws from the Quran but also like their neighbors, it’s not hard for Iranians to find loopholes.
Known as Persia until 1935, Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East, with a fascinating history and cultural heritage. With their separate language and Persian identity, Iranians are a step removed from the rest of the Middle East, with their own calendar, cuisine, and culture — including the famous Persian rugs, each woven in the pattern unique to their region of origin.
Iran is a main producer of caviar, pistachios, and saffron, and 10% of the world’s oil reserves are located in the country, with oil and gas exports making up a major share of its economy. A huge number of companies are state owned, and the rest are still controlled by the government, which, together with economic isolation from the rest of the world, interferes with the attraction of foreign investment.
When it comes to sports, Iranians are as passionate about football as the rest of the world, but they have a historical connection to another sport: polo, which was played in the area as long ago as the 6th century BC. The sport was born as a form of equestrian training and a means of demonstrating war horses’ talent, and over time grew to become a national tradition. Other favorite sports are wrestling, volleyball, and rugby.
Legislation and the judicial system are based on Islamic law, directly affecting the daily life of Iranians brutal punishments follow infringements from alcohol consumption to adultery. These strict laws apply to all areas of life, and gambling is no exception.
Online gambling and betting have been illegal in the country since 1979. Islam generally condemns gambling, and people with traditional views consider gambling to be connected to kidnapping, money laundering, and drug trafficking. Iranian authorities state that repeated attempts to organize gambling in the country will be equated to the “spread of corruption on Earth”, which in Iran is punishable by death penalty.
However, online forms of games and betting are difficult to control. Despite restrictions, Iranian players are known to enjoy video slots, live dealer games, and virtual sports betting, as well as crash games. Sports betting, too, is highly popular.
Despite the country’s strict legislation, Islam still permits horse racing, camel racing, and archery, and these activities are not prosecuted in Iran. Technically, only jockeys and archers are permitted to bet, but after an intense negotiation with the senior clerics — marja-e taqlid, which is a “source to follow” in religious and moral decisions — they can authorize a special committee to place people’s bets on their behalf. Bettors purchase the so called “prediction tickets” on a website or in a prediction office that states “Make a prediction, win a prize.”
Players always have to put in a little extra legwork in restrictive markets when it comes to payment methods. Iranian authorities have already blocked a significant amount of debit cards connected to gambling transactions. They also shut down point of sales terminals, and are planning to limit transfers between individuals. To accept Iranian players, offshore platforms have to not only localize their site in Persian, but offer the payment methods players can use and one popular method is by accepting cryptocurrency.
Estimates vary as to how many Iranians hold some form of crypto. Lower estimates are around 2 million, while higher ones range from 7 to 12 million. Regardless of the exact number, we can extract a key insight from Iranians’ attitude to crypto: not all government edicts are considered equal.
Authorities have flip flopped on the legal status of mining crypto; in the past few years, bans have been put in place, repealed, and reinstated, following the fluctuations in power supplies caused by the practice. Overall, though, the mining trend is a strong one; an estimated 4.5% of all the world’s Bitcoin mining takes place in Iran.
Using cryptocurrencies as a means of payment is currently banned, and the central bank plans to roll out a national cryptocurrency this year. However, due to the very nature of crypto, it’s difficult to imagine how that law might be enforced and the same is always true of online gambling. The fact remains that the oil-rich nation is packed with potential bettors with few options at their disposal, and the likelihood that bettors and crypto holders very often overlap.
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