Costa Rica has made a name for itself in the past 20 years as a major base for gambling. Capital San Jose has over a dozen casinos, while many offshore gambling sites and sportsbooks have their HQ in Costa Rica. While Costa Rica itself doesn't have a recognized legal framework for online gaming, it hasn't stopped companies making use of the country's favorable tax laws. Let's take a closer look at what gamblers can expect when they visit Costa Rica.
Minimum legal gambling age in Costa Rica: 21
Current Gambling Laws in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a long history of gambling. Casinos attract tourists and locals alike, while online casinos and poker rooms have chosen to country to set up base in.
Essentially, online gambling firms in Costa Rica are self-regulated, and that doesn't look like changing any time soon. Foreign corporations pay no business tax, and there is no added gaming tax, either. Only gaming revenue is taxed, but if customers are all based overseas then there won't be tax to pay.
In 2019, there are specific laws in Costa Rica outlawing gambling online. If you live in Costa Rica you won't be able to register at an overseas online casino or poker room. Land-based casinos and poker rooms are legal, however.
However, there is a legal lottery that operates for local residents. The Costa Rica Lottery has been operating in one form or another since the 19th century. The largest prize, the El Gordo Navideno, is won each Christmas.
Weekly lotteries are also run. Main draws include La Loteria Nacional and Los Chances, but there is also a popular scratch-off game called La Loteria Instantanea (Instant Lottery).
Popular lotteries in Costa Rica
- National Lottery (La Loteria Nacional)
- The Popular Lottery (Los Chances)
- Instant Lottery (La Loteria Instantanea)
Online Gambling in Costa Rica
Costa Rica used to be home to over 300 online gambling companies (sportsbooks, casino sites), mostly servicing players in the US and in jurisdictions where betting online was illegal or in a legal gray area. However, the numbers have dropped in recent years. This is mainly due to the US federal authorities issuing warrants to illegal gaming operators based in Costa Rica.
The Black Friday crackdown led to raids by local police on poker company offices in Costa Rica. Many of the online poker firms' bosses were based in the country and ultimately turned themselves in to authorities.
As a result, many gaming companies left Costa Rica to set up base in Europe and jurisdictions out of the reach of the US authorities.
Some major US-facing online poker rooms and sports betting sites still have their HQ in Costa Rica. These include Americas Cardroom and BetUS. Software and slots developer RealTime Gaming moved its headquarters to Costa Rica in the late 2000s and provides games to many US-facing casino sites.
Casinos and Sportsbooks in Costa Rica
Despite its lack of legalized online gambling, Costa Rica does have several land-based casino properties. Casinos are generally attached to hotel complexes in and around San Jose. They provide a range of slots, table games and card games. Rummy and Caribbean Stud Poker are particularly popular in the country.
Casino Fiesta Horseshoe
Casino Fiesta in San José is one of Costa Rica's largest casinos. However, the Casino Fiesta chain also operates several smaller properties in the area. Casino Fiesta Horseshoe has over 250 slot machines, as well as roulette and Pai Gow. Local favorites like Rummy and Tute are also played. The site is in Spanish language. Promotions and bonus codes may be available.
Luckys Casino San Carlos
Luckys Casino is located in the Alajuela province outside San José. A smaller property in the Casino Fiesta chain, Luckys has dozens of slot machines and eight table games.
Casino del Rey
Casino del Rey in downtown San José is part of a larger hotel complex in the city. The casino has slots and card games like Rummy, Tute and Canasta. There is also a poker room offering cash games and tournaments.
Stellaris Casino is attached to the larger Los Suenos Marriott Golf Resort in Playa Herradura. The casino is open most of the evening and features slots and 10 gaming tables.
New Costa Rica Gaming Legislation in 2020
In 2019, Costa Rica still provides a base for many offshore online casinos and sportsbooks. While Costa Rica doesn't issue gambling licenses, these sites manage to operate through licenses issued in Curacao across the Caribbean Sea.
There seems little sign that the Costa Rican government will decide to implement structured legislation on online gaming anytime soon. But that won't stop overseas gambling companies setting up shop there.