Currency: Icelandic Króna (ISK)
Casinos with Poker
Iceland has a booming tourism industry. That would attract many casino chains to open establishments in the small island country, one would think – however, unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Iceland has one of the strictest gambling laws in Europe, especially when it comes to land based gambling.
The only types of games of chance you can play legally in Iceland are lotteries, slot machines, sports betting and bingo. Lottery actually has a long history in the country, the first lottery draw was held all the way back in 1933. Originally, private companies organized it. That changed in 1986 when the Icelandic government took over.
As for slot machines, they became legal in 1994. Oddly enough, it was the University of Iceland that got permission to operate electronic gaming machines. The law dictates that all the profits from gambling have to go to charity. Evidently, this is a huge deterrent for companies.
Famous Icelandic Poker Players
Due to the tough gambling laws, Iceland never really had a chance to raise a true poker star.
On the famous Hendon live tournament database, a man named Runar Runarsson tops the Icelandic all time money list – despite having only 3 cashes to his name…
However, those 3 cashes total $337,300 in live tournament earnings, more than any other Icelandic player has. The biggest chunk of that sum comes from May 2007, when he finished 2nd in the €10,000 Grand Prix De Paris NLHE tournament for €224,480.
Second behind Runarsson is Halldor Mar Sverrisson with $100,945 in winnings. His biggest live tourney score is from May 2007, when he came in 46th in the €10,000 EPT No Limit Hold’em event for €19,910 in Monte Carlo.
As for online poker, a player with the screen name “youbetipush” from Reykjavik has cashed for over $1 million in MTT’s across numerous poker sites. On partypoker alone, he won a total of $639,991. Meanwhile, Ingvar “blikinn” Kale has over $720,000 in MTT cashes on PokerStars.
– Playing Live Poker in Iceland –
Live Poker Legislation in Iceland
As we wrote in our intro, Iceland has strict laws prohibiting most forms of gambling. These laws are also often enforced.
The little legal gambling a person can take part in in Iceland is regulated by the country’s Financial Services Authority (FSA).
The 1926 Lotteries and Tombola act prohibited all forms of gambling. Later, gradually some games of chance became exempt. First, the classic lottery draws in 1933, then slot machines in 1994. All profits must go to charity as per law. All participants must be over 18.
In 2015, there was a push in the Icelandic parliament to make land casinos legal in the small island nation. As the Reykjavík Grapevine writes, the movement was spearheaded by Willum Þór Þórsson, a member of the Progressive Party. He claimed that casinos would be a great way to increase tax revenue, and creating a regulated market would provide better protection for players who are now forced to the black gambling market.
However, that effort ultimately failed.
Live Poker Venues in Iceland
Evidently, in this legal landscape, no reputable establishment is willing to host a poker tournament or cash game.
In June 2007, a man named Sindri Lúdvíksson tried to put on a ISK4,000 ($64) No Limit Hold’em tournament. 150 players entered.
However, before a winner was crowned, the police showed up. They confiscated all the poker tables, chips and cards as evidence and cleared the building.
The Iceland Review article, which reported on the incident, cites the relevant section of the Icelandic penal code.
The article says:
“The 184th article of the Penal Code no. 19/1940 states: ‘Those who profit, directly or indirectly, from organizing gambling in facilities that they are responsible for, should be fined or imprisoned for up to one year.’”.
Unfortunately, the venue for this event wasn’t mentioned.
So if you choose to look for an underground poker game in Iceland, be aware that the police take enforcing the gambling prohibition very seriously.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Iceland –
Online Poker Legislation in Iceland
Luckily, law enforcement isn’t as zealous about stopping internet gambling as land based gambling.
Iceland even has a legal sports betting site called Coolbet. Unfortunately, they do not offer online poker.
However, many major online poker sites are accessible to Icelandic players. PokerStars, partypoker and Natural8 do not restrict players from the region, nor does Iceland block their websites. Also, unlike live poker, online poker players are never prosecuted in Iceland.