The Panama Gambling License for Online Casinos

The Panama Gaming Control Board (PGCB), or locally known as Junta de Control de Juegos (JCJ), is a body that issues gambling licenses in Panama. It has implemented systems to regulate, control and prevent fraudulent activities in online gambling, betting, and gaming companies in this region. They ensure that all gambling operations are fair, transparent and safe for players, abide by the laws and do not impose any risk on the state or public operators. The PGCB was first established in 1947 and has a long history in Panama’s gambling sector. On this page, we have set out everything you need to know about the PGCB, how to obtain a license through them and more.

The Panama Gambling License for Online Casinos
Adaobi Okonkwo
Written byAdaobi OkonkwoWriter

What is the Panama Gaming Control Board?

The PGCB issues a land-based or online gambling license to any casino or 'game of chance' operator in the Republic of Panama and ensures they run legally and prioritise player protection. This Central American country is bordered by Costa Rica and Colombia, and is known to be a narrow land bridge connecting North and South America. Although the PGCB was originally founded in 1947, Panama saw both a gambling boom and an increase in fraudulent issues surface within its gambling industry in 1997. Due to this, the Gaming Commission within Panama's Ministry of Economics and Finance – the PGCB - was tasked with the challenge of controlling casinos, issuing licenses, and most importantly, keeping an eye on money laundering concerns in the Republic of Panama.

Today, they have implemented many systems to regulate, control and prevent fraudulent activities in online gambling, betting, and gaming companies in this region. Land-based gambling activities are strictly controlled, and in order to receive a brick-and-mortar license from the PGCB, applicants and operations need to adhere to strict rules and standards. However, there have been reports and instances in the past that indicate that licensing for online gambling companies is conducted in a more relaxed fashion. Online gambling companies in Panama are not strictly audited, and player protection and regulations are not severely enforced. Operators that have the money to pay the fees and do not conduct anything extremely conspicuous or illegal can obtain and maintain their Panamanian gaming license. Therefore, the reputability of a Panama licensed online casino and gambling business can vary greatly.

Applying for a License with the Panama Gaming Control Board

Being licensed by the PGCB allows for regulated international wagering at an online casino or betting site. It also ensures that a gaming company follows compliance set out by the jurisdiction, runs legally without fraud, and allows for the protection of players in Panama. Unlike many other licensing boards, the PGCB has made the process of applying for a license hassle-free and simplified. Knowing the process of getting a PGCB gambling license is important for both gamblers and applicants to ensure a positive and safe gambling experience. Here are the steps to applying for a PGCB license:

  1. Fill out the comprehensive application in as detail as possible
  2. Allow for background checks on all key individuals, employees and applicants involved with the operation
  3. Allow for an inspection of financial documents and approval of a business plan showing how the operation will be run
  4. Allow for testing of the website functions (for an online casino) or services (for a land-based casino), ensuring that all necessary processes that bettors will go through to wager are working perfectly and that any game included on the website or in the casino is fair and safe
  5. Pay the initial licensing funds of $40 000, as well as the license processing deposit of under $10 000
  6. Once you have been approved, have paid all the costs, and are registered as being licensed with the PGCB, there are additional steps to extend and renew the licensing contract:
  7. Pay the annual renewal fee of $20 000 after seven years
  8. Continue transparency of the site’s operations even after the license has been procured

The Pros and Cons of Applying for a License with the Panama Gaming Control Board

By being in the know about the advantages and disadvantages of applying for a license with the PGCB, you can weigh the options of various licensing opportunities in Panama to find one that suits you best.

The pros

  • Low price point offering
  • Simple application process
  • Unsaturated license market
  • Two decades of issuing online gambling licenses
  • Zero gambling winnings tax

The cons

  • The unfamiliarity factor could hurt operators when it comes to doing business.
  • High-profile scandals in the past
  • The gambling license process can take up to two months.

Domestic Laws and Restrictions Set by the Panama Gaming Control Board

The PGCB does have a few domestic laws and restrictions set out to ensure that gambling sites are fair, transparent and safe environments for players, abide by the laws and do not impose any risk to the state or public:

  • A casino must be accredited and approved by the Tourist Board of Panama.
  • They must be located in a hotel rated three stars or above.
  • They must be at least 100 meters or one block away from places of worship, hospitals, clinics, and schools.
  • All software is required to meet the required standards of the jurisdiction of Panama.
  • Anti-money laundering controls are implemented, there is a signed tax agreement with the United States.
  • All transactions regarding real money wagering must be made available to the Panamanian Government upon request.

History of the Panama Gaming Control Board

Gambling activities have been legalised and regulated in the Republic of Panama since 1886. However, up until 1997, only state-owned gambling companies were allowed to officially operate. Due to corruption, organised crime involvement and management issues, casinos were privatised - allowing private operators in the market in 1997. This resulted in Panama experiencing a gambling boom, but with that came a lot of fraudulent and law-abiding issues as well. This meant that the need for casinos to be regulated came about, resulting in Law 2 of 1998. Although the PGCB has been around since 1947, it was not until 2002 that Panama became a licensing jurisdiction. The gambling boom was the reason for the Gaming Commission being tasked with controlling and regulating casinos, issuing gambling licenses, and keeping an eye on money laundering. This was further strengthened by Resolutions No.29 and No.39 in 2003.

Due to the Online Gaming Act of 2002, online gambling in Panama has been legal since 2002. Because online gambling businesses licensed in Panama don’t have to pay any tax fees, the country has become quite the licensing hub - the home of hundreds of online casinos. However, due to a bad reputation, and the reluctance of payment processors and financial institutions to work with Panama’s online gambling sites, the number of licensed online betting platforms has decreased significantly over time.

About the author
Adaobi Okonkwo
Adaobi Okonkwo

Amidst the hustle of Lagos, Adaobi Okonkwo emerges as Nigeria's preeminent specialist in localizing online casino content. By fusing Nigerian zest with global gaming insights, she's become a household name in the industry.

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Everything you need to know about casinos

Is gambling legal in Panama?

Yes. Gambling has been legalized and regulated in Panama since 1886. The government of Panama permits the operation of both land-based and online casinos in the country. However, gambling operators must obtain a license and agree to the regulations, terms, and conditions provided.

How do I get a gambling license in Panama?

Anyone interested in obtaining a gambling license in Panama must submit an application, open the business for inspection for as long as it remains in business and pay the specified annual cost. The initial inspection includes a criminal background check, business processes analysis, and testing of the “fairness” of all games of chance.

Can you gamble online in Panama?

Yes. There are many online casinos in Panama. Online gambling has been legal in Panama since the introduction of the Online Gaming Act of 2002.

Does Panama tax gambling winnings?

No. Government officials have recently announced the abolition of a gambling winnings tax in an attempt to attract more tourists. Players are now able to cash in on tax-free winnings.

Are there casinos in Panama?

Yes. Panama City is home to the most land-based casinos in Panama - holding over 37 gambling facilities, 241 table games, 8 484 gaming, slot, and video poker machines. Furthermore, there are also tons of online casinos in Panama available.

How old do you have to be to gamble in Panama?

The legal gambling age in Panama is 18 years old.