As tourism begins to open up again, it is natural to start thinking of visiting places further afield. Central America has many options for the seasoned traveler or the holidaying family.

When people go on vacation, or on long breaks, they often like to carry on with their usual hobbies or activities. Often, a holidaymaker will look to spend time catching up on some new books. Others might look for places where they can enjoy surfing or rock climbing. For some, their hobby is gambling.

According to Statista, the online gambling industry alone was worth nearly $67 billion in 2020. The offline gambling market is even larger. However, these activities are not allowed in every part of the world.

How does Central America fare for tourists who wish to play poker or visit a casino? Can you place sports bets in Belize for instance, and can you go online in Costa Rica to play roulette?

Is Central America A Haven For Tourists Who Love To Gamble?


It is clear that many tourists like to gamble when they go on holiday. The number of casino resorts that are near oceans is testimony to this. Some people don’t just like to gamble a little while on holiday, for some, their vacation may actually be based completely around this activity.

For instance, visitors to Macau, Monte Carlo, and Vegas, may have one sole purpose in mind for their trip; casinos.

Many also like to play online. A live casino gives the opportunity to gamble online while still having a real-life croupier or dealer to interact with.

In Central America, gambling is also popular. Both offline and online gambling takes place in many Central American countries. However, not all of them allow these activities, and in some it is illegal.

Which Countries In Central America Prohibit Or Allow Gambling?


Although Mexico is not recognized as part of Central America by many, for the purpose of this article it has been included as it borders Belize and Guatemala. Many tourists from the states will travel to and through Mexico to get to other countries further south.

Mexico allows gambling in all forms, and casinos are prolific. Online gambling laws are slightly grayer, and it is said that it is illegal for locals to use an online casino.


Just recently the gaming board warned of illegal online gambling. Belize is a very popular place for casino operators to obtain their licenses and run their websites and apps.

Therefore it is fairly clear that online gambling is legal in Belize. As is sports betting, and casinos.


While Guatemala is close to countries with liberal gambling laws, this country doesn’t welcome the activity so much. If you are a fan of bingo then you are in luck. The only two legalized betting activities in Guatemala are the lottery and bingo.


Gambling, in general, has been allowed in this country for decades. The online gaming industry is, however, not regulated yet. This means that it is impossible to receive a license to operate an online casino inside the country.


Gambling has been legal in Nicaragua for over 20 years, and this refers to online gaming and casinos too.

El Salvador

Like several other countries around the world, the only legal form of gambling is the national lottery. If you want to play slots, don’t go to El Salvador.

Costa Rica

Allow Gambling

A highly popular spot for Americans to retire to, you may assume that gambling would be allowed here, and it is, sort of.

The rules surrounding gambling in Costa Rica are somewhat hazy. The Costa Rica Star reported on one American who was running an illegal gambling operation.

Indeed, technically all gambling establishments are kind of illegal. The official line is that residents cannot gamble online, and they cannot place bets on games of chance. And yet casinos do exist and are fully licensed.


Last but not least, there is Panama. This country welcomes anyone who wishes to play online, visit a casino, or place a sports bet. Gambling is fully legal in Panama, and the largest casino has 40 gaming tables and over 600 slot and video machines.

Are There Many Casinos In Central America?

All of the countries that allow gambling, and even Costa Rica which technically doesn’t, have casinos.

The countries that allow casinos can attract tourists easily due to the expansive coastline in Central America. To the north of this region before Central America begins is Mexico, which has over 200 casinos.

Where Would Tourists Most Be At Home If They Want Relaxation And Gambling Activities?

Gambling Activities

Again, while Mexico should perhaps not be on this list, it does border the region and is popular with tourists. It has many casino resorts on its coastline and could be an ideal location for a holiday that involves some nighttime gaming.

Belize is also a perfect sport for the traveling gambler, and the country is making strides to entice more tourists. The Tourism Minister has plans to develop the potential for attracting more tourists.

With its beautiful beaches, safe resorts, and legal gambling and casinos, Belize deserves a spot on anyone’s shortlist.

Even though the rules for locals are somewhat confusing, Costa Rica is another perfect location for someone who wants to enjoy casino games. There are over 1.7 million tourists in Costa Rica each year, and while many go for the sand and sea, you can be sure you will see plenty in the casinos too.

Panama also deserves a mention. As a very safe destination for tourists and its liberal gambling laws, it is certainly worthy of consideration.


If you enjoy playing online casino games or want to visit a land-based establishment on vacation, it’s always worth knowing the rules. It would be extremely disappointing to arrive somewhere only to find that there were no casinos.

Fortunately, there is plenty of choice in Central America, and Belize itself is just one of a few perfect spots for tourism and casino games to meet.

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