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Iraq Gambling

Iraqi Gambling Laws

By Reno Rollins

Gambling in Iraq is legal. One casino is available, and horse racing is very popular. A great deal of money changes hands during cock and dog fighting matches. However due to the instability in the region, these activities are normally only enjoyed by the local residents. No state lottery is available.

Cockfighting in Iraq

Cockfighting was allowed under the regime of Saddam Hussein, but the police would sometimes crack down on the activity or demand bribes. These days, the event is more popular than ever.

The activity of cockfighting has been enjoyed in Iraq for centuries. Many fighting birds are imported from places like Turkey, Jordan, Thailand and Syria.

Depending on the location, fights might take place every night or just once a week. For example, Nuri Rahima Shwan’s teahouse in the city of Sulaimaniyah conducts fights every Friday from 10am until 2pm. Cost of admission to his matches costs 500 dinar (or 35 US cents). Sometimes, bets will get up to as high as 20 dollars for a particularly promising bird.

In 2003, American radio personality Paul Harvey was forced to issue an on-air apology after commenting on cockfighting in Iraq. In addition to his disgust for the sport, he also added that Islam encourages killing. This drew outrage for Muslim listeners, and Harvey’s sponsors were bombarded with complaints.

Islam prohibits murder, cruelty to animals and gambling.

Iraqi Casinos

There were once a number of casinos in Iraq, but years of conflict have seen them close down. As of this writing, there is only one active casino in Iraq, and it is located in the northern Iraq city of Suleimaniya.

Known as Casino Suleimaniya, it is owned and operated by a Russian businessman named Vitaly Kouznetzov. Near the border with Iran, many of the patrons come to the casino armed with AK-47s. However, there is a room by the door where patrons can check their weapons and retrieve them when they leave.

Horseracing in Iraq

Horseracing is thriving in Iraq, especially after the fall of Saddam Hussein. In fact, races started back up at the Baghdad Equestrian Club just 10 days after the bombs stopped falling during the multinational invasion of Iraq.

Gambling on the races was banned in the day of Hussein, but that has changed. Now, thousands of men flock to the track as either a hobby or an additional source of income.

During Hussein’s reign, he ordered a giant mosque built on the site of the racetrack. Therefore, the track was forced to move to the outskirts of city (where it is still found today) in 1995.

Saddam’s son Uday ran the club for a time, and jockey’s would be punished if his horse didn’t win. Once, a losing jockey was beaten to death right in front of the stands.

During the invasion of Iraq, the track was forced to close for several months. Horses were either killed or stolen. Since then, over $500,000 has been spent to refurbish the facility. On average, between 1,500 to 2,000 people attend the track on race days (usually held three days a week).

The betting system used is very similar to that employed in the United States. Odds are calculated and winnings distributed after the track keeps a portion of the take to cover expenses and pay out prizes.

The Equestrian Club was founded by the British when they occupied Iraq following World War One.

Camel Racing in Iraq

Camel racing has long been popular in the Middle East. In the past, riders were traditionally boys between the ages of 4 and 16. In many cases, these children were kidnapped from countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh and forced to serve as jockeys. They were secured to the saddle with nothing but a strip of Velcro.

That has all changed in recent years. In 2006, robot jockeys have begun to appear. Weighing around 10 pounds, these jockeys are mounted on the camels and operated by remote control.

While the event can be unpredictable and terribly dusty, it is certainly a sport that only takes place in a limited number of locations around the globe.

Dog Fighting in Kurdish Iraq

Dog fighting is especially popular in the Kurdish provinces. While not for the feint of heart, gambling does routinely take place at these events.

Facts About Iraq

The Republic of Iraq is located in the Middle East, centered around the length of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Iraq borders Kuwait, South Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. The capital city of Iraq is Baghdad.

Iraq is the 58th-largest country in the world. Its size is comparable to the US state of California. The population is estimated to be almost 27 million.

The official languages of the country are Arabic and Kurdish. Armenian, English, Persian, Turkmen and Assyrian are also spoken.

Iraq ranks second in the world for oil reserves. It is estimated that 90% of the country has not yet been explored for oil.

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the country. Other popular sports include boxing, kickboxing, tennis, swimming, weightlifting and basketball.

Since 2003, a multinational coalition has occupied Iraq. While this has led to the execution of President Saddam Hussein, it has also resulted in increased unrest throughout the country. According to one study, Iraq is the second most unstable country in the world (behind the Sudan).

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