Warning to supporters: “You could face a jail term even for relaying bets to someone else to place on your behalf”
- Delete gambling apps before you travel – even having them on your phone or device could be taken as a breach of the law
- Everything you do, say, upload and connect with whilst online is being intercepted
- Footballers playing at the World Cup will be monitored to ensure they don’t gamble during their downtime
- Security expert also warns fans not to bring over the counter painkiller Codeine to Middle East, along with activity like vaping, swearing and holding hands in public
Philip Ingram MBE, renowned cyber security, surveillance, and intelligence expert with a background in the British Military. Ingram is an expert on the geopolitics, security and culture of the Middle East and is a regular contributor to Sky News Arabia, Al Jazeera and other networks.
Ingram spoke exclusively to betting intelligence website FairBettingSites.co.uk to issue a warning to anyone thinking of engaging in gambling activities whilst visiting Qatar for the World Cup.
Gambling is completely illegal in Qatar as it is across the Middle East. What should anyone travelling to the World Cup hoping to gamble expect and how might they be punished if they were still able to gamble?
Gambling in Qatar is completely illegal in all forms. There are lots of sites and tips as to how to do it, and lots of examples of how the locals gamble on sports such as camel racing, but the bottom line is it is illegal and as a foreigner the authorities will likely come down very harshly if you get caught. Human rights laws are very different to the UK and penalties tend to be severe. So, if you decide to gamble the first punt you are taking is with a potential prison sentence and fine.
Does this apply to bets placed online or remotely too?
It applies to all gambling and online gambling is frowned on even more. Whilst it is a grey area, if you are caught with gambling apps on your phone or device that could be taken as a breach of the law. Accessing personal gambling accounts remotely from Qatar is again illegal. If you are thinking of remote gambling, leave instructions at home before you fly to Qatar, otherwise you could face a jail term even for relaying bets to someone else to place on your behalf.
Might the authorities be monitoring and intercepting my communications? If I am trying to use personal communications channels to place bets remotely, what risks am I taking?
There are not the same checks and balances when it comes to the authorities monitoring online activity and accessing mobile phone data in the Middle East compared to the UK and other parts of the world. Some Middle East countries monitor all traffic and look for illegal activity. The only safe assumption I would suggest when in a Middle East country is that everything you do online, especially from an overseas registered device, will be compromised and the authorities will be monitoring it. If you work from that assumption, then you should be ok.
The authorities will block some sites but also data privacy laws are very different across the Middle East and there aren’t the same oversights needed for the authorities to access your personal data that there are in the UK. A good principal to work with is everything you do, say, upload, connect with whilst online in any Middle East country is being intercepted
How do authorities look upon other games of chance and social gambling activities that fans might typically engage in during downtime, e.g playing cards, poker, pool if there is wagering involved?
This is a difficult one to be exact on, there is no issue with playing games but if it is suspected that these are being used to gamble, whether for money or even tokens then the authorities, if they find out, will decide if they intervene or not. They have different rules generally for locals, locally based foreign nationals and foreign visitors. You must remember that you are a guest in their country and by walking through the border checkpoints you agree to abide by the laws of that country. If you don’t, the penalties can be harsh.
Footballers are well known to gamble, play darts, pool, cards in camp to keep them occupied. Many of them are also known to enjoy gambling on horse racing as a pastime. Might authorities be monitoring these activities and might they be made an example of?
Almost certainly they will be monitored, what the appetite is to make an example of a player and therefore cause a diplomatic incident could depend on many different factors, but they have ways and means of dealing with anyone who they believe is not respecting the laws and culture of Qatar. Again, it is important to note there are different interpretations applied for locals and foreigners, so just because a local gets away with accessing a gambling site doesn’t mean a foreigner will.
In terms of cybersecurity and personal data/information security, what else should fans travelling to the region be aware of?
The simplest rule is that anything you do online via wifi or mobile data is likely monitored, so don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t be happy doing publicly with your parents, grandparents and the police watching. Personal data, data/information security rules in the Middle East are completely different to those in the UK, EU or other parts of the world.
You mentioned that having drugs in your system can be a crime punishable by jail and bringing codeine (a painkiller available over the counter in the UK) over is another high risk activity. Can you outline any other watch outs or caveats for fans over and above what is already known about alcohol consumption, LGBTQ+ rights and other civil liberties?
The simple rule is check local laws and customs before you arrive in country, not just for Qatar but any transit hubs. Codeine, a pain killer available across the counter in the UK is a Class A drug in the UAE so if you travel via Dubai and have it in your luggage you could end up in prison for many years. Tiny traces of drugs in your bloodstream if discovered could also in some countries be classed as possession.
Any activity in public against Islamic law carries a higher risk and penalty including drinking, swearing, vaping, non-payment of bills, all LGBTQ+ activity, public intimacy, and intimacy outside marriage (including holding hands in public). Visitors must realise as guests in an Islamic country the World Cup doesn’t exempt them from strict local laws, so my advice is always exercise restraint, caution, and show respect. Taking an interest in local laws, customs and behaviour will give a newfound respect for the real freedoms we have at home.