Discovering the Casino Culture of Belize
Compared to other countries in Central America and the Caribbean, while Belize hasn’t yet seen an explosion of investment in casino resorts, there are still several resorts for tourists to enjoy in different locations around the country. Meanwhile, thanks to the ongoing improvements in both internet and mobile connectivity, online gambling is also proving popular with locals and visitors alike. Here, we take a brief look at the two most popular forms of gambling in Belize.
Online Gambling and Licensing
For a number of years, online gambling and gaming has been legal in Belize, first becoming regulated in the country by the Computer Wagering Licensing Act of 1995. Subsequently, “normal” and “exclusive” gambling licenses were the two different kinds of licenses issued by the Gaming Control Committee of Belize, depending on the kind of activities and services provided.
Further regulation for the online gaming industry came in 2004, which included a reduction in the cost of both the aforementioned types of license, down to $15,000 and $50,000 respectively. As part of the 2004 regulation changes, the customer service facilities of any online gambling provider licensed in Belize, also had to be officially located within the country.
However, there is a level of flexibility in this regard, given the servers of online gambling companies can still be located elsewhere around the world. Interestingly, while online gambling companies and casinos with a Belize license may not offer services to residents of their own country, there are currently no laws to prevent Belizeans from accessing and using online casinos and gambling sites located and licensed in other countries.
For example, any Belize resident can play any of the many online games available at Betway Casino, which is registered and licensed with the Malta Gaming Authority in Europe. This means that Belizeans can freely choose to play online casino games such as poker, blackjack, roulette, slots, or bet on sports, any time they choose and with any provider around the world. Even if those online casinos and gambling sites aren’t specifically licensed in Belize.
By a somewhat unusual comparison, online casinos entirely operated, based and licensed in Belize, may only offer their services to overseas clients, given that, as mentioned previously, licensing restrictions prevent them from offering their services to the culturally diverse melting pot of local residents. Nevertheless, such can be the quirky nature of gambling laws and licensing in different countries around the world.
Traditional Brick-and-Mortar Casinos
What are commonly referred to as land-based casinos these days, are entirely legal in Belize. However, operating any gambling license still requires an official license from the Gaming Control Committee of Belize. While the country already offers plenty of thriving and vibrant entertainment options for visitors, the number of land-based casinos has also grown, given the proximity of the country to Mexico and the United States, making Belize an increasingly popular destination for tourists who enjoy gambling as part of their vacation.
Topping the list of the four most popular Belize casino hotels according to TripAdvisor.com is Captain Morgan’s Retreat, located just over 3 miles from San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye, which has received 47% “excellent” and 28% “very good” ratings from over 960 reviewers. While prices for 3.5 star-rated accommodation can start from around $150 per room, depending on the time of year, with visitors attracted to the Laguna de Mato on one side of this beautiful and narrow strip of land, with the Caribbean Sea on the other.
Back on the Belize mainland and just south of the Mexican border is George Hardie’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino in Corozal Town, offering 3.5 star-rated accommodation for prices starting at $80 per room. Given the name of this resort, it’s no surprise that gambling at the casino is one of the biggest attractions amongst the variety of services offered, while visitor feedback is also positive thanks to 74% “excellent” reviews.
For travellers to Belize looking for something a little more off the beaten track, heading to the northern frontier of the country, the Princess Hotel & Casino Free Zone in Santa Elena is one such location, offering 3 star-rated accommodation for the more adventurous, practically right on the Mexican border and the Hondo River. Handy as locations go, if visitors plan on combining what Belize has to offer, along with trips into Quintana Roo in Mexico.
For those preferring to experience the vibrant lifestyle and culture of the capital, there’s the Ramada Belize City Princess Hotel, boasting a seafront location and within easy walking distance of all the main local attractions. After spinning the slot reels or flipping cards in the casino, this hotel can be considered a good base for exploring the capital or travelling further afield around the country, with the Museum of Belize nearby and regular boat crossings to several of the beautiful offshore Cays.
Useful Tips for Locals and Visitors
Whether you’re native to Belize or just visiting, it’s always worth checking for any variations in how games are played at different casinos. Sometimes the etiquette, rules, or even the staking method can be different from one place to another, so it’s always worth doing a little research before you start playing, so as to avoid any unwelcome surprises.