Have you been watching the 2022 Qatar World Cup?
While there have been a rash of scoreless draws, there have also been some very big results for teams, as well as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament. If you happened to back Saudi Arabia at +2500 before its win over Argentina–or maybe even at halftime for much higher odds–you might be rich right now.
But if you are traveling overseas to watch any part of the tournament in the host nation, leave your betting apps closed on your mobile devices. Philip Ingram MBE–renowned cyber security, surveillance, and intelligence expert with a background in the British Military– 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 traveling 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.
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.