Let's suppose that someone is interested in starting a website that might be in violation of some US laws (such as copyright, gambling, pornography, etc.). I know this question isn't in the best taste, so I can understand if it is closed or deleted. Please consider, however, that not everything against US law is considered immoral or unethical to some people.

I was reading how many online poker services are based in the Cayman Islands to get around US law. Are there other countries with good hosting services to avoid prosecution by US law? Many laws enforceable in the US are also enforceable in many other jurisdictions (copyright for one), so it would be interesting to know if there are safe havens for sensitive websites.

  • 1
    Most online poker networks hosted overseas (e.g. in the Caribbeans) have since closed down. Bush passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to criminalize running offshore gambling sites by U.S. citizens. Not only that, even if you're a foreign national, running a gambling site that targets U.S. nationals is illegal. On top of that, even if you don't live in a country with an extradition treaty, most U.S. banks and credit card companies won't let you transfer funds to offshore banks known to serve illegal gambling sites. – Lèse majesté Dec 26 '10 at 14:27
  • 2
    If you don't want to be subject to U.S. law, your best bet is to live and run your business in another country and not target U.S. citizens. Though the U.S. seems to have an uncanny ability to export both its moral values and domestic policies to other countries. So there may no longer be any "safe havens" left in the world. – Lèse majesté Dec 26 '10 at 14:30
  • 1
    Really, your political beliefs are not as fascinating to us as they evidently are to you. – President James K. Polk Dec 27 '10 at 2:21
  • 1
    What do political beliefs have to do with anything? The risks and problems with trying to skirt U.S. law when operating an online business are legal realities. Troll harder. – Lèse majesté Dec 29 '10 at 1:02
  • I was referring of course to your claim about an alleged U.S. ability to export moral values, which is of course a political belief. I have no desire to troll harder than you. – President James K. Polk Dec 29 '10 at 2:06

It's an extraordinarily thorny situation, trying to set up what you're talking about. The reason so many gaming sites abroad shut down in recent years, as suggested, had to do with their reliance on US customers. In that sense, the US did "export its (ahem) morals". Morals, lest we forget, are the US's stock in trade -- its most important export after guns, bombs, military aircraft and fast food.

Leaving that aside, though, there is a basic lack of infrastructure (not to mention trust) in most of the places that do allow so-called unlicensed online casinos at this point. If you're in business to make money at it, and this is what you want to do, it's best to regard all national jurisdictions as their own mafias. Each runs its own lotteries and casinos (the US included), and each can and will demolish you if you try to run a game of chance on their street corner without kicking a big chunk of your revenues up to the bosses. This is just the way it is. There's no terra incognita at this point. Short of invading a country and deposing its leaders, you're unlikely to be able to set something like this up without kissing a lot of a** and paying off a lot of corrupt (or "morally upstanding") patriots, wherever you go. Lots of jurisdictions offer licensing -- quite expensive -- after which you can legally host your site in their country. Do NOT use any host or licensor you find on Google offering supposed turn-key solutions to this problem. They will take your money and run. Slogold, etc. Ignore it; it's not real.

The point of licensing, so-called, is three-fold: 1. To legally incorporate in some jurisdiction where you can host, 2. To therefore be a legitimate corp in the eyes of merchant processors who will not take credit cards or other types of payments on your behalf if you're not legal somewhere, 3. To convince your users that you're not just going to take their money and run.

The prices vary wildly. For around $15,000 / year you can have your site audited, become incorporated and licensed in Curacao, and host your site there. Unfortunately, you'll be hard pressed to find a line over 512 kbps in or out of the island. Costa Rica requires only incorporation, which is cheap, but presents similar bandwidth issues and carries a stigma of zero licensing. Also, most Costa Rican IPs are blacklisted around the world due to a decade or so of heavy abuse. Malta, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and the Kahnawake reservation are some of the top-notch jurisdictions where fast hosting and decent licensing is available...at a heavy price. Major taxes and starting fees apply.

Put it another way, if you have $500,000 to spend, and applied it wisely, you could probably get a small US state to pass an intrastate online gaming law and give you a lottery license. Crooks, all of them; and they have the gall to claim moral rectitude. Lol.

Good luck, you'll need it; keep poking around though, you might find a loophole somewhere. That's how all the successful ones got started.


You need to talk to a lawyer (preferably one who is willing to represent you pro bono if the advice he or she gives you is not accurate).

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.