Playing poker in Indonesia is more like a game of Russian roulette, since getting caught in the police raids of underground gambling dens could result in lashings or 10 years in prison. But what’s the story of online poker in Indonesia? How can you play safe?
Indonesia’s tough gambling laws are some of the harshest in the world. With an 85% Muslim population, gambling in all its forms is outlawed – even for non-Muslims.
Despite the harsh laws that can result in caning or imprisonment, poker is big in Indonesia, and the country boasts some of the best poker players in the world, with the most famous being Johnson “John” Juanda.
With the constant police busts of underground poker rooms in Indonesia, players are turning to online sites to gamble, and while these are still marginally safer, how can locals and visitors stay safe while playing a hand in Indonesia?
Indonesia’s gambling crackdown
Gambling is not only highly illegal in Indonesia, but it’s strictly punished.
With a majority Muslim population, gambling in all its forms has been outlawed since the 1970s. However, there is still a thriving underground gambling scene in the South-East Asian country, but those who do gamble do so at their own risk.
Poker is widely popular in Indonesia and players set up dens in people’s houses, private properties or underground casinos. Police raids happen on a regular basis in Indonesia, spelling out tough punishments for those who are caught.
Those found guilty of illegal gambling in Indonesia receive severe punishments, the minimum of which is by caning. The maximum sentence is ten years in prison.
More and more Indonesians are turning to online gambling that cater to them, which helps them to risk arrest and caning. Although, this is still not a fool proof manner of playing, but it’s definitely a safer bet.
Players caught gaming online are subject to the same laws as those who play in real, illegal casinos, even though the online casino is located in a place where the Indonesian government holds no jurisdiction.
The risk with Indonesia’s gambling laws is that it extends to those who are not Indonesian. Although, there are those who are trying to change the Indonesian gambling laws for foreign nationals and non-Muslims.
Motion for change
Poker rooms popular with Indonesian players:
• PokerStars are the largest online poker room and popular with players the world over, reliable and user friendly with good games on offer for players.
• ComeOn! Poker have a wide selection of games, including mobile poker play, which makes a good option for those wanting to play away from the computer.
• Party Poker is part of the bwin.party network and is a popular platform for poker players.
Since Chinese non-Muslim Halim Datkui was jailed for four months and 10 days, after being caught gambling just over $5 worth in the local currency, there have been those lobbying for the Indonesian government to relax the laws concerning non-Muslims.
Sayud and Halim Datkui have filed a request to the Constitutional Court to review the 1974 law prohibiting gambling, saying that the prohibition should be based on religion alone and not enforced against non-Muslims.
Lawyer Farhat Abbas said: “My client, Halim Datkui, is a Chinese non-Muslim who believes the law should not be applied to him. He is not forbidden by his religion to gamble, so why should he suffer.”
After being caught playing a poker game with a wager of Rp 50,000 ($5.50), he was jailed for four months, resulting in a skin disease he picked up in the Indonesian prison.
Farhat said that the government should revise or annul the law, maybe even only enforcing it against Muslims since The Bible does not specifically forbid gambling.
On the other hand, Father Dani Sanusi from the Indonesian Bishops Conference argues that most religions are against gambling.
“It is said in Christianity that you cannot take your neighbor’s money. We will respect any decision by the constitutional court, but morally I think it is our responsibility to appeal to our religious communities,” he said.
The gambling situation in Indonesia is harsh and complex, and while big time gamblers manage to avoid arrest, it’s the smaller time ones who don’t.
Also, the underground situation of the Indonesian gambling scene puts tourists at risks from gambling gangs that fix games and enforce travelers to pay large debts with violence.
So, until there is a change in the strict gambling laws, how can those looking for a hand of poker play safe without having to resort to the numerous illegal gambling dens in Jakarta?
Playing safe in online poker
Despite the harsh laws, poker is flourishing in Indonesia. People gamble in private houses or in underground casinos, but platforms offering access to online casinos in Indonesia are gaining popularity for obvious reasons.
However, playing poker from the safety of home is not entirely secure and still carries risk, since the punishment for online gaming is the same. Tourists and foreigners should take care if they play poker online and employ some safety measures.
One way to stay safe is to use a proxy server when accessing international gambling sites that take players from Indonesia, since there has been an increased crackdown on those who play online.
Another option that is often popular with local players is using an underground internet café that allows its players to access internet poker, since these won’t be traceable back to your computer, but again are at risk from police raids.
There are international poker sites that allow for Indonesian natives to play and download full tilt poker, where they are not under the jurisdiction of the Indonesian government; hence owners of the online gambling sites can’t be arrested.
Turning to online poker rooms or mobile casinos while in Indonesia also has the added safety bonus of avoiding illegal gambling gangs, particularly those who work on Bali and look to reel in foreign players with fixed games.
Fixed games can result in travelers being forced to pay money with the use of violence.
It pays to be on your guard in Indonesia. Use a proxy if you do gamble online and pick a reliable online casino. No matter your medium – do what ever you can to stay safe in Indonesia’s gambling scene.