Is Playing Chess for Real Money Legal?

All games of skill present several smart ways for players to make money irrespective of what the laws of your state may say. For example, if you live in the US and play some good chess, you can always make money as a chess hustler.

Is Playing Chess for Real Money Legal?

Chess hustlers are expert chess players who play speed games of chess with chess enthusiasts in public places at small stakes. In most US states, the police don’t bother about friendly small stakes games as long as no substance abuse is involved. Most states have also legalized low stakes games of skill among friends and family members.

If you want to make a lot of money playing chess, you have to hone your skills, perfect your strategies, and participate in national and international level chess tournaments. But the idea of participating in chess tournaments with the intention of becoming a millionaire is not really exciting considering the fact that only the world’s top 50 chess players make over $100,000 per year.

If you prove to be a really good chess player, you may get invited to play chess at club events. Many expert chess players earn thousands of dollars this way. Other sure fire ways of earning money through chess is to sell chess-related books and products, teach people how to play the game, create websites and videos on chess, and write and sell articles and eBooks on chess.

Play Chess for Real Money Online

Chess is a game of skill and strategy, always associated with money and competition. The idea of wagering real money on chess games may appear repulsive to many, but there are several people who make money by betting on the outcomes of private chess games and chess tournaments.

You also have the option of making money by playing chess at online chess casinos such as, Game Colony, Chess Club (ICC),, and Chess Cube. Online chess casinos accept beginners as well as intermediate and advanced players and offer free as well as paid games. While advanced players can win money by defeating tough opponents, beginners can learn how to play for free.

Legalities of Playing Chess for Real Money

Now that we have made it quite clear that it is possible to make money playing chess, let us discuss the legalities of doing so.

Ideas and opinions about wagering real money on a game of chess vary. Many are of the opinion that wagering real money on chess is not gambling simply because chess is a game of skill, not chance.

Legally speaking, you are gambling when you wager something of value on a game of chance. If you are not placing a bet on a game or not betting something valuable on a game, you are not gambling. Also, you are not gambling when you are betting on games based on skill.

There is a big difference between games of chance and games of skill. When you are playing games of chance, you can win only if you get lucky; there is no skill or strategy involved. When you are playing games of skill, you will win only if you are an expert who has spent hours practicing the game and perfecting your strategies. So, if you wager anything of value on a game of chess, you are not gambling.

Simultaneously, you can also argue that a win at chess is not guaranteed even if you are a skilled player. Your opponent may be more skilled than you or just as skilled as you. Considering the issue from this angle, playing chess for real money could be termed as gambling just as investing in stocks or starting a new business is gambling.

Here is what the legal books in various countries say about skill-based gaming in general and chess in particular:

United States of America

United States of America

 The US federal government hasn’t criminalized skill gaming, but hasn’t regulated it either. Individual states are free to frame their own skill gaming laws, and most of them do not impose any restrictions on skill gaming. However, Florida is an exception. Placing bets on skill games, and this includes chess, is illegal in Florida.  



Chance based games, both online and land-based, are illegal in Canada unless licensed by a provincial government. Sponsoring sweepstakes involving random draws, scratch card games, and lottery games is illegal but sponsors have found ways to dodge the law.

Canadian laws permit games of mixed chance and skill. Operators of sweepstakes have, therefore, introduced an element of skill in their games in the form of skill testing questions. If you want to collect your sweepstake winnings in Canada, you have to answer a skill testing question. If you answer it successfully, you can collect your prize. A single skill testing question converts a game of pure chance into a game of mixed chance and skill.

Canadian laws have absolutely nothing to say about placing bets on games of chess, which leaves residents free to play chess for real money either in their homes or at online chess casinos.

Play Chess for Real Money Legally in Scandinavian Countries

Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have strict gambling laws, but do not consider betting on games of skill such as chess to be gambling.

If you want to offer lottery games, combination games (games of chance and skill), and betting services in Denmark, you should first obtain a license from the Danish Gambling Authority ( Since games of skill do not fit into the above categories, you don’t need a license to offer bridge, chess, sports events, some varieties of computer games, and quiz contests. Sites like ‘Spil Uden NemID’ advertise online casinos without Rofus with chess, roulette, blackjack and other table games on-board.

The legal situation is similar in Sweden and Norway. If you bet on a game whose result or outcome depends entirely on the player’s knowledge or skill, it is not considered to be gambling. If you are the resident of a Scandinavian country, therefore, you can play chess for real money legally without worrying about getting into any trouble with the law.

At the same time, you must understand that playing chess for real money at online chess casinos is fraught with risks. Since it is a game of skills and strategies, enforcing its rules online is far from easy.

There is absolutely nothing to stop players from making use of software while playing. Your opponent can feed your moves into a software program to get the best response and gain an unfair advantage over you. This way, you can never know if you are playing against a software program or a real human player.

The best online chess casinos take all the required security measures to prevent the use of chess gaming software or robots. But there is nothing to stop players from using such software on another device. You can, therefore, never be sure that your opponent is being honest while playing with you.

While you can make money playing chess online, you can be sure that the game is fair only when you are playing face to face. If you want to play online without getting cheated, you must play only with a group of selected players you know and trust. These could be your real life chess friends who share your passion for playing real money chess online.

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