Understanding UK Online Casino Laws: How It Works

Jul 17

The very first online gambling website was launched 10 years ago, and since then, the online gambling sector has grown so much that governments scrambled to make sure the laws are able to keep up with industry developments. Today, practically all countries in the world have their own online gambling laws in place. These laws cover all types of gambling carried out online.

Those living in the UK will be pleased to know that online gambling laws and regulations there are quite comprehensive, especially as compared to other countries. Even United States online gambling laws cannot compare to UK laws in terms of coverage. Here we will take a closer look at those laws and regulations to help you understand the legality of online betting in the United Kingdom.

Quick Facts

Before we dive further into the details of UK online gambling laws you may be interested in, let us first take a quick look at some pertinent facts:

  • All forms of gambling have been legal in the UK since 1960.
  • The legal age for most forms of betting, including sports betting, is 18.
  • The legal age for scratch cards, football pools, and lotteries is 16.
  • The Gambling Act of 2005 and the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act of 2014 govern most online activities.
  • The UK Gambling Commission regulates all gambling activities in the UK.

Legislation Timeline

Now that you know the basics, it may be worth digging into the timeline of legislation that affects gambling in the UK. The legislation that governs online gambling is highly influenced by the general attitude of the UK government towards gambling as a whole, after all.

Betting, Gaming, and Lotteries Act of 1963

Gambling was made legal in the UK in 1960. However, gambling at that time meant the racecourses and nothing else. Naturally, changes to the legislation were made as changes to the gambling industry developed. The first major change in UK gambling legislation was the passage of the Betting, Gaming, and Lotteries Act of 1963.

This new law officially made other forms of gambling legal, and was the first step towards developing the kind of atmosphere gambling enthusiasts are now enjoying, where practically all forms of gambling is legal. It was this piece of legislation that regulated the UK gambling industry for the next four decades.

The Gambling Act of 2005

2005 was the year when the government finally was the need to modernise UK gambling laws. The result was the passage of the Gambling Act of 2005, which had the following main aims:

  • Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder, or being used to support crime…
  • Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and…
  • Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

It was also this Act that led to the creation of the UK Gambling Commission to be the regulatory body for all gambling activities within the UK. Additionally, new gaming licenses were developed, along with the rules that dictate how these licenses can be obtained. This was also the time when online betting was finally brought under the same legal controls as land-based gambling.

Offshore gambling operators were not taken for granted when these changes were made. The Act also called for the introduction of remote gambling licenses.

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act of 2014

The Gambling Act of 20015 had already addressed online betting, which was the most recent industry development at the time. However, the laws and regulations were ambiguous when it comes to online betting services provided by gambling operators based outside the UK, but offering services to British customers. This was why the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act of 2014 was passed.

As a result of this act, laws and regulations for all online gambling operators became consistent across the board. It no longer mattered where the operators were based. As long as they cater to UK customers, the laws and regulations applied to them. Perhaps more importantly, the Act made offshore online betting providers liable to pay the same 15% tax UK-based operators were already paying.

A Note on Money Laundering

The UK Gambling Commission is not only the regulatory body for the entire UK gambling industry, they are also the supervisory body in charge of anti-money laundering measures. Unfortunately, money laundering regulations are not yet as comprehensive as gambling laws and regulations. At present, it is the Money Laundering Regulations of 2007 that governs all money laundering activities in the UK. Under this piece of legislation, only organisations that hold casino operating licenses are obligated to address money laundering risks.

Since online betting is already included in the gambling activities covered by gambling laws and regulations, online casinos are therefore governed by the 2007 Money Laundering Regulations as well. This means they are obligated to undertake what regulators refer to as “customer due diligence measures”. These measures help identify customers and verify their identity “on the basis of documents, data or information obtained from a reliable and independent source”.

The regulations on money laundering are therefore the reasons why online casino operators can legally request documentation from you to prove your identity before they allow you to place wagers on their site.

Legal Online Casino Sites in the UK

You probably won’t have any difficulty finding a legit online casino serving UK customers, as there are loads of options currently available. In fact, the more difficult process may be deciding on which site to visit, rather than finding a site. Yes, there are many legit online casinos, but not all of them may cater to your needs.

To assist you in making this decision, here is a list of the top 4 legit online casino websites offering services to UK-based customers:

  1. 888 Casino – This casino enjoys a 5-star rating from users. It operates from Gibraltar and is licensed by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. They offer a sign-up bonus of 100% up to £800, plus an £88 free bonus.
  2. Casumo – This casino has a 4-star rating from their customers. It operates from Malta and is licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, and the Alderney Gambling Control Commission. They offer a sign-up bonus of 100% up to £300, plus 20 free spins.
  3. Betway Casino – This casino enjoys a 5-star rating from their customers. It operates from Malta and is licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority and the UK Gambling Commission. They offer a sign-up bonus of 100% up to £250, plus 25 free spins.
  4. Virgin Games – This casino wnjoys a 5-star rating from users. It operates from Gibraltar and is licensed by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority and the UK Gambling Commission. They offer a 200% deposit bonus, up to £200.

Legal UK Licensing Jurisdictions

Regulatory changes and amendments to gambling laws were made in 2014 to allow offshore online casinos to advertise their products and services to UK-based customers. Provided that they secure a license from the UK Gambling Commission, you can freely gamble in online casinos with licenses from the following gambling commissions:

  • Alderney Gambling Control Commission - Alderney may be a small island, but it does have a robust licensing commission that makes sure players are protected, regardless of where they are in the world. This is why gambling sites, including online casinos, licensed by this commission are among the ones aloowed to advertise to UK customers.
  • Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner - This regulatory body is highly respected around the world, and customers can rest assured that any online casino site licensed in Gibraltar are well-regulated and adhere to the highest standards.
  • Isle of Man Casino Control Commission - The Isle of Man also has a long-standing tradition of granting licenses to online gambling websites. Additionally, they also grant licenses to online gaming platform suppliers as well as online casino software suppliers. Their experience and expertise are the main reasons why they are included in the places with online casino operators being allowed to cater to UK-based customers.

Gambling Jurisdictions Not Legally Recognised in the UK

Once in a while you might find online casinos with licenses from commissions other than the three mentioned above, and you might wonder if it is legal to place wagers in these casinos. You would do well to avoid sites licensed by the following regulatory bodies, as they are not legally allowed to market to UK customers:

  • Antigua Directorate of Offshore Gambling - Antigua was among the first to issue online gambling licenses. Unfortunately, online casinos licensed in Antigua are currently not recognised by the UK Gambling Commission, so unless you manage to find an Antigua-based gambling site that is also licensed by the UKGC, you should avoid betting at such sites.
  • Government of Curacao - The thing with Curacao is that the gaming licenses they issue are basically just business licenses, which means they don't come with any form of protection for players at all. It would therefore be best for you to avoid signing up and playing at Curacao-based online casinos altogether.

Recent Adjustments to UK Gambling Laws

Before November 2014, online gambling operators were only legally allowed to offer their services to the UK market if they had a license that meets the regulations of the UKGC. Changes were made in 2014, however, and now offshore online gambling operators are now required to secure a license from the UKGC itself before they start marketing to UK customers.

In December 2015, tax law was also applied to all forms of gambling at the point of consumption for all UK-based players. This meant that all online gambling operators now have to pay a 15% tax, regardless of whether they are based in the UK or elsewhere in the world. In 2016, the significant effects of these changes in laws and regulations governing gambling in the UK started manifesting.

Many of the affected establishments decided to limit their advertising in the UK market or withdraw altogether. Those who decided to continue marketing to UK customers had to go through various pains in order to fulfill the new requirements.

Most of the changes to legislation governing UK gambling activities were designed to provide a better controlled and safer gambling environment for all players. These changes were also meant to promote responsible gambling. Therefore, although the bulk of the effect was felt by gambling operators, the changes also have an effect on the players themselves.

As a result of the recent amendments, gambling establishments now go to considerable lengths to make sure their games are handled fairly, and any UK-based member can report issues to the UKGC. Random testing is done to make sure online casino operators are adhering to the laws and regulations at all times. Finally, the UKGC have increased security measures on all online gambling websites that operate within the UK.

Conclusion

One of the most important issues that come up when people transact any kind of business online is the issue of trust. You naturally want to know that whoever you're doing business with online is someone you can trust, especially if you're giving them some of your hard-earned money. Knowing how online casino laws and regulations work gives you a huge advantage.

The next time you find a new online casino website that interests you, you will know what to look for in order to determine if they are a legit site and if they can legally offer their services to UK players. This way you'll know that you're not making unnecessary risks with your money and that whatever happens to the gambling services provider you choose, you're protected under the law.

Yes, gambling of any kind involves risk. But even when taking risks, you need to be smart. The risks you take have to be calculated in a smart way. And knowing how the law works is one of the smartest things you could ever do as an online casino player.