What does an online casino need to operate legally in the UK?
The answer to this question is actually very simple. To operate within the UK, advertise to UK citizens and to provide services to customers from the UK, an online casino operator needs to be licensed by the UKGC (UK Gambling Commission).
Before 2014, the UKGC allowed casino operators with certain other licenses to cater to UK players. These jurisdictions were considered “whitelisted,” as the UKGC viewed their regulations to be sufficient and in line with UK regulations.
This led to a lot of confusion and ambiguity. The Gambling Licenses and Advertising Act of 2014 was brought into play to solve this problem, and it stated that only operators with a UKGC license could serve UK customers. The jurisdictions that were previously whitelisted before this were:
EU/Malta (Malta Gaming Authority)
Gibraltar (Gibraltar Gambling Commission)
Alderney (Alderney Gambling Control Commission)
Isle of Man (Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission)
Barbuda and Antigua (Gambling Commission of Barbuda and Antigua)
For a time, the industry as a whole was understandably very concerned about this move. They feared that it would make it impossible for them to continue operations within the UK. However, the UK’s licensing requirements were already mostly inline with those of the other jurisdictions, and the operators didn’t find it too challenging obtaining the license.
A short history of online gambling regulations in the UK
To better understand where we are now, it pays to know a little about the recent history of online gambling. When it comes to regulations surrounding the online gambling industry, the UK has always been one of the frontrunners. Here is the timeline of gambling legality in the UK:
Betting, Gambling and Lotteries Act 1963
This act can be seen as the great-grandfather of the current gambling act. In short, it made betting and gambling legal away from racecourses which were the most popular form of gambling at the time. It meant that gambling was now legal independent of location.
First online casino 1994/1996
Microgaming developed the first online casino software platform in 1994. Two years after this, the first online casino, InterCasino, was officially launched.
Gambling board of Great Britain < 2005
During this time, this board held most of the responsibility when it came to creating and upholding gambling rules in the UK.
UK Gambling Commission 2005-Now – In 2005
The Gambling Act 2005 was officially introduced that also paved the way for the creation of the UK Gambling Commission. Over the next two years, the UKGC steadily took over the regulation of the industry until it eventually supplanted the GBGB and took over complete responsibility.
The Gambling Licenses and Advertising Act 2014
Because of the grey area involved with operating online, there was some ambiguity about which casinos are actually allowed to advertise to and serve UK players. However, after this, all online casinos outside the UK were forced to get a license from the UKGC to serve UK players, and a tax of 15% on the revenue from these players was levied.
As you can see, online gambling in the UK has been alive an well for quite some time. It has also been regulated to some degree from the very beginning. By now, regulations have been tightened and polished to provide all players with safe, fair and responsible choices.
How do the UK’s Gambling laws affect you?
As a player, you might wonder what benefits or limitations are imposed on you by the tight legal regulation of the UK Gambling industry. In short, the UK Gambling Commission was established and created regulations with the intention of promoting safer, fairer and more responsible environment for gamblers.
As such, most of these laws are meant to ensure that online casinos don’t take advantage of players and provide them with the information and the tools to participate responsibly. Most laws only have an indirect effect on the players through the relevant online casino, and few have a direct bearing on the conduct of a player.
Proof of Licensing
The license awarded to the site is the proof that they adhere to the regulations of the UKGC. This license is needed to advertise to players in the UK. You will need to check whether a site is licensed before you sign up or deposit your money.
If the site is not licensed with the UKGC, you won’t have anywhere to turn should something go wrong. It’s up to you to perform your due diligence and check the license status of a site. A site with a license will always be under threat of their license being suspended or revoked. An unlicensed casino will have no such qualms, which may lead to unfair practices.
Any online casino site should openly provide its licensing information on every page of the site. This information will usually be located in the disclaimer and copyright text at the bottom of the page in the footer section. If you aren’t sure if you can trust a site, you can go to the UKGC search tool. You can then search for the casino name, and if it is licensed, it will appear in the search results.
Remember that sometimes a casino’s license may be under the name of the operator or holding company. Of course, a casino can be licensed with more than one body and the more they are licensed with, the better.
Adherence to Regulation
When a casino registers for a license with a regulatory body like the UKGC, they commit to random inspections. During these inspections, the UKGC will check if the casino is still operating within the bounds of their license. If they are found to have breached the regulations, their license may be temporarily suspended or revoked.
This ensures that you don’t have to worry about a casino changing their terms as soon as they get a license. The UKGC is one of the best bodies of its kind worldwide and thoroughly checks these casinos frequently. For added trust, some casinos also publish the dates on which their licenses have been renewed.
The Safety of Your Identity and Money
If a casino is licensed to operate within the UK legally, you can use the platform with a certain level of trust and confidence. The UKGC regulates casinos for both their commitment to provide fair gaming as well as their security measures.
An online casino has to make use of some form of reputable and high-end SSL encryption. This is very important if a site is going to process monetary transactions safely. Even online stores use SSL encryption to protect users’ financial information as well as their own. An online casino should mention what kind of encryption they use on their T&Cs or as part of their marketing.
There have plenty of scam online casinos in the past that lures players in and to risk their cash without a fair chance of being awarded. These casinos run on algorithms instead of random results that ensure the casino always comes out on top. Every player should be OK with the fact that they might lose their money when gambling, but they have a right to expect fair treatment.
An online casino site will need to make use of some kind of trusted and approved RNG (random number generator) for their games. The software platforms they use also plays a role. 3rd party organisations can also audit RNGs for an extra level of trust, so keep an eye out for those certifications.
Gambling Addiction Self-Help
Lastly, gambling can be addictive. Although players have to take some level of responsibility for managing their gambling habits, a casino is in no way permitted to exploit this aspect of gambling. This can be a slightly grey area as it’s not always easy to draw a line between “marketing speak” and promoting addiction.
One way that players should be supported to try and prevent addiction is by providing self-exclusion measures. There are platform-wide self-exclusion schemes to ensure a player doesn’t self-exclude from one site only to continue on another.
A player can break their self-exclusion agreement, but the casino operator must take reasonable steps to find out the reason and help the player’s decision making. Players can also create settings or limits for themselves. If they break their own limits, they are automatically self-excluded or an addiction warning is triggered.
A casino site must also provide links to organisations like GamCare and Gamblers’ Anonymous UK. Customer support staff should be trained to help players or refer them to help if they are approached. Some sites go as far as to try and identify problem behaviour from players just by their actions.
That’s it! We hope that this guide has thoroughly answered your questions. Gambling is one of the UK’s favourite pastimes, and it comes as no surprise considering the excitement, fun and potential winnings on offer.
We want to empower you to enjoy this hobby to the fullest. To do so, you need to play on a platform you trust and that has your best interests at heart. By playing on a legal UK online casino site, you will have a safe, secure, fair and sustainable gambling experience. A bit of study before you sign up can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. We wish you the best in safe and fun gambling!