A Guide to Online Gambling Licensing in the UK
As fans of online casinos and betting websites will know, the UK’s gambling industry is subject to strict licensing by the UK Gambling Commission in order to provide players with the best and safest experience. Given the massive popularity of gambling across the country today, it’s vital that businesses of all sizes are supervised: without these safeguards and checks in place, players would be at greater risk of unfair activity. For online casinos and online betting regulation is critical, given the remote nature of these businesses. When customers visit a high-street branch of a betting brand, they can speak with staff and judge for themselves if the company’s activities are suspicious. However, when you’re playing at an online casino, you’re remote – and have to put more trust in a business to treat you fairly and justly.
Online casinos typically cover a significant variety of gambling activities. While online slots are perennially popular, more traditional casino fare, table games, also play a big part. Players at online casinos are adults at of all ages, from late teens upwards, but not everyone may have a clear grasp on the financial requirements or rules of many online games. For these people especially, gambling commissions and regulatory bodies are very important. As the online casino sector continues to expand and evolve, with more and more businesses establishing themselves in a competitive industry, regulation may become more of a challenge – but no less essential. Each online casino and betting site must have a license from the UK Gambling Commission to operate in the UK, that is loud and clear. But there are several regulatory authorities watching out for fans of online gaming and gambling in the European Union that it is important to take into consideration, since they add additional trust that the online casinos are providing players with a fair, legal service. This guide is dedicated to exploring their activities, their importance to the industry, and more. But first let us answer to some of the most common questions:
How to Know if an Online Casino has a UK License?
First of all, the online casinos that are reviewed in this website have a UK license and therefore regulated but the UK Gambling Commission. But finding out if a specific casino has a license is really easy, just scroll to the bottom of the web site and check the footer, online casinos with any license will place a badge for that there since it is required by the regulatory authority. Alternatively, you can visit the UK Gambling Commission’s website and run a search for the casino in question, if this has been granted a license, or is in the process of applying for one, they’ll be listed there.
You can then check out the licensing body itself for more information on what is required to gain this stamp. Any new online casino granted a license will be required to adhere to the Gambling Commission’s license Conditions and Codes of Practice, which covers all the criteria an new online casino must meet to retain its license. Amongst these is the need to provide comprehensive terms and conditions to properly inform members and keep payouts fair. This is to ensure vulnerable and young people are not taken advantage of.
What are the Dangers of Playing at Unlicensed Online Casinos?
If you fail to check whether or not an online casino has a licence, you could be placing yourself at risk. It’s always best to check whether or not a specific site carries a licence, and if not, avoid it since it is illegal to play on online casinos in the UK that do not have a license from the UK Gambling Commission. For a start, there is no way to know whether a new online casino in 2017 is actually a business offering payouts, or whether it’s a scam designed to take your money without returns. In order to actually receive a licence from a regulatory body, a legitimate online casino needs to provide key information and show evidence that they can be relied upon. Your money may even be funding criminal activity. On top of this, the casino games may not have been tested to ensure they’re fair. Casino games published by reliable, legitimate software houses will be designed for maximum fairness, giving players a legally-approved chance of winning. At unlicensed casinos, the games could be fixed to take as much money as possible without every paying out.
How Can Regulatory Authorities Help You?
Having a negative experience with an online casino is unlikely, but should you feel as if you’ve been treated unfairly, such as not receiving a payout, what can you do? In the case of the UK Gambling Commission, they will not get directly involved but offer plenty of information to assist casino players. They recommend that you contact the online casino’s head office first of all, and explain your issue as clearly as you can. Reputable online casinos should provide details of a complaints procedure. Any licensed casinos are required by the Commission to have an approved ADR, Alternate Dispute Resolution, body on hand to look into customers’ complaints if said player is unhappy with the outcome. However, if you have a complaint about the way in which an online casino is operating, rather than a payment transaction, you can report it to the UK Gambling Commission.
The UK Gambling Commission
Country: United Kingdom
Fax: 0121 230 6720
Opening hours: 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday
Address: Victoria Square House, Victoria Square, Birmingham, B2 4BP, UK
The organisation regulating the UK’s betting industry is the Gambling Commission. This was established under the Gambling Act 2005, and was actually given its full powers two years later. The Gambling Act 2005 covers the whole of England, Wales, and Scotland, and shifted the authority for licensing the territory’s gambling activities to local authorities, instead of magistrates’ courts, where it had lain previously. The Act’s key objectives are clear-cut and, it has to be said, noble:
(a) preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime,
(b) ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and
(c) protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
The Gambling Act 2014 made numerous amendments to the Gambling Act 2005. The key bone of contention for some groups was the demand that gambling brands based off-shore would need to apply for a license from the Gambling Commission. As of 2007, the Gambling Commission assumed responsibility of regulatory duties from the Gaming Board of Great Britain: as a result, they oversee betting, arcades, casinos, bingo, slot machines, and lotteries. They also regulate online gambling within the UK’s territory. However, spread betting (in which consumers bet on an event’s result with a focus on accuracy of the bet itself instead of a basic win or less-based structure) is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
The Gambling Commission’s key aim is to ensure companies are offering a fair, legal service (they work to combat crime and unfair operations), as well as to maximize the safety of children and others who may become involved with betting without understanding it in full. The Gambling Commission provides also licenses to operators who operate gambling equipment within the United Kingdom itself; if businesses want to promote their companies as being based within the UK without actually being so, a license is required from the Gambling Commission. When operators receive a license, they should expect to be watched closely. The Gambling Commission can legally visit these businesses and assess their work and finances. Should the commission discover any flaws or complications, they can provide recommendations for changes in operation, while licenses can be revoked if needs be. In cases with lesser transgressions, the commission has the power to issue fines. The UK’s Gambling Commission will work with police and other groups where criminal activities are suspected.
One of the Gambling Commission’s main policies is to “maintain public confidence in the gambling industry and the Commission”, as is “declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and competence by license holders”. The organisation is not in place to restrict consumers’ fun or limit what they can or can’t do for their own amusement; rather, it exists to prevent illegal or damaging activity. The reputation of the gambling industry and its fairness within the UK is a vital consideration – should any land-based or online casinos indulge in questionable behavior, they would effectively be shooting themselves in the foot.
The Gambling Commission also works hard to keep good relationships with all local authorities, to ensure they remain in contact with gambling activities throughout the country. Obviously, a lapse in contact or monitoring could affect one town or city’s gambling industry. Part of the Gambling Commission’s work covers advertising for gambling products or services, to make sure customers aren’t misinformed or misled. Advertising can be a difficult thing to monitor, due to the creativity and aggressive marketing-tactics utilised in many a campaign, but it’s essential to prevent customers believing they will receive something they never will. The commission’s insistence on fairness and openness applies to advertising as much as the operator’s activities themselves.
Types of Licenses Provided by the UK Gambling Commission
As mentioned before, the UK Gambling Commission is responsible for issuing and overseeing businesses within the gambling industry. Across the most popular forms of gambling, companies providing gaming services to customers need to have specific licenses, which may be one or all of the following: Operating License, Personal Management License or Premises License. Depending on the type of online gambling a business offers, there are different types of areas within each niche. Let’s look at each:
– Casino: Corporations providing online casinos must have a Remote Casino Operating License, which allows them to operate games through mobile apps, websites, and TV. The remote casino game host operating license is required by all online businesses which provides its own software directly to customers like yourself.
– Betting: In the world of betting, businesses operating online need to have a remote general betting license for either (or, in some cases, for both) real or virtual events. There’s a remote general betting license for only email and phone bets. Then a remote betting intermediary license is for companies bringing two or more people together to bet. A remote pool betting license is for online events in which prize money is taken from pooled bet amounts, to be split between winners.
– Bingo: Businesses providing online bingo will need a remote bingo operating license, which allows them to provide bingo through a website, mobile application, or TV & radio. Bingo-software developers which host their own games, rather than letting others do so, will need to have a remote bingo game host operating license in order to be legal.
– Lotteries: Remote Society Lottery Operating License is needed to only run lotteries for good causes, rather than commercial or private gain, and local authorities can promote a lottery intended to raise money for any area in which they may incur expenditure. There is a non-remote version of this too, for operating an local authority or society lottery offline. Remote External Lottery Manager License (ELM), applies to a society or local authority hiring an ELM to arrange their lottery, and all ELM’s must have this license. They might need to have non-remote and remote licenses alike. The non-remote version of this applies to ELM’s operating an offline lottery on a local authority or society’s behalf.
– Gambling Software: All gambling websites run on software. Everything from the latest online slots based on big-budget movies to traditional blackjack games are developed by various brands; some of the most well-known companies creating software include NetEnt, IGT and Microgaming. For software developers producing casino games to be played online in the UK, the Remote Gambling Software License is essential.
Other Commissions Regulating Gambling
In the British Isles, there are a number of different organizations regulating gambling for each territory. These cover land-based casinos and online venues, providing customers with a fair, legal service. Across the EU, gambling regulations vary from one country to another, some nations are strict, Italy was for many years, as is Poland, while others have a more loose approach.
The UK, for example, has an open gambling scene,yet regulated, with licensed operators able to offer British players any form of gambling. Operators which are licensed for online gambling in one nation in the EU can provide automated gambling services online in other countries if that nation does not have a regulated market. This allows online casinos to cross borders and reach players in countries with no native remote casinos of their own. While players might not be protected by national regulatory standards, using any casino with a legitimate license is likely to be trustworthy. Some of the biggest licensing authorities include the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), Curacao eGaming, and the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority, all of which provide players with protection. Here follows a list of regulatory bodies that you may come across:
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission
Country: British Channel Islands
Phone: +44 (0)1481 8255000
Fax: +44(0)1481 823978
Opening hours: –
Address: St Anne’s House, Queen Elizabeth II Street, Alderney, GY9 3TB, Channel Islands
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission launched in May 2000, to monitor gambling activity in Alderney, one of the Channel Islands. This is an independent organization with no political affiliations, with an aim to ensure all of the island’s gambling operations are as honest and fair as possible, while also meeting all legal regulations. Their monitoring covers various areas of the local online gambling industry, such as software processes, financial funding, and more, working hard to detect any potential criminal activity. The island’s young people, those under the age of 18, are a key objective, making sure that only adults of age are playing at online casinos and placing bets.
The AGCC will work alongside other regulatory organisations based around the world, such as the UK Gambling Commission and others. Closer to home, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission operates with connections to the likes of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, Credit Bureaux, and the Guernsey Police to maintain the highest standards of regulation. Today, there are around 2000 online gambling venues, owned and operated by more than 300 companies based beyond Alderney.
Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission
Country: The Isle Of Man
Phone: +44 1624 685685
Opening hours: –
Address: Government Office, Buck Road, Douglas, IM1 3PN, The Isle Of Man
Previously known as the Gambling Control Commission, the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission was put together to oversee gambling across land-based and online businesses. Since 1962, the Commission has worked to make sure all gambling stays fair, free of criminal activity, and all payouts are given to players as required. The Commission focuses on multiple areas of gambling, including regulating gaming operators, aiding businesses applying for said license, protecting customers’ finances, and the games themselves, such as randomness, fairness etc..
While the Commission can’t directly interfere in a case of money not being paid out, they will work with customers to resolve the issue. The Isle of Man may be a British Crown Dependency, but it has its own legislation and government – which means gambling monitoring there doesn’t have to be just like the UK’s. However, the Isle of Man’s gambling businesses are legally allowed to advertise in British territory.
Gibraltar Regulatory Authority
E-mail: Complete the online form
Phone: +350 200 72289
Opening hours: –
Address: 3 Secretary’w Ln, GX11 1AA, Gibraltar
The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority – GRA, was created in October 2000 under the Gibraltar Regulatory Act, and oversees all forms of electronic communication (phones, radio, and broadcasting), with strict adherence to laws set forth by the EU. While gambling wasn’t covered when the GRA was originally launched, it is now part of the organisation’s responsibility to supervise all online gaming activities. The Remote Gambling division of the GRA monitors all e-gaming operations in Gibraltar, as per the Gambling Act 2000, and the licensing authority is dedicated to providing licenses to select companies meeting its standards.
Blue chip businesses with provable experience in gambling will be considered, providing their finances are in good condition and they have a solid plan. There are numerous different conditions and requirements these online casinos and betting sites must meet to keep their licenses. A company’s handling of advertising, payments, data protection, customers’ privacy, and more all dictate their ability to hold onto their license.
Malta Gaming Authority
Phone: +356 2546 9000
Opening hours: 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday
Address: Building SCM 02-03, Level 4, SmartCity Malta, Ricasoli SCM1001, Malta
This is the world’s biggest regulatory body for online casinos, and actually hosts close to 10% of all the online gambling operators on the planet. Malta is well-known for gambling, with various high-quality casinos. Research shows that about 50% of Malta’s bandwidth is taken up by online gaming, and revenue generated by it accounts for almost 8% of Malta’s GDP, Gross Domestic Product. Part of the reason for the immense activity performed by the Malta Gaming Authority is because the country’s taxes are so low, with gambling companies able to offer services at a cheaper cost than in many other nations.
The Malta Gaming Authority – MGA, is the only regulatory organisation in place to govern gaming in Malta, and is committed to ensuring all gaming is fair to customers, keeping crime out of the local gambling sector, and protecting players who may be seen as vulnerable. The MGA works in various ways to maintain high standards, such as researching the entire spectrum of gaming, providing licenses for those gaming businesses, gathering gaming taxes for the government, aiding charitable causes, and making sure that Malta’s gambling helps the country’s development rather than damages it.
Country: Kingdom Of the Netherlands
Opening hours: –
Address: Pletterijweg Oost, Ara Hilltop Building, Curacao
Curacao is a Dutch Caribbean island, based in South America, and the Curacao eGaming body provides companies in the online gambling industry with licenses. This has been in operation since 1996, when the online betting and gaming sector was starting to gain real traction, and this body has continued to get bigger and bigger since. This organisation provides eGaming License and IP (Information Provider) services to those businesses looking to launch an online casino or betting site. It has many different data centers across the globe, with storage and maintenance keeping many online gambling brands in business.
Curacao eGaming aims to give only the most fair, reputable businesses licenses, and there’s one umbrella under which companies of all kinds can operate: sports-betting, lottery, casinos, exchanges, and games of chance & skill are all covered by their license. Companies wishing to apply for a Curacao eGaming license are subject to stringent checks to ensure they are of good character.
Kahnawake Gaming Commission
Phone: +1 450 635 1076
Fax: +1 450 635 1139
Opening hours: –
Address: P.O. Box 1799, Old Malone Highway, Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, Qeuebc, J0L 1b0, Canada
Kahnawake is a reserve in Quebec, Canada, home to more than 8000 residents. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission oversees all gambling in the Mohawk territory, supervising a high number of sportsbooks, poker groups, and casinos operating online. This body has been working since 1996, as per the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake’s Kahnawake Gaming Law. The Commission supervises more than 50 different operators, which covers around 250 gambling websites, and large fees are associated with applying for a license. It claims it was one of the world’s first jurisdictions to identify the potential of the online gaming sector, and the Commission’s eGaming interests, Regulations concerning Interactive Gaming, has played a key role since it was enacted in 1999. Any and all operators which receive a license by the Commission have to be hosted at the data center stipulated Mohawk Internet Technologies.
State Of New Jersey – Casino Control Commission
Phone: 609 441 3422
Opening hours: –
Address: Arcade Building Tennessee Avenue & Boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey 08401
New Jersey has a long and well-known history of gambling, with Atlantic City a major destination for anyone looking to try their luck at a casino. As of January 2011, online gambling has been permitted in New Jersey, for residents of 21 years old or above. This regulation stipulated that all servers running online gaming sites be based in Atlantic City, at licensed land based casinos only. The rules have undergone some tweaks and adjustments in the years since, but in 2013 it was set for a decade’s trial – websites could only operate if they operated out of any of Atlantic City’s 11 casinos and demands a tax of 15% on this gambling revenue.