Simon’s Guide to Online Gambling in the UK
Gambling and online gambling are legal in the UK. Online gambling laws in the UK went through a thorough overhaul in 2014 with the enactment of the “Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill*”,which was signed into law July 2014. The bill introduced new standards, that all kinds of online gambling operators are to be held to in the UK. This regulated the online gambling market, and opened it up for foreign investors.
Reasons behind the legislation:
The piece of legislation formerly regulating online gambling in the UK was the 2005 Gaming Act*, which allowed foreign online gambling operators in the country without imposing taxes on them or requiring them to hold a UK license. There was in fact no licensing procedure or regulatory body in place.
The online gambling operators, which were legally allowed to offer and advertise their services to UK players (after acquiring a UK gambling license) were listed and licensed in the so called ‘whitelisted’ jurisdictions (Gibraltar, Alderney, the Isle of Mann or Antigua and Barbuda), or in one of the countries of the European Economic Area (EEA).
The bottom line is, when it came to online gambling, UK laws used to be quite liberal.
However, it all changed last year and the reason for the enactment of the new regulations, apart from increasing tax revenues from the blossoming UK online gambling industry was the need for strict governmental control over operators.
The major changes in the regulation and taxation of online gambling platforms seeking to offer their services to UK players:
- All online gambling in the UK must be conducted by operators, that previously obtained a licence from the UK Gambling Commission. Licences are available for betting, bingo, casino games, gaming machines, gambling software and lotteries – separate licences are required for every type of activity.
- Only online gambling operators registered in the UK (or territories of the UK) are allowed to advertise their products and services in the country and to accept players from the country.
- A flat rate point of consumption tax of 15% on gross profits is imposed on all sorts of operators offering online gambling in the UK.
During the parliamentary debates leading up to the enactment of the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill, the Gambling Commission proposed a possible amendment, that would’ve granted the right to the Commission to order financial providers to block transactions to and from unlicensed online gambling sites.
Even though the House of Lords voted against the amendment, some of the major financial corporations, including Visa, MasterCard and Paypal signed agreements with the Commission to voluntarily block the transactions in question*.
The Commission also approached ISPs to block the online gambling sites unlicensed in the UK, but lacking the proper court orders or enacted legislations to refer to, they were turned down by all of them*.
So for now, players from the UK are allowed to register on unlicensed sites, although these are not allowed to advertise their services neither online nor offline, and as most major operators already obtained a UK licence, there is not really an upside to playing on unapproved ones.
Actually, if there is a problem (casino does not pay you your winnings, credit card fraud, stealing personal information etc…) you don’t have the UK Gambling Commission to turn to. As a matter of fact, you have no one to turn to for help if you play in an unlicensed casino, because citizens of the United Kingdom are only supposed to play in licensed online casinos.
Post-brexit gambling and online gambling in the UK:
The people in the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU in June 2016 . This will have an effect on the gambling and online gambling scene of the whole EU. The gambling license whitelist of the UK Gambling Commision was seen as the list of the most trusted gambling licenses in the world. Other countries copied the UK system and the UK was one of the few EU countries that fully liberalized its online gambling market, in accordance with EU directives. However, post-brexit, Scotland and North Ireland will likely try to secede and remain part of the EU, and Spain is trying to get closer to annexing Gibraltar (a famous online gambling hub, gambling licenses from Gibraltar are on the whitelist of the UK Gambling Commission, hundreds of online gambling websites are registered there). If these countries do secede from Britain they have to develop their own gambling laws. It is not yet clear how the Brexit will affect existing UK gambling laws, but the following changes are expected in the next few years:
- stricter, longer, more expensive licensing process
- increased gambling taxes to help the transitioning UK economy
- gambling licenses from the EU will no longer be automatically accepted, the whitelist of the UK gambling Commission will be updated
- EU countries, which used the UK system as an example to develop their own online gambling framework will likely stop implementing the UK system, which will slow down the liberalization of the online gambling market in the EU considerably
I expect that many online gambling operators will leave the UK market in the coming years. You can find the list of online gambling websites, which currently accept players from the UK below.
*1. Source: Gambling Act 2005
*3., Source: Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014
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- Casino gambling in the UK
- Bingo in the UK
- Poker in the UK
- Sports Betting in the UK
- Lottery in the UK
- Bitcoin Gambling in the UK
Online Casino Gambling in the UK
Online Casino Gambling in the UK: legal, requires a license
Online Casinos are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission under the “Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill” of 2014. Due to the financial burdens and their inability to comply with the standards some casinos pulled out of the British market. However, most of the major players in the industry obtained their licenses to legally provide online gambling in the UK, so players from the country can choose from a wide variety of such sites. The recent Brexit will have an influence on the online casino scene of the UK, but it’s too early too see how it will play out. We will update this section as soon as we know more.
The following online casinos accept players from UK:
Online Bingo in the UK
Online Bingo in the UK: legal, requires a licence
Bingo sites, like all other UK online gambling operators also need to obtain a license from the authorities (separate bingo license is needed) in order to be able to offer their services in the country legally and to advertise in the UK. There is a wide variety of licensed sites to choose from for players in the UK, this includes online bingo websites.
The following bingo websites accept players from UK:
Online Poker in The UK
Online Poker in The UK: legal, requires license
Poker sites need to obtain a Remote Gambling License from the Gambling Commission in order to legally operate platforms offering online gambling in the UK. Companies applying for such a licence are rigorously audited and even developers of poker games and other kinds of online gambling software need to hold a specific licence, issued by the commission. The strict licensing procedure and monitoring ensures that rogue online poker websites can not legally enter the UK gambling market (Always check the gambling license of a gambling website! never play in an online casino without a license!).
The following online poker sites accept players from UK:
Online Sports Betting in the UK
Online sports betting in the UK: legal, requires a licence
Online sports betting sites are also licensed by the Gambling Commission, and since the enactment of the 2014 Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill many of the major players in the industry applied for and received a licence for offering their services in the UK. Actually, online sports betting is the most popular form of online gambling in the UK*, and the sports betting market grows by about 7% annually. Maybe the growth will slow down post-brexit, but it’s too early to tell how leaving the EU will affect the economy of the UK (the overwhelming majority of experts predict some slowing down, but the extent of it is unclear).
The following online sportsbooks accept registrations from UK:
Online Lotteries in the UK
Online Lotteries in the UK: legal, requires licence
Even though the UK has a National Lottery and its possible to play online, the authorities issue licenses to independent online and offline lottery operators as well. Depending on the scale of operations, providers may need to hold an operating license and personal management licenses for the key personnel. If a company wishes to sell lottery tickets online, they need a remote gambling license as well. UK citizens are free to purchase lottery tickets (online or offline) from any of the licensed vendors.
The following websites let people from UK purchase lottery tickets online:
BitCoin Gambling in the UK
BitCoin Gambling in the UK: legal, license required
Even though Bitcoin is not recognised as a currency, British tax authorities argued, that Bitcoins are considered “single purpose vouchers”, which means transactions in the cryptocurrency is subject to taxation and it is regulated to some extent.
The stance of the UK Gambling Commission is quite stern. As UKGC CEO Jenny Williams said:
“The Commission neither prohibits nor encourages bitcoin. We are interested only in ensuring the proper regulation of gambling products consumed in Britain.”
So when it comes to Bitcoin based online gambling, UK laws require casinos specialising in the cryptocurrency to obtain the same licenses as every other UK online gambling site.
The commission also warn possible future licensees on its websites, that when applying for a UK online gambling licence, they have to declare the use of virtual/digital/crypto currencies and/or payment processors on their platform.
The following Bitcoin casinos accept players from UK:
I can not recommend any right now.
If you have questions or any feedback don’t hesitate to drop a comment below. Please let me know in the comments section if you think we might have gotten something wrong or if you have additional information, clarification about the legal status of online gambling in this country.
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This page is part of Simon’s List – Legal Status of Online Gambling – a definitive guide to the legal status of all forms of online gambling activities in every country around the world.
Last updated: 2016-06-29