This guide is meant to help players seeking to find the best UK online casino, where they can gamble safely and legally. This post, with a special focus on casinos and online casinos, is a supplement to my blogpost on the legal status of gambling and online gambling in the UK in general.
Below I’ll provide you with valuable information on the legal environment of casino gambling and online casinos in the UK and useful tips on finding the best UK online casino to play at.
UK casino and online gambling laws
All forms of gambling and online gambling in the UK are legal and regulated by the state. Sports and horse race betting, lotteries and casinos are legal since the ’60s. On 1 December 2014, the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill* replaced the 2005 Gambling Act**, which was previously the central piece of legislation pertaining to gambling. The new law affected online gambling operators and UK online casinos the most, as it created a much more controlled and strict legal environment for their operations.
As a result of the enactment of the new law, only online gambling sites and online casinos licensed in the UK are allowed to offer their services to residents of the country legally, while previously there was no specific ban in place on foreign operators. The authorities also attempted to order the country’s ISPs to block foreign sites, but they refused to comply, as there are no regulations in place under which they would be obliged to do so***. There’s also no clause in the 2014 piece of legislation that would require financial institutions to block transactions related to online gambling and online casinos in the UK. However, some of the major financial providers, namely Visa, PayPal and MasterCard announced, that they are willing to voluntarily block transactions related to unlicensed online gambling operators****.
The Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) changed the British industry dramatically for foreign providers seeking to offer their services on the UK market. However, changes from the individual player’s perspective are a lot less dramatic, as most major online casinos and gambling operators already obtained a UK licence.
The UK license application process is one of the strictest in the world and UK licensees also need to go through frequent stringent audits by the Gambling Commission, so any site in possession of a UK licence can be considered 100% trust worthy.
Moreover, gambling on an unlicensed foreign online gambling platform or online casino in the UK is not considered a criminal offence and players are not penalised in any way for doing so.
**Source: UK Gambling Act of 2005
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Online casinos accepting players form the UK
I have personally played in the casinos below and I can recommend them wholeheartedly to anyone. All of them are licensed and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission and therefore accept players from the UK perfectly legally.
Casinos and online casinos in the UK
Casino gambling – along with many other forms of gambling – was first legalised in the UK in the ’60s. The Casino Club Port Talbot in Wales is considered the first legal UK casino and was established in 1961 by gambling mogul George Alfred James. The first casinos in the country were only allowed to operate as members-only clubs and were severely limited in size and the types of games they could operate as well.
In 1968, regulations loosened up and the UK gave a green light to more commercial gambling venues and casinos being built around the country. In 2005, with the enactment of the Gambling Bill, the UK allowed for the establishment of Super casinos, which would’ve been much greater in size than any existing UK casino.
Super casino, or regional casino is the largest type of casino allowed under UK law. A Super casino is a venue:
- That has at least 5000 square metres of customer area, and
- at most 1250 unlimited-jackpot slot machines.
- By comparison, a Super casino is the same size as the major Las Vegas casinos.
The first of these venues was initially proposed to be in the City of Manchester, but the scheme was scrapped by the UK government in 2008, soon after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister*. His administration threatened the industry, that it would introduce much stricter regulations, such as limits on operating hours and more hefty taxes.
However, since than the company Aspers built two Super casinos in the UK, one in Westfield Stratford City, London and one in Milton Keynes. Currently, a third one is being considered in Southampton’s Royal Pier, after Aspers confirmed it is interested in developing a £330 million project there**. Since the enactment of the 2005 Gambling Act, the UK casino market is expanding at a fairly rapid rate, so it’s likely, that more of these venues will pop up in the country in the near future.
*Source: Super-casino proposal is ditched
Online casinos in the UK and the 2005 Gambling Bill
Any online gambling website or online casino in the UK, seeking to offer its services to residents of the country needs to obtain a licence from the authorities. However, regulations pertaining to online gambling and online casinos in the UK used to be fairly liberal,ó prior to 2014. There were two basic distinct categories of online casino sites (and online gambling operators in general), according to the 2005 Gambling Act:
- Foreign online casino sites licensed in whitelisted territories
- Foreign online casino sites licensed in non-whitelisted territories
It’s important to note, that online gambling sites and online casinos of both category were allowed to accept wagers from UK players, but only operators licensed on whitelisted territories were permitted to advertised their products on the British market. Authorities in the country did not issue licensed to operators, so there was no such thing as as a legal UK online casino or gambling site. However, from the players perspective it was ideal, as all major operators were legally present on the market and British resident were allowed to register on each and every one of these platforms.
UK online casinos and the 2014 Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill
However, in 2014, the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill was enacted, which changed the online gambling landscape of the UK dramatically. The major changes introduced with the enactment of the Bill are as follows:
- Online casino operators and online casinos in the UK require a licence from the Gambling Commission in order to legally offer their services for British residents. Currently, online gambling licenses are also issued for betting, bingo, gaming machines, gambling software and lottery operators.
- Online casino operators are only allowed to advertise their products and services on the UK market, if they have previously acquired a valid UK online casino licence.
- A flat rate point of consumption tax of 15% on gross profits is imposed on companies running an online gambling site or online casino in the UK.
No ISP ban is in force on unlicensed foreign operators to date, although major financial providers decided to voluntarily block transactions related to such sites, on the authorities notice, even though they had no legal obligations to do so.
Most of the major online casinos applied for and obtained a UK online casino licence after the enactment of the 2014 Bill. The majority of the foreign platforms that do not yet hold a licence for the UK market restricts access to their sites for UK players. The reason is, that even though if not based in the UK they can’t be prosecuted by the authorities, by failing to comply with UK laws they would risk their possible future UK online casino licence as well.
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Online bingo sites – UK – (coming soon)
Online poker sites – UK – (coming soon)
Online sportsbooks sites – UK – (coming soon)
Online lottery, keno sites and scratch cards – UK – (coming soon)
Bitcoin casinos – UK – (coming soon)
Simon’s Casino and Online Casino Guide – UK is the part of Simon’s Online Casino Guide.
Last Updated: 2015. 11. 09.