UK Gambling Laws – What You Need to Know

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It’s a well-known fact that the UK has one of the best-regulated online gambling markets in the world. A license from the UK Gambling Commission is highly sought after, and it’s a sure sign that you can trust the gambling site you’re dealing with.

In this piece, I’ll walk you through UK gambling laws from A to Z, and I’ll answer some of the most common questions on the legality of gambling in the UK.

I’ll address questions like:

  • Is gambling legal in the UK?
  • What is the UK Gambling Commission?
  • What are the gambling laws in the UK?
  • And much more!

This is your complete guide to legal gambling in the UK. If you have any doubts about it, or just want to know more for curiosity’s sake, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Is Gambling Legal in the UK?

Yes, all forms of gambling are legal in the UK. You can play casino games, bet on sports, enjoy bingo, play lotto games, and engage in financial betting. All of this is 100% legal and regulated thanks to the UK’s robust gambling laws.

UK gambling laws cover both land-based and online gambling. You’ll find bookmakers shops dotted all across the country, and there are casinos in almost every region except for Northern Ireland. All of the big brands such as William Hill, Ladbrokes, and Genting, have online websites which offer their services remotely.

UK gambling laws set the legal gambling age in the UK at 18. They also put certain responsibilities on operators which make gambling in the UK extra safe. I’ll explain more about those responsibilities in the next section.

What Is the UK Gambling Commission?

The UK Gambling Commission, often called the UKGC, is the government regulator which is in charge of every element of the UK gambling industry. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport sponsors it.

The UKGC has several powers and responsibilities, including:

  • Issuing (and revoking) licenses to UK gambling operators.
  • Regulating UK gambling activities to ensure fairness.
  • Preventing crime or disorder from being a part of UK gambling.
  • Protecting children and other vulnerable people from exploitation.

The UKGC achieves these objectives by issuing and revoking licenses, fining operators for noncompliance, and inspecting gambling premises and websites to ensure compliance with regulations.

In essence, this is the regulator which oversees and controls the UK gambling industry. Unlike some other gambling regulators, this one has teeth and isn’t afraid to bite. It has fined some of the biggest UK online gambling operators for noncompliance before.

As a player, you should be aware that the UKGC does not deal with customer complaints. If you have a complaint, you have to ask the operator about its procedures for handling disputes. It’s a UKGC license requirement that they have a dispute resolution policy. More often than not, a third-party operator like IBAS will handle it.

UK Gambling Laws – From 2005 to Today

In 2005, the UK recognized the potential in online betting and the need for a comprehensive gambling law to cover all elements of the growing industry. It passed the UK Gambling Act (2005), which formed the UK Gambling Commission and legalized online gambling.

UK gambling law is comprehensive and covers gaming, betting, lottery, and cross-category gambling activities. It established the UKGC, set out offences and exemptions, and set out licensing requirements and protections for children and vulnerable people.

Regulators around the world widely recognize the UK Gambling Act as a successful gambling law. While some other jurisdictions have wafer-thin laws full of loopholes, the UK law is strict. This is part of the reason why lots of players trust a UKGC license.

For example, let’s take a look at the different kinds of licenses the UK Gambling Act created:

  • Remote license
  • Casino license
  • Bingo license
  • General betting license
  • Pool betting license
  • Horse race pool betting license
  • Betting on the National Lottery
  • Gaming machine operating license
  • Gaming software operating license
  • Lottery operating license

As you can see, nobody escapes the net. All forms of gambling are covered. All legit UK gambling operators require one no matter what type of gambling they offer.

There are annual fees, set license durations, and they are subject to reviews and revocation if the UKGC sees fit.

Player protections are also a key part of the UK gambling regulations. Operators must (1) provide self-exclusion options, (2) keep player funds separate from operating capital to protect players in case of financial collapse, and (3) must take active measures to protect young and vulnerable people. For example, UK players cannot access demo mode on slot machines until they confirm their age via ID verification.

The UKGC is active in making new regulations all the time. However, the Gambling Act provides the foundations which regulators build on today.

All of the above lend the UK gambling industry a lot of credibility. It’s committed to sidelining criminals and ending practices like money-laundering and makes player protection a top priority.

Does the UKGC Regulate the National Lottery?

“The lotto” is part of UK culture, and the UKGC does oversee it. However, it governs it under a different set of rules. The law governing the UK lottery is called the National Lottery (etc.) Act 1993.

It’s well-known that the National Lottery in the UK is a monopoly which is bid on by private companies. So far, Camelot has been the only company to win the license to operate the National Lottery. It once faced fierce competition from Virgin’s Richard Branson, who wanted to operate it as a 100% charity lotto. However, no other organization has managed to snap the license from Camelot’s grasp so far.

The National Lottery etc. Act outlined the rules of operation which any would-be operator must abide by. These include rules on game fairness, distribution of the proceeds of the lottery, and more. Now, let me answer some of the most common questions I receive about the legal aspects of gambling in the UK.

UK Legal Gambling – Frequently Asked Questions

Is Gambling Online in the UK Safe?

Yes, provided that you play with a UKGC licensed operator and don’t gamble online if you’re underage. That’s not to say there are no rogue operators in the industry, there are. However, if you look for the UKGC license and stick with our approved UK gambling sites, you’ll be fine.

If I Feel That a UK Casino Site Has Cheated Me, What Legal Action Can I Take?

The UKGC can’t help you directly, but you can report the operator to them if you wish. The UKGC requires all licensed operators to have a dispute resolution process in place. For example, there are independent organizations which specialize in handling disputes between players and UK gambling operators. They follow the regulations set out by the UKGC.

Is a Gibraltar Gambling License Equal to a UK License?

Gibraltar does base its licensing on the UK Gambling Act. It’s a valid and trustworthy license based on the same laws. Gibraltar is somewhat of an online gambling hub, and several large operators such as William Hill operate from that jurisdiction.

Does the UKGC Take Action Against Operators Who Violate Its Terms?

It does. It has made an example of several high-profile operators. For example, in 2018, it fined the operator behind 888 a whopping £7.8 million for failing to protect problem gamblers. It has also revoked several licenses. See the MaxEnt case for one example.

Why Do All UK-licensed Gambling Sites Have Links to BeGambleAware and GamStop? What Are Those?

Both of these are resources for problem gamblers. The UKGC requires operators to take every practical measure possible to protect problem gamblers, including providing links to resources like these. BeGambleAware is an information resource and offers a telephone helpline. GAMSTOP is a national self-exclusion scheme. When you register with GAMSTOP, you self-exclude from all registered gambling sites.

Oliver Hughes

Based out of London, I began freelance writing for the UK section of GamblingSites.org in October of 2019. Having worked in the gambling industry for over 10 years, I now have the pleasure of adding this site to my list of accomplishments as a casino writer. ...

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