UK Online Gambling Law

Online gambling is legal and regulated in the United Kingdom
by the Gambling Commission, which itself was formed by the
Gambling Act 2005. Online poker, sports betting, casino games,
bingo, and lottery-style games all fall under the purview of the
Gambling Commission. Anyone wishing to offer these games to
citizens of the UK must acquire a license from the commission.

This is a nice setup for our readers from the UK, because you
have a wide variety of safe and licensed gambling sites to
choose from. Unlike some other countries, the government of the
UK doesn’t criminalize online gambling. Instead, it fosters a
safe environment with protections for players and operators
alike.

Gambling laws are vague and oftentimes contradictory in other
parts of the world. This isn’t the case in the UK. Thanks to
the Gambling Act 2005, there’s a clear framework for hosting
games and placing bets online. The only thing you need as a
player is to be 18 years or older and have a connection to the
internet.

Gambling Act 2005


The Gambling Act 2005
brought the UK up-to-date in the
modern world of gambling. The bill set up a process to license
potential operators and ensure the protection of customers. The
opening text in the Gambling Act put forth three primary
objectives for the new licensing system:

  1. Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or
    disorder, being associated with crime, disorder, or as an
    accessory to crime.
  2. Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair fashion.
  3. Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from
    being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Operators are required by the act to prove they are
financially stable, capable of maintaining a stable financial
position, and capable of providing fair games to players. The Act
created the Gambling Commission to oversee the licensing and
ongoing monitoring of gambling websites.

The Gambling Act also made it possible for licensed operators
to advertise in the UK. Just watch any major sporting event and
you’ll probably see at least one advertisement for a bookmaker,
bingo site, or other gambling operator. These ads are possible
thanks in part to the Gambling Act.

UK Gambling Commission

The Gambling Commission was created by the Gambling Act 2005,
and it regulates all forms of gambling, lottery, and bingo in the
UK. This includes both land-based and online forms of gaming.
The only aspect not regulated by the Gambling Commission is
spread betting, which is overseen by the Financial Conduct
Authority.

The primary function of the Gambling Commission is to see
that the three objectives laid forth by the Gambling Act 2005
are met. In short, it’s the commission’s job to ensure all
forms of gambling are hosted in a safe and fair manner while
offering protections for children and vulnerable adults.

The commission evaluates potential operators for licenses,
dispenses licenses, and then monitors existing licensees to
ensure everything is run in a safe and efficient manner. So far,
the commission has proven itself to be mostly effective at
providing customers with a safe gambling environment.

However, the Gambling Commission did suffer a blow to its
credibility with the demise of sports betting site Canbet.
Canbet ran into liquidity problems in late 2013 and over the
next few months, hundreds of complaints came out from punters
who claimed they were owed money. The situation at Canbet
deteriorated from there, and the site eventually closed while
still owing customers.

The Gambling Commission later released a statement saying
that although it’s responsible for regulating the industry, it
cannot be expected to monitor the financial health of every
company at all times. The commission went on to state that it
couldn’t revoke the license of Canbet at risk of further
damaging the company and leaving outstanding debts to players
unpaid.

Canbet surrendered its gambling license voluntarily in May
2014 and has yet to make good on its debt to customers. This series of events shook the public’s
trust in the commission. The state of online gambling in the UK
is still decades ahead of the US and most other nations, but
these events show that there’s no fail proof method for
ensuring the safety of all customers at all times.

The Whitelist

The Gambling Act 2005 forbids all foreigners and those without a
Gambling Commission license from advertising their services to
customers in the UK. The whitelist makes exceptions to the
advertising ban for certain jurisdictions that prove they meet
the standards set forth by the Gambling Act 2005.

Operators with licenses in any of the following jurisdictions
are considered “whitelisted” and may offer their services to
customers in the UK. Some of the biggest names in gambling (such
as William Hill) are based out of these jurisdictions in order
to take advantage of friendlier tax laws.

Here’s a list of whitelisted gambling jurisdictions:

  • EEA (European Economic Area) Countries
  • Alderney
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Gibraltar
  • Isle of Man
  • Tasmania

The Gambling Commission feels that the above jurisdictions
have appropriately stringent licensing requirements for
operators and is therefore comfortable letting those operators
take wagers from customers in the UK.

The whitelist has been the source of some controversy in past
years. There are some government officials who have argued that
regulators have never even physically visited the jurisdictions
before whitelisting them and haven’t done the proper research
to ensure that their operators are actually held to a high
standard.

Other opponents of the whitelist claim that it violates the
Gambling Act 2005, which expressly forbids any foreign operator
from doing business in the UK. We haven’t heard much from these
opponents in more recent years, however, and things seem to be
running well enough at the present time.