Current United Kingdom Gambling Laws and Online Regulations

Online gambling in the United Kingdom is legal for residents and visitors. It is regulated by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), which oversees all forms of gambling in the country. Instated by the Gambling Act of 2005, the UKGC is the main regulating body. It licenses and regulates businesses that facilitate gambling, and it acts as a safeguard for bettors.

If a business wants to facilitate sports betting, casino, bingo, arcades, lotteries, or gaming machines to UK citizens, they have to obtain a license from the UKGC.

Is UK Gambling Legal?

Yes, gambling in the UK is legal! Gambling has been regulated since 1960, with the recent Gambling Act of 2005 further loosening the UK gambling regulations.

UK Gambling Laws and Legislation in 2021

Gambling Table and UK Flag

UK’s stance towards gambling is vastly different than some other countries. Instead of heavily criminalizing all forms of online gambling in the UK, it does its best to create and maintain safe environments. The UKGC’s purpose is to give their citizens a fair betting experience, while protecting both bettors and operators at the same time.

Six Main Forms of UK Gambling

The UK Gambling Act of 2005 defines six main forms of gambling. Each one has its own set of special rules and laws.

Here are the six forms of gambling in the UK:

  • Arcades
  • Betting
  • Bingo
  • Casino
  • Lotteries
  • Gaming Machines

Sports Betting in the UK

Sports betting is the most widespread form of real money gambling in the UK. In fact, UK gambling laws require real money betting platforms to possess a license from the UKGC. The requirements don’t end there. The UKGC also requires businesses that offer fixed-odds betting, pool betting, and betting intermediaries to possess licenses, too.

UK Lotteries and Bingo

Both bingo and lottery are games of luck. But there are major differences separating the two. For starters, the lottery usually involves massive prize pools and is played on a weekly basis. Bingo, on the other hand, is typically played more frequently but doesn’t have massive prize pools you’d expect from lotteries.

Some types of lotteries don’t even require betting licenses. The UKGC allows people to run lotteries at work. The official term is “work lottery”, and you can learn more about it on this informative UKGC how-to page.

Casinos and Gaming Machines

Both online and brick and mortar casinos are legal according to UK gambling laws. They all have to possess licenses issued by the UKGC and follow strict rules. These rules are mostly focused on locations and games casinos are allowed to offer.

Gaming machines come in several different categories:

  • B1
  • B2
  • B3
  • B3A
  • B4
  • C
  • D

All types of gaming machines require players to be 18 and older, all except one. Gaming machines in the D category have no strict age restrictions. Don’t be alarmed; these are low-stake fruit machines, coin pushes, and crane grabs.

The min stake is 10p, while the max stake is £1. The maximum prize amounts to £50, with most common prizes ranging from £5 to £20. D category gaming machines can be found in adult gaming centers, family entertainment centers, pubs, and traveling fairs.

Gambling on Esports

Even though esports isn’t specifically noted in any of UK gambling laws, betting on them is legal. How come? It’s because esports betting falls under the same category as conventional sports betting. The principles, as well as the regulations and licenses requirements, remain the same.

Want to Know Where to Bet on Esports in the UK?

Numerous UK bookies offer esports betting lines. The rapidly growing market is showing no signs of stopping, which could mean even more betting opportunities for esports bettors in the UK.

History of Gambling in the UK

The English common law saw all types of gambling as legal. However, in the 16th century (in 1541, to be more precise), the government issued an act that would strictly prohibit all gambling in the country. The reason was the fact that gambling interfered with men’s military training.

Here’s a brief walk through the history of gambling in the UK, as well as the major regulation changes after the Unlawful Games Act of 1541.

England’s First National Lottery in 1567

UK Gambling SignsIn 1567, Queen Elizabeth established England’s national public lottery. It was the first national lottery, whose funds were used to repair the harbors. The prizes were awarded in 1569, with players basically getting their money back following an interest-free loan.

It didn’t take too long for the government to sell the rights to lottery tickets to brokers. These early-day brokers hired agents and runners to sell the lottery tickets. The ticket prices went up so much that average working-class folks couldn’t afford them anymore. But brokers started issuing ticket shares and went on to become modern-day stockbrokers.

19th-Century Horse Racing Boom

The 19th century saw a massive popularity explosion of horse racing. With the help of the telegraph, horse racing information was disseminated across the country, which resulted in a racetrack boom. Prize money kept increasing, the number of active horse racing events doubled between 1837 and 1869, and horse racing became a national sport.

As Historian Andrew August said: “In the face of efforts of radicals and middle-class reformers, drink, gambling and raucous conviviality remained central to mid-Victorian working-class leisure.”

Things quickly expanded even further. The first casinos offered cards gambling and became a massive hit in the Victorian era. Despite active movements working on putting an end to gambling, drinking, and prostitution, horse racing and casino establishment lived on!

Anti-Gambling Organizations in Action During WW2

Gambling popularity dramatically decreased during WW2; this is nothing surprising considering the lack of leisure and restricted transportation. Anti-gambling organizations pushed for the shutdowns of numerous legitimate gambling businesses.

At first, their lobby was successful. They managed to shut down horse racing and greyhound racing as well as football gambling. However, most of these shutdowns were reversed pretty soon, as the government realized gambling offers an exhaust vent during those trying times.

Gambling Act of 2005

The biggest changes to UK online gambling laws happened back in 2005. The Gambling Act of 2005 modernized the UK’s approach to gambling regulation through a comprehensive list of processes and licenses aimed to protect both players and operators.

The opening segment in the 2005 Gambling Act emphasized three primary objectives for the new licensing system:

  • Preventing gambling from being a source of disorder or crime, being associated with disorder, crime, or as an accessory to crime.
  • Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
  • Ensuring that gambling is conducted fairly for everyone involved.

The Gambling Act of 2005 recognizes both conventional gambling as well as remote gambling. The latter reflects on the use of remote communication technology, such as the internet, telephone, radio, or any other kind of electronic communication technology.

Gambling Advertisements:

The Gambling Act of 2005 also pushed for gambling advertisements. Licensed bookmakers are now able to set up advertisements during major sporting events, thanks in no small part to the 2005 Gambling Act.

Age Verification and New Changes

In 2019, the UKGC instated more changes to licensed online gambling in the UK. Businesses facilitating gambling now have to verify the age of all customers before they make the first deposit or place a bet on their platform.

Before the alterations, online bookmakers verified age within 72 hours of registration. But the UKGC argued that this time window was enough to allow minors to enjoy online gambling, despite not being able to withdraw their money in case of a win.

Offenses and Fines for Illegal Gambling in the UK

United Kingdom Gambling Commission’s regulations and licenses are not to be taken for granted. If you don’t follow the UK gambling laws, you will be charged with an offense and could face up to £5,000 and/or a year of imprisonment.

Offenses Fines
Underage gambling £1,000
Employing underage person in a gambling establishment Year imprisonment and/or £5,000
Cheat, attempt o cheat, or assist in cheating Year imprisonment and/or £5,000
Providing unlicensed gambling facilities Year imprisonment and/or £5,000
Contravention of regulations relating to advertisement Year imprisonment and/or £5,000
Facilitating unlicensed machine gambling Year imprisonment and/or £5,000

UK Gambling Laws FAQ

What Defines Gambling in the UK?

According to the Gambling Act of 2005, gambling is defined as “betting, gaming, or participating in a lottery.”

What Are Gambling Laws?

Gambling laws represent comprehensive sets of regulations instated for the protection of parties involved in gambling activities, both players and operators.

Is Online Gambling Allowed in the UK?

Yes, online gambling is allowed in the UK. However, you should check the licenses of the bookmaker you wish to use. If it has a license issued by the United Kingdom gambling commission, then you are allowed to use it.

What Is the Minimum Age for Legal Gambling in the UK?

According to real money gambling laws in the UK, the minimum age for legal gambling is 18 years. Gaming machines belonging to the D category are the only exception; they have no age limit.

Can I Get Fined for Illegal Betting in the UK?

Yes, illegal betting can and will result in various offenses, most of which have monetary and imprisonment penalties. You can find more details about penalties and offenses for illegal UK betting above.

What Can Players Bet on in the UK?

UK players are legally allowed to bet on sports, casinos, lotteries, bingo, gaming machines, and arcades. There are numerous subcategories too, but these six represent the main forms of gambling according to UK gambling laws.

Which Payment Methods Are Available for UK Bettors?

As you probably know, not all bettors have access to all payment methods. The list depends not just on the bookies but on the bettors’ country of residence. Here are the payment methods UK residents are likely to find on UKGC licensed bookmakers:

  • Credit or debit cards
  • PayPal
  • Skrill
  • Neteller
  • Trustly
  • Bitcoin
  • Litecoin
  • Ethereum
  • Boku
  • Paysafecard
  • EcoPayz

What Are the Most Popular Gambling Sites in the UK?

The most popular gambling sites in the UK are 22Bet, Betway, and Spin Sports. Click the links to check out our in-depth reviews for each betting platform!