Online gambling is one of the most popular hobbies around the world, but it can be incredibly risky as websites deal with dozens of users and their personal information as well as money too. Luckily, there are several firms around the world which work to regulate online gambling. You can discover more about who regulates online gambling in the UK and other parts of the world right here.
Online Gambling In The UK: How Regulation Works
The UK Gambling Commission, which formed alongside the Gambling Act 2005, is the company who regulates online gambling in the United Kingdom, and this includes gambling at an online casino, a bingo website, and a betting site. The Commission is responsible for granting licenses, and it conducts regular reviews of operators and online casinos, provides licensees with advice, reviews licensees’ financial information, and takes action if necessary including pulling licenses and issuing fines.
Under the Gambling Act 2005, any online gambling operator offering its services to players based in the UK must possess a valid license from the Commission and follow a strict set of rules which aim to protect players.
Note: The UK Gambling Commission is also responsible for regulating all brick-and-mortar casino venues, bingo halls, and betting shops, all of which are required to hold valid licenses to operate too. Brick-and-mortar venues must also follow a strict set of rules to ensure player safety and fairness.
As already mentioned, the UK Gambling Commission requires that its licensees follow a strict set of rules. This includes that licensees must;
- Offer games that are fair and rigorously tested
- Conduct financial checks with registered users
- Conduct identity checks with registered users
- Identify and assist vulnerable players
- Identify and prevent children from gambling
- Highlight the terms and conditions of bonuses clearly
If operators and licensee holders fail to adhere to these rules, they risk large fines, other penalties, or they losing their license, which means they can no longer operate within the United Kingdom.
How Do Operators Follow These Rules?
If you’re wondering how gambling operators follow the UK Gambling Commission’s rules, it’s actually pretty simple. Game developers who offer their games to players based in the UK must also hold a license from the Gambling Commission, and they must be audited by an external body to ensure that their games are fair to players. Some common game auditing bodies include BMM Testlabs and eCOGRA, both of which conduct in-depth reviews of casino products to ensure that they are safe and fair to use.
Note: eCOGRA is also responsible for reviewing the RTP of games and casinos. If you want to know more about RTP rates and what they mean, we suggest you read through our RTP guide here.
Identity checks are carried out by online casinos. Whenever you register at an online casino in the United Kingdom, you’ll be required to complete an identity check to verify your account before you can make a deposit or play a casino game. This process involves providing copies of personal documentation to the online casino’s support team.
Financial checks are also carried out by online casinos and are generally referred to as a Source of Funds check in which you are required to provide evidence of your earnings and where your source of gambling funds has come from. Your source of funds can come from your job, a prize awarded at another casino or through some other way, your pension, or another form of earning money.
Online casinos are still struggling over how to correctly identify vulnerable gamblers, but gambling charities such as GamCare and GambleAware as well as regulatory bodies such as the Gambling Commission and Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) are working on ways to change this.
Most online casinos, however, do have an endless list of resources users can access if they feel they are suffering from gambling-related harm, and most websites now allow users to implement restrictions to regulate their gambling behaviour too, helping to clamp down on the number of people suffering from harm. We also have a list of resources and firms which offer help and support to anyone suffering from gambling-related harm, click here for gambling addiction help and support.
How Do Operators Earn A License?
To earn a license from the Gambling Commission, operators are required to apply for it depending on the services they’re looking to offer; online casino gambling or sports betting, for example.
The application takes around 16 weeks to complete, and operators will be required to provide dozens of different documents depending on what license you’re applying, and this can include rules of play, customer terms and conditions, policies and procedures, bank statements, business plans, proof of funding, and so much more.
Operators must also undergo criminal record checks, and the Commission will conduct in-depth checks on the company as well as its employees. In addition to that, operators who apply for a license and those who are granted a license must pay an annual fee or risk losing their license. Only when operators pass all of the Commission’s checks are they granted a license, but they are then required to follow the firm’s strict guidelines to retain their license.
Why You Should Only Play At Licensed and Regulated Casino Sites
Players based in the United Kingdom encouraged to only play at a casino website licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. The reason for this is that licensed websites are much safer for you to play at since they follow the stringent rules laid out by the UK Gambling Commission.
At licensed websites, your personal information will be kept completely safe as well as your financial information. What’s more, since UK-licensed websites are required to offer safe and fair experiences, these websites will provide players with fair games and promotions, will allow users to withdraw money without problems, will enforce accurate advertising of casinos and their promotions, plus plenty more.
If you try playing at an unlicensed online casino, you’ll be more at risk since there are no official protecting put in place to help you out. What’s more, these online casinos may run pirated or unfair games, may provide unfair promotions or bonuses, can charge excessive fees, and plenty more issues. Although this usually doesn’t happen, it’s much safer to just play at a UK-licensed casino website.
It’s important to note that if you’re registered with an online casino that currently holds a license but loses it later on, the site will be temporarily shut down and you’ll be encouraged to withdraw all remaining funds and then register with an alternative online casino. If this happens to you, we urge you to check out our list of recommended online casinos, all of which do posses gambling licenses at the time of writing.
Gambling Regulation Overseas: Where Is Online Gambling Legal?
Outside of the UK, most European countries offer some form of gambling, but who regulates online gambling overseas? Well, there are dozens of regulatory bodies which are responsible for monitoring gambling within their respective country. Some of the most well-known gambling regulatory bodies include:
- The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
- The Alderney Gambling Control Commission
- The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority
- The Swedish Gambling Authority
- Spin’s National Gaming Commission
- France’s ARJEL
- Denmark’s Danish Gambling Authority
And there are plenty of others. All of these firms work similarly to the UK Gambling Commission in that they regulate online gambling in their respective jurisdiction, with the most common licenses being the MGA and the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.
However, it’s important to point out that each of these regulatory bodies have their own rules and systems put in place different from those implemented by the Gambling Commission. What’s more, not all countries that are regulated offer the same gambling services available in the UK, since some sites may have only legalised online gambling but not sports betting.
It’s also important to point out that although a casino website or operator may possess one or many of these licenses, they are no substitution for users based in the UK. People who are playing at a website in the United Kingdom are still required to play at a website with a Gambling Commission license, no matter how many other licenses the site holds.
Which States Allow Online Gambling in America?
Gambling in the United States is a rather tricky topic. While there are many brick-and-mortar casino venues across the country, online gambling is a little more confusing. In fact, most US states haven’t legalised online gambling even it’s proven to be hugely popular. The online states which currently allow online gambling are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
The remaining forty states in the US currently do not currently allow for online gambling, but this may change in the future, particularly after the Supreme Court made sports betting legal in 2018, allowing states to make their own decisions on its legality.
As sports betting has already proven popular, with numerous US states already having legalised it, we may see similar legislation overturned in the US within the coming years, allowing states to legalise the hobby on an individual basis. Until then, users based in America will have to strick to traditional gambling at brick-and-mortar venues.