Gambling regulation in the UK

David Banks's picture
Authored by David Banks
Posted Friday, September 6, 2019 - 8:00am

The United Kingdom has one of the most well-regulated gambling markets in Europe, and is often cited as an example of how such activities should be managed. The basis for the oversight of all gambling activities, from bingo halls, lotteries and sports betting to UK casino sites and poker rooms, come from the legislation passed in the Gambling Act 2005. The legislation was further updated in 2014 to account for developments in online gambling.

The body responsible for all licensing and regulation of gambling activities in the UK is a branch of government known as the Gambling Commission. The UKGC is known to be a very stringent regulator, and will only grant licenses to establishments – both online and land-based – which fully comply with their high standards.

The Commission has an overall aim of preventing money laundering and fraudulent activity, while protecting consumers and vulnerable people. The 2005 Gambling Act requires licensed gambling providers to follow guidelines on responsible gambling, which includes advertising, ensuring that players are over 18 and that any customers with problematic habits are identified and supported. 

Anyone who is interested in finding fully licensed and regulated UK casino sites should consult a reliable source of information such as to ensure that they come to no harm. Such sources are regularly updated, providing consumers with invaluable insight into legally-run casino sites UK. 

2014 updates to the Gambling Act

By 2014, it had become clear that the existing legislation was no longer sufficient to oversee the remote gambling sector. Since the passing of the Act in 2005, significant developments in online casinos had taken place, and reforms were needed.

These reforms primarily applied to providers based overseas. Whereas previously operators in any whitelisted jurisdiction could advertise and provide their services to UK players, now all such companies must also hold a license from the UKGC. Currently, the UK market is served by operators who are physically based in this country and some who are based in other jurisdictions. However, in either case they must hold one or more licenses if they are to operate here.

How regulations are enforced

The Commission monitors all gambling activity taking place in the UK, and has the right to visit any licensee and examine their activities to ensure compliance. If any irregularities are identified, several steps can be taken to correct the problem. Less serious breaches may receive a warning and guidelines on how to change their practices. In other instances fines are applied, and in the most severe cases licenses can be revoked.

What gambling regulation means for consumers

So, what does all this regulation really mean for the consumer? Anyone visiting casino websites or gambling establishments in the UK can play with peace of mind, knowing that they are well protected by the law. The UK offers one of the safest environments for gambling in the world.

It also offers a huge amount of high-quality choice. With the UK market being so lucrative – gambling is, after all, a time-honoured tradition in this country – operators are keen to provide their services to UK players. As a result, most of the top casino websites will make the effort to comply with the standards set by the UKGC in order to qualify for a license.

As so many top-quality UK casino sites operate legally in the UK, players have absolutely no need to turn to unlicensed operators. The government of course benefits from the tax revenue, but the players have access to the best casino sites in UK, so everyone is a winner in the regulated UK market. 

What does the future hold?

A big question on everyone’s lips is how anything and everything could be affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Luckily, the standards for gambling in the UK are already higher than in most of Europe, so it seems likely that much of the industry will continue unimpeded. Certain questions remain surrounding gaming taxes across borders, and some operators have started setting up shop in other jurisdictions to try and ensure that their access to other European markets can carry on as it is now.

Domestically, we can perhaps expect to see continued reforms to gambling laws. Already in April 2019, the maximum stake at fixed-odds betting terminals in high street bookmakers was slashed from £100 to £2, leading to an immediate reduction in profits reported by some of the companies that house them. 

Much of what we can expect in the future will depend on the prevailing political climate. Should there be a change of government, it looks likely that online gambling will undergo further scrutiny and even tighter regulation. Senior members of the Labour Party have made it clear that UK casino sites are on their agenda, with proposals to cap the amount that can be bet online, and banning the use of credit cards at online casinos.

Critics point out that such measures may have the undesired effect of pushing players towards illegal sites. However, with the current political status quo being so unstable, it’s hard to predict whether these reforms will ever come to fruition.