Gambling Laws & Regulations in the UK

Gambling in the modern time and age has gone a long way from the alley backdoors and hidden pots that were once the cause of all trouble. Nowadays, the UK gambling segment is one of the dominant ones, both due to its sustainable nature and magnitude. As a result, it is the target of massive interest, as players are looking for ways to get their piece of the benefits, and external operators are working their way into becoming their provider.

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A timeline of UK regulatory policies on gambling

The best way to approach the current legal situation regarding gambling activities in the UK is to learn a thing or two about their beginnings. As you may have guessed, this hadn’t always been the reputable, white-collar activity you could do behind closed doors of establishments. It all started with horse races or cock fights for the rich who didn’t want to get their hands dirty, and some low-wager dice games for the poor.

Still, the authorities at the time – the royal aristocracy – concerned about the consequences of such activities on everyday life, made the earliest recorded gambling law in 1190. Namely, the English King Richard and the French King Phillip declared real money wagers as a privilege of the rich and noble, and limited daily wagers to 20 shillings.

The period starting with the 17th through to the 19th century mainly saw legislative bodies deal with the status of lotteries and street betting, which ultimately resulted in its eradication, as well as the establishment of the national lottery. As for more recent time periods, the second half of the 20th century saw legislature pass the Betting and Gaming Act, allowing bingo, casinos and similar establishments on UK territory.

Before presenting you with the regulatory policies that dictate the current state of affairs in the UK gambling sphere, there is one more act to be added in the timeline. The Gambling Act of 2005 was crucial for this industry, mainly for the organization it stipulated alongside crucial provisions to be executed by the same entity. That organization was the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, and its rightful and regular rule and government in the sphere of land-based and remote gambling has since become indispensible for the entire regularity of the practice.

As for the Gambling Act’s other accomplishments, it was this document which brought legal status to all kinds of gambling activities – arcades, casino, lotteries, bingo, and ultimately remote gambling. The point of remote gambling has since been defined as any gambling activity that requires a communication medium in order to place a bet – radio, TV, phone, or the Internet.

This definition has gone on to be used up until today, with an emphasis on its application to online gambling as a form of remote gambling activity requiring precise regulations.

Current Online Gambling Laws & Regulations in the UK

With regard to the preceding statement, the UK authoritative bodies concerned with the matter of gambling activities did identify the need for exact provisions, and acted upon it. The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act of 2014 came about as a result, on May 14th, only to be delayed until final resolution in November. This Act brought about a number of changes in the gambling industry, predominantly the sphere of remote, online gambling which was yet in its infancy.

Tracey Crouch MP
Minister for Sport, Tourism & Heritage Tracey Crouch often speaks about gambling in the UK.
The main provisions of this act that aimed to regulate relations within this sphere consisted of full UKGC licensing of the online operators providing online gaming content. Prior to the Act of 2014, any operator licensed by a reputable, white-listed authority had been able to provide gambling content to UK citizens, but this law changed it in order to make the same online platforms seek a license from the UK-specific authority for their UK-based players.

This drew upon numerous other changes and additions in the legal framework regulating relations between UK players and online platforms. For one, they were obliged to comply with the notoriously stringent criteria set by the UK. This was made further difficult due to the fact that the general opinion claimed that the UKGC would make licensing as hard as possible, which is why a large number of operators decided to leave the UK gambling market altogether.

Another thing that the operators had to comply with was the 15% point of consumption tax due to revenue from UK players. Even if the online operator’s establishments were elsewhere, they still had to pay taxes for the money made on UK citizens. In order to prevent such radical legal implications, the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association fought it for a while before accepting defeat.

In the end, the entire legal situation unraveled in several ways, as some tried to transfer players to sister-platforms, other abandoned the industry completely and those who managed to reach a resolution. Namely, operators were given the permission to serve UK players during the interim of waiting to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission, as they rightfully were once they managed to align with security and provably fair requirements.

Gamblers in the UK

It is evident that gamblers in the UK enjoy quite a few benefits, regardless of the type of game or medium they choose to get it through. But, while land-based establishments have also been known to turn matters into their favor, players were much more concerned by the lashes of online casinos.

Player security was yet another point in the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act, as the UKGC set a standard for security measures on all operators. On top of that, in order to confirm that their software is provably fair and not tuned to anyone’s favor, the Commission also introduced a legal point that demanded operators to subject to full platform testing done by a third-party reliable testing company. As for players, all they had to do was play fair and square, and be of legal age, which is 18 for most gambling activities in the country.

With all this in place, and a relatively stable and thriving industry, gambling laws in the UK have sure managed to prove their validity and fundamentality.