UK Casino Legislation
Online gambling and casinos are perfectly legal in the UK. Players are protected, as much as possible, by being offered properly licensed gaming sites to play on. And from 2014, all online sites offering Brits casino games must possess a Gambling Commission licence.
So, why is online casino gaming so liberal in this country, and how did we get here? Gambling has long been a popular pastime in the UK, but other than a few hard-to-enter casinos and high street bookmakers (which aren't hard to enter) gambling has generally been of the back-street variety.
The National Lottery and online casino revolution changed all that, though. In 2017, it's possible to play on your PC or mobile for real-money and win huge jackpots. Online casino games are now available to play, and players' winnings aren't taxed.
Brief History of UK Casino Law
1960 - Betting and Gambling Act introduced, which allows for the first time commercial bingo halls to operate in the UK.
1968 - Gaming Act 1968 passed, and paves the way for construction of commercial casinos with table games.
2005 - Gambling Act 2005 passed - The first real overhaul of gambling legislation in the UK since the 1960s.
A UK Gambling Commission is established to oversee gambling in the UK. Plans for UK 'super casinos' are later scrapped, but the law provides specific regulation for online gambling for the first time. Companies holding licenses from 'whitelisted' gaming jurisdictions are allowed to offer games to UK residents.
2014 - The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 passed - The new law taxes sites based on where their customers are playing, rather than where the casino server / company is based.
Any online casino based overseas that wants to provide Brits with legal Internet gambling must obtain a UK Gambling Commission gambling license, as must software developers supplying games.
Current UK Casino Laws
Two recent laws govern Internet gambling right now: the 2005 Gambling Act and the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014.
Under the original law, a new Gambling Commission was set up to oversee all gambling in the UK. White-listed sites were allowed to advertise in the UK and had to be licensed by approved jurisdictions like Alderney and Gibraltar.
What The UK Gambling Commission Does
Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill 201
The latest Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 came into effect November/December 2014.
Under the new law, all remote gaming operators offering UK players casino games must now pay a 15 percent tax based on where the players are. That means if British players living in the UK are playing casinos online, the companies will be taxed.
In addition, all legal online casino UK rooms must apply for a Gambling Commission licence to continue operating. This was a change to existing gaming law where sites providing Brits with casino and gambling online were not subject to regulation in this country. Nor were they taxed by the British government.
UK Licensing and Auditing
Under current UK law, real-money gambling at online casinos is perfectly legal, even if they're based offshore.
Since the 2014 legislation came in, smaller - and shadier - sites left the UK market altogether, unhappy at having to fork out the new tax.
But what it did do was make the online casino landscape a much safer one for British gamblers to walk in. Admittedly, UK casino players ARE denied games from some perfectly-legit operators who have just decided that the tax is too steep to pay right now.
But as part of the newly-required UK Gambling Commission licence, sites and software must be audited independently for fairness. External bodies like eCOGRA and TST regularly test software and sites to make sure payouts are accurate and measures are in place if players want to dispute a ruling.
Protection of Customer Funds
Online casinos operating under Gambling Commission licenses should be able to repay players if they get into financial difficulty.
Player funds are therefore kept in separate funds (segregated) in case of problems. However, sites operating in the UK do not carry guarantees that players will get their money back if they go bust and the Gambling Commission can't insist. Sites are, however, required to clearly state in their Terms and Conditions what happens to customer funds.
Casino operators self-assess when applying for a UK licence what level of protection their players have: basic, medium or high. Again, these are listed in the site's Ts & Cs:
Basic Protection: Segregated funds
Medium Protection: Segregated funds, arrangements made to repay players in case of insolvency
High Protection: Independent trust account, where customer funds are held in a trust fund legally separate from the casino operations and operated independently
A Better Online Casino World
It's too early to tell what effect - if any - the new 15 percent tax and licensing requirements will have on the fortunes of the casinos who've decided to stay in the UK.
For now, at least, UK players can rely on even more stringent checks, more reliable operations, and continuing to pay no tax on winnings. Discovering if those charges will end up being passed on to players is a wait-and-see game.