The UK gambling industry is one of the most active in the world, capable of generating more than £7 billion in a 12-month period. Throughout the country, laws are in place to permit a wide range of online and offline gambling activities for adults aged 18 or older (16 for lotteries). Compared to other countries, the UK industry is one of the most open and best regulated.
- 1 Introducing the UK Gambling Commission
- 2 Remote Gambling
- 3 Current Remote Legislation
- 4 Shakeup in December 2014
- 5 A Better Market for Consumers
Introducing the UK Gambling Commission
The Gambling Commission is the body tasked with regulating the entire UK industry, having been established when the Gambling Act 2005 was passed. The body eventually took over the regulatory duties for the National Lottery in October 2013. In terms of land-based gambling, the body oversees the following activities:
At present, the body licenses amusement arcades in three forms:
- Adult gaming centres (AGCs)
- Family entertainment centres (FECs)
- Select unlicensed FECs
UK premises can be licensed to provide standard and remote versions of bingo, with legislation in place to cover the following:
- Remote bingo for national games
- Remote bingo for local games
- Non-remote bingo games
The body stipulates that fixed odds betting services can legally be provided from the following premises:
- Betting shops
Pool betting is also licensed by the body, with punters able to bet on aggregate stakes. UK gambling regulation exists to cover the following:
- Racecourse pools
- Football and sports pools
- Fantasy sports pools
Casinos have the most freedom for gambling laws UK, as the land-based premises can be licensed to cover a wide range of activities:
- Table games
- Gaming machines
- On-site remote play
UK gambling laws allow for gaming machines to be made within different categories depending on their maximum stake and prize values. These factors will determine whether machines can be placed in the following venues:
- Small, large, or regional casinos
- Betting shops or racecourses
- Bingo halls
- Unlicensed FECs
- Travelling fairs
The Gambling Commission permits lotteries of several types, but does not include free competitions. Among those that can be licensed are:
- Society lotteries
- Local authority lotteries
- Non-commercial lotteries
- Private lotteries
- Customer lotteries
- The National Lottery
The current iteration of the Gambling Act dictates that remote gambling can be conducted by the internet, telephone, TV, radio, or any other type of electronic medium. The areas covered by the act are listed below.
All developers who create and maintain software for remote gambling activities are legally required to meet the technical standards and testing outlined by the Gambling Commission. Remote gambling software can only be provided in the UK if it has met the extensive requirements.
Online casinos and poker sites both come under UK jurisdiction if they operate in the following ways:
- If gambling equipment is situated in Great Britain
- If they transact with or advertise to British residents
Although online bookmakers primarily cover sports, they can also provide betting markets on political voting, entertainment events, and more. Below are the two legal forms of online betting covered:
- Fixed odds
- Pool betting
Gambling sites that provide online bingo games in the UK are required to obtain a Gambling Commission licence before they begin trading in the country. Bingo sites can also obtain casino licences to legally provide online slots and table games.
Any online gambling operator seeking to host remote lotteries in the UK has to obtain specialist licence. The National Lottery is a prime example of a site where British residents can enter remote lotteries.
Current Remote Legislation
For years, the UK gambling industry had a loophole that enabled British operators to relocate to tax havens like the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, and Malta to avoid paying tax on their profits generated in Great Britain. However, that all changed with the introduction of a point of consumption tax (POCT) from December 2014.
Shakeup in December 2014
Fundamentally, the new legislation was introduced to ensure that all UK-serving online operators had to pay 15% tax on all profits and be licensed by the Gambling Commission. Before December 2014, online operators could have any remote gaming licence and still serve UK residents.
This created an issue in that while some operators sought to provide a service that was tested, trusted, secure, and quality-driven, there were others that simply did not care about delivering high standards and were more concerned with profit.
A Better Market for Consumers
Now, however, the UK industry is one that requires all operators to be licensed with the Gambling Commission. For players, this has resulted in a marketplace where every remote operator is held accountable. Moreover, the general quality of the various casinos, sportsbooks, bingo sites, and poker destinations has improved greatly.
Today, the UK gambling industry is one of the best regulated in the world, with a diverse range of services that are upheld to the clear standards of the Gambling Commission.