UK’s history of gambling
Gambling only became regulated by the 2005 Gambling Act. Before that, the process wasn’t as simple, and there weren’t always clear laws in place that told people what was allowed and what wasn’t.
Before we go into the current UK gambling laws, let’s look at the history of gambling across the nation.
In the early 1500s, gambling wasn’t regulated, and no laws stated whether any types of gambling were illegal. However, this was short-lived because, in 1541, the UK government issued the Unlawful Games Act, which prohibited all gambling across the nation. This was mainly due to the fact that they were trying to build up a strong army, and gambling appeared to interfere with the soldier’s military training.
It wasn’t until 1567 that the rules of this Act were loosened, and England’s first national public lottery was announced by Queen Elizabeth. The country needed funds to repair the harbours, and they saw this as a good way to get them. However, this lottery didn’t work like it does today, as the prizes were only awarded two years later, in 1569.
The government then saw how popular the lottery was and started selling its rights to brokers. The brokers then started to hire people to sell the tickets, but the prices went up so much for a while that only the upper class could afford them.
Fast forward to the 19th century, and another form of gambling became popular. People of the UK saw the opportunity to introduce horse racing. Using the telegraph, more and more people learnt about horse racing which meant there was a higher demand to go see an event. More racetracks were built, and the prize money continued to increase. Between 1837 and 1869, the number of horse racing events doubled, and it was turned into a national sport and one of the only ways people could gamble.
After the introduction of horse racing, other forms of gambling started to open up. The first casinos opened with card and table games, which became extremely popular among people in this century. However, there were still movements that wanted this all to stop, but it continued anyway.
Casinos and gambling were popular for a few decades, but when World War 2 hit, the industry lost its momentum. Most people were asked to stay in their homes, and few people had the funds to interact with any leisure activities. The anti-gambling organisations also started to increase their movement, and they managed to shut down all horse and greyhound racing and any football gambling. But unluckily for them, these shutdowns were soon reversed, and people used these venues as an outlet during the trying times.
After that, we didn’t see any other big changes until the biggest one in 2005. The 2005 Gambling Act was the first time any gambling in the UK was properly regulated. The government introduced a large list of processes and licenses that any gambling authorities needed to gain so that both they and any players were protected at all times. It wanted to take away gambling as a source of crime, protect the younger generation, and ensure that online and in-person gambling was fair.
Current UK Casino Laws
You now know everything that happened in the UK in the lead-up to the 2005 Gambling Act, but what are the actual laws that this act put in place?
Let’s take a closer look:
When the 2005 Gambling Act came to fruition, it set up the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). This has been established to regulate any form of commercial gambling in the UK. It is responsible for publishing any guidance towards gambling, licensing, compliance, enforcement, and research.
The Act also defined six main forms of gambling, and these are the forms that would need to be regulated. However, each comes with its own unique laws that they have to follow, all applying to both online and in-person gambling:
- Gaming machines
Sports betting is one of the most popular forms of gambling in the UK, and it is mainly done online now. Some online casinos offer sports betting as an option, whereas others will focus purely on slots and table games. However, any platform that wants to offer sports betting in the UK has to have a license from the UKGC. This is the same for any online casino that offers fixed-odds betting and pool betting.
While many people will pop down to the nearest corner shop to buy a lottery ticket, it can also be done online now as well. Big national and local lotteries will need to acquire a license, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, some don’t require any betting licenses. These are called ‘work lotteries’ by the UKGC, which is when you run a small lottery among friends or co-workers.
Online casinos are completely legal, and this is the same for brick-and-mortar casinos. However, just like with any other gambling organisation, they need to have a license issued by the UKGC and follow a wide list of strict rules. Most rules are about where the casino can base itself and what games can be offered. Each game has its own rules, which you can read more about on the UKGC website.
Last but not least is esports. It isn’t noted in the 2005 Gambling Act, but it has been determined as legal by the government. It falls under sports betting, meaning all the rules are the same as what was mentioned above.
Penalties for illegal gambling
Breaking the Rules
So, what happens if you break the rules and laws in place for gambling? Well, unfortunately, there is a wide range of penalties you can experience, ranging from imprisonment to hefty fines.
- Gambling when you’re underage – £1,000 fine
- Employing underage people at a gambling establishment – 51 weeks imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine
- Cheating at gambling – 51 weeks imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine
- Offering gambling without a license – 51 weeks imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine
- Contravention of regulations relating to advertising – 51 weeks imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine
- Offering a gambling machine without a license – 51 weeks imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine
How to start playing safely at online casinos
Once you know about the laws associated with gambling, it’s time to start playing at an online casino. Below are the steps on how you can find a casino and start playing on it as safely as possible:
Find the online casino you want to use
You now know that an online casino in the UK needs to be licensed and regulated by the UKGC, so when you’re looking for one to start playing at, you’ll need to ensure that they have been. You can find this out by looking at the licenses and permits on the website, or you can Google the answer.
While an online casino may be licensed, that doesn’t always mean it’s the casino you want to use. You’ll need to look at user reviews to find the ideal one for you. They will tell you everything you want to know, and you should find and use the highest-rated UK online casinos.
Create an account
When you’ve found the online casino you want to use, you’ll most likely need to create an account to start playing. Reliable and licensed casinos will not share your data or personal information with any third parties unless you agree to it. There are often strong security measures put in place.
You will need to fill out any relevant information, such as your name, date of birth, and email address, so they can contact you and send you offers. Most of the time, there will be a sign-up offer, which will be activated when you make your first deposit.
Make a deposit
After you’ve logged into your account, it’s time to make your first deposit so you can start playing. You will need to access the banking section and choose the payment method you want to use. From there, all you need to do is fill out your details and select the amount you’d like to deposit.
You’re all set to go when you have a deposit in your account. It will activate any bonuses you’ve been offered for signing up, and you can then find a game to start playing. The best thing to do is browse the game selection first and find the one that best suits you. Don’t just select the first one you see. Once you’ve found one, you can select play and get started. Just make sure you don’t spend all your money at once!
When you’ve won money, it will appear in your balance too, and if you’ve met any wagering requirements, it’ll be ready to withdraw.
Safe Online Casinos UK FAQ
How old do you have to be to gamble in the UK?
You typically have to be over the age of 18 to gamble at any online or brick-and-mortar casinos in the UK. An online casino may ask you to verify your age by providing them with clear photos of your ID. Without it, you may be unable to use any of their resources or play the games. It is an offence for someone underage to gamble or for any organisation to allow someone under 18 to gamble with them.
Do I need a license to use online casinos?
You don’t need a license to use an online casino as a player. However, you will most likely need to provide some form of identification to prove to the casino that you are of the legal age to play at it.
The only licenses required for online gambling are by the casino itself. Any online casino you use must have a license provided by the UKGC. Without it, they will be at risk of facing some serious penalties.
What are the safest payment methods available?
If the online casino is trusted and licensed by the UKGC, then chances are that any of the payment methods are safe. However, some are safer than others, but that isn’t down to the online casino.
Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin is currently the safest payment method, purely because there is no opportunity for a security breach or for someone to steal your coins. The system is built on a blockchain which allows full transparency, but you can’t get into it if you don’t have the special key for your account.
Digital wallets such as PayPal are also incredibly safe. If there is a security breach, they will often return your money. This is the same for when an organisation takes money out of your account without permission. You can file a dispute and most likely get the funds returned to your balance.
Do foreign online casinos need to be licensed?
Yes. Even if you’re in the UK and using a foreign casino, they will also need to be licensed so you can ensure the highest levels of safety. They won’t be licensed by the UKGC, but they will have their own regulating authority they will need to gain their license. Ensure you check that they have the right certifications before you use a foreign online casino.