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Are Online Casinos Legal in the UK?

United KingdomAre online casino sites legal in the UK? Is is legal to play casinos games online for citizens?

In the case of the UK, whilst there is significant legislation and oversight regarding online gambling, the answer to our initial question is an almost unambiguous yes.

The following information, therefore, will explain the exact legal situation which means that UK based punters can legally and freely play casino games online.

Overview:

Legislation from the 1960s made all forms of gambling legal in the UK.

The legal age for most forms of gambling is 18.

Almost all forms of gambling fall under the remit of the 2005 Gambling Act & the 2014 Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act.

All online casinos and other gambling providers must be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission

The total gross gambling yield for the remote gambling sector in the UK was £4.5 billion in 2016.

Gambling Legislation: Timeline

Gambling of one form or another has been a part of British life for many hundreds’ of years. Legislation regarding gambling, therefore, can be traced back almost as far but the beginnings of the legal situation as it stands today can be accurately pinpointed as being in the mid-19th century.

The 1845 Gaming Act

In 1845, largely in line with the more puritanical views of the era, all commercial gambling except that taking place at horse racing venues was made illegal by the 1845 Gaming Act.

In truth, however, the act did little to dissuade the popular practice of street betting and other gambling activities that were comparatively widespread. As such, other less wide ranging pieces of legislation were continually passed to combat such activities but these were just as ineffective.

The 1963 Betting, Gaming & Lotteries Act

Given the continued popularity of gambling in Britain in spite of legislation banning it, it was almost inevitable that laws would eventually be passed to legalise and regulate the gambling industry.

These came in 1963 with the passage of the Betting, Gaming & Lotteries Act. The act made gambling legal once again in locations other than at racecourses, and was based upon the findings of the 2nd Royal Commission on Lotteries and Betting of 1849.

The passage of this legislation led to the opening of public bingo halls and casinos, and whilst the act quickly proved to be somewhat inadequate for regulating a quickly growing industry, it took a surprisingly long time for it to be supplanted.

The 2005 Gambling Act

It was only in 2005 that the 1963 act was thoroughly modernised through the passage of the 2005 Gambling Act. This Gambling Act was aimed at creating a more adequate system of regulation of the gambling industry and had the following three stated aims:

Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime…

Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way…

Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

UK Gambling ComissionArguably the most important impact of the 2005 act was the creation of the UK Gambling Commission, which now regulates the entire gambling industry in the UK. The commission set new rules for casinos and other gambling operators and put a framework in place to ensure that they were followed. As of the 2005 act, however, overseas based casinos serving UK punters were not required to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

The 2014 Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act

The above loophole, when it came to overseas gambling providers, was closed by the passage of the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act.

The act not only required overseas providers to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission but also ensured that they must pay the same 15% tax rate as UK based providers.

The 2015 Consumer Rights Act

The Consumer Rights Act of 2015 contained provisions directly aimed at online casinos in the UK or serving UK customers. These set down rules to ensure that those casinos operate fair gaming practices and that they can be prosecuted if they fail to comply.

Money Laundering & Identity Verification

The above, therefore, is a good overview of the legal situation regarding online gambling in the UK. One further area which should be discussed, however, is that of money laundering.

Money laundering, after all, is one of the most likely criminal activities which could be associated with online gambling and one of the aforementioned aims of the 2005 Gambling Act is to prevent…

‘gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime.’

As such, online casinos are required by the UK Gambling Commission to take measures to combat money laundering under the terms of their licenses. The most notable requirement is to perform ‘customer due diligence’ in order to confirm and verify the identities of those customers using their online gambling services.

Such identity verification is also required of online casinos by the Money Laundering Regulations 2007, which require casinos to check the identity of customers before allowing them to use their services and again if customers:

‘In the course of any period of 24 hours, pay to, or stake with, the casino €2,000 or more in connection with remote gaming facilities.’