The United Kingdom is the largest consumer of gambling services in the world. This is primarily due to the relaxed gambling laws and the support of casino establishments by the European Union. Gambling is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission that is answerable to the Department of Culture, Media, and Sports.
There are two major operating platforms in the UK. Online casinos operate on a web-based platform while land-based casinos are situated locally and have a permanent physical address. Most land-based casino brands have extended their business to the online platform due to a broader international market and aggressive EU support.
Gambling Laws in the United Kingdom
Betting was initially regulated by the United Kingdom Betting and Gambling Act of 1960. This Act operated to provide commercial bingo only. In 1961, the legislation was amended to include betting shops among the entities that were regulated. Consequently, more than 10,000 establishments were opened within the first six months when the Act came into force. The amended 1960 Act now required betting shops and bingo halls to stick to legal procedures and remunerate staff. It also demanded that any running establishment should have a registered office and procure a license from the Department of Culture, Media, and Sports.
The restrictions were so steep to individual bookies that some of them were forced out of the market. Over time, the small betting shops improved and coalesced with these individual book-keepers to form proper betting establishments. Seeing the growing market and increased investment in commercial gambling shops, the government of UK realized that there was further need to regulate the operations. In 1968, the National Assembly enacted the Gaming Act with the sole objective of regulating commercial casinos with table games.
The internet brought with it more opportunities for gambling operators to market their services. The operators would offer offshore services to players who were not residents of the UK. In effect, they did not fall under the district of the Gaming Act of 1968 or Betting and Gambling Act, taxes and other government revenue was lost, and some unscrupulous traders would use their offshore businesses to launder dirty money. In response to this anarchy, Parliament passed the Betting and Gaming Duties Act that was aimed at regulating offshore gambling operations in the UK.
The late 90’s and early noughties saw an influx in online casino establishments. Many gamblers preferred betting in online casinos rather than brick and mortar casinos. At this time, there was no law governing the online shops. This meant that online operations were mostly unregulated and gamblers were left at the mercy of casino management. The Gambling Act of 2005 was codified to cover this lacuna in law.
The 2005 Act provided that all local operators have to get a license from the newly-established UK Gambling Commission before trading, advertising, and promoting their businesses. The Act also expressly allowed UK residents to play in any online or land-based casinos. Further, more strict regulations were passed vide the Act concerning the admission of underage players, money laundering schemes, and dispute resolution. The Act was, however, permissive due to the concentrated efforts of the European Union.
Even though the 2005 Act was somewhat a landmark for casino operations, it did not apply to establishments that were registered elsewhere but offered their services to the residents of the United Kingdom. British authorities were appalled to find many online operations posing as casinos only to scam oblivious punters. In 2014, a subsidiary was annexed to the Gambling Act of 2005 to regulate remote gambling operators that provided their services in the UK. The Licensing and Advertising Regulations sought to regulate remote operators from the point of consumption rather than the instance of supply. The rules further directed all operators, remote and local, to obtain a license from the UK Gambling Commission before conducting any business in the jurisdiction.
The UK Gambling Commission
The UK Gambling Commission is the sole authority that regulates gambling operations in the UK. It was first established in the Gambling Act of 2005 but was later reconstituted in the 2015 homonymous Act. It is an independent body that will only answer to its administrative ministry- the Department of Culture, Media, and Sports. The UKGC is in charge of all forms of betting and lotteries except for speed betting which falls under the supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority.
The UKGC issue license to all gambling businesses online and offline. They set the standards that casinos have to be met before qualifying for the license. An important point to note is that licenses from the Alderney Gambling Commission, Antigua and Barbuda, Isle of Man, and Gibraltar are recognized as valid licenses for operations in the UK. This is because the authorities mentioned earlier conform to all requirements listed by the UKGC.
Security and Fairness in Casinos
The law requires casinos to take appropriate measures to ensure the security of their client’s data and money. Games also ought to give all players a fair chance at winning. There are a few techniques that casinos have employed to make sure casinos are fair and secure.
- Data EncryptionNearly all legit online casinos have encrypted data into unreadable figures. This protects incoming and outgoing transmissions in a casino from hackers, spyware, or any other malicious third party from intercepting the information. This is vital for casinos since cases of stolen identities have been reported. The industry standard is 128-bit or 256-bit encryption.
- Random Number GeneratorsRNG software ensures that each spin, hand, or draw is entirely unpredictable. This, in turn, makes every game different from the last and any that was and will ever be. RNG allows online casino games to give each player an equal chance at winning.
- Privacy PoliciesCasinos cannot divulge any information belonging to a client to another party without express consent from the customer.
Apart from these methods, there are also independent institutions that certify casino games, software, and payout rates. Such entities include the universally acclaimed eCOGRA, VeriSign, DigiCert, among others. These bodies will extensively test casino games and software to ensure they meet the required standards of the UKGC.
Online casinos run on software that will determine the casino’s interface, graphics quality, and speed. Many software providers offer services in the United Kingdom. Some of them are:
- Play N Go
- NextGen Gaming
- Evolution Gaming, and
- BluePrint Gaming among others.
These providers are responsible for online casino games and also the casino user interface.
The traditional casino games appear in both online houses and land-based casinos. In the UK you will find slot games, roulette, blackjack, poker, bingo, baccarat, and craps. Online casinos have a more significant advantage when it comes to games since the player is at liberty to choose among many titles of the same game category. They also add a live dealer feature that seeks to recreate an authentic land-based casino feel.
Land-based casinos offer the chance to socialize when gaming. There are also kitchen services, VIP privileges, and live entertainment in the casino premises. However, most houses have strict dress codes, operating hours, and entry requirements.
If you fancy a wager on matches, both land-based and online casinos have sportsbooks. The sportsbooks span over 150 sports worldwide and have different market options.
Gambling is UK favorite pastime. The industry has grown over the years with more brands emerging to meet rocketing demand. Fortunately, the law and government are present and active to protect punters. You can, therefore, gamble freely in the UK.