UK Gambling Commission
An online gambling organisation called an “operator” in government lingo, must provide a link to the register of licensees on their website. If this link is not present, this gambling website may not be safe.
Here at Top5CasinoSites, we only include reputable online casinos holding appropriate licenses. However, you should always check the link to the licenses is present with any online casino you are about to join.
Casinos that want to serve the British public are required to apply and adhere to stringent and costly licencing requirements, if they are based in Great Britain. Even for a moderate-sized operation grossing less than £5 million per year, annual fees can amount to more than £16,000. The one-time application fee is an additional £12,600, and the fees are much higher for larger gambling websites.
Other licenses necessary for British-based gambling websites are various personal management licenses or PMLs, depending on the size of the operation. Annual fees for these licenses similarly range in the thousands of pounds. Generally, the more an operator has at risk with regard to licencing and annual fees, the safer that gambling site is.
Casinos that are not licensed will have their payment facilities locked, leading to customers not being able to deposit or withdraw, and eventually leading to the casinos ceasing to operate to this unlicensed online casino is that their MasterCard, PayPal and Visa payment facilities would be withdrawn, making it virtually impossible for them to operate.
According to the Gambling Commission, the register provides important information like the operator’s address, website domain names, trading names and current license status. As stated on the Commission’s official website www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk, “If an operator does not have a Commission license, they are acting illegally by offering gambling to consumers in Great Britain.”
What does the UKGC mean to you?
The UKGC is a vast organisation, with a remit covering a huge number of areas. However, what is important here is how it impacts you as a player. The UKGC will regulate and oversee the following:
- Your consumer rights when gambling. This is interpreted like any other product under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
- How gambling operators protect your money – is your financial data safe?
- How operators market their products to you.
- Complaints and disputes information*.
- The information operators provide for you – payout reports, terms and conditions for bonus offers etc.
- Safer gambling.
The above list is not exhaustive, but it serves to highlight some of the areas which the UKGC controls and regulates on your behalf.
* What the UKGC doesn’t do is handle routine consumer complaints or money disputes. Instead, The UKGC requires licensed online gambling sites to have procedures to handle such complaints. However, if you have not resolved your case with an operator, you can contact UKGC-backed arbiters such as IBAS (see section below).
The Commission ensures that online casinos are properly operated, that online gambling is crime-free, is fair and open, and that children and vulnerable people are protected.
You can check if your favourite online casino is licensed by visiting the Gambling Commission’s website at www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk.
A quick timeline showing online gaming licensing history:
- Mid-1990s: Creation of the first online casino games through companies like Microgaming and Cryptologic.
- Mid-1990s: Licences offered by Central American countries, such as Belize and Antigua and Barbuda.
- 2000: Isle of Man, Gibraltar begin issuing licences. Shift away from Central America to Europe.
- 2001: Online gambling is legalised in the UK.
- 2001: Alderney and Malta issue first online gambling licences.
- 2005: UK Gambling Act is passed. UKGC is created.
- Today: Online casinos must be regulated and licensed by the UKGC if they are to be used by UK players.
Of course, there are other regulatory bodies with whom savvy UK online casino players will want to be familiar with, including authorities that regulate operations outside of Great Britain. For example, an operator like Dunder Casino will be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission for players in Britain and the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) for all other players.
Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS):
Founded in 1998, IBAS is a third party organisation that oversees disputes between individuals and online gambling companies. IBAS is approved by the UK Gambling Commission to resolve cases, which normally comes under the bracket of payment disputes. IBAS recommends that you contact them only after the player has completed the company’s own internal complaints procedure. If you think you have a case, they will set up an Adjudication Panel to check that the company in question has adhered to their own terms and conditions, as well as the standards and regulations set out by IBAS and the UK Gambling Commission. IBAS has a limit of £10,000 when it comes to settling these disputes, anything over that may require a court of law to settle the disagreement.
Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC)
The AGCC was set up in 2000 to licence and regulate the online casinos operating out of the Alderney (one of the Channel Islands). Places like Alderney, which is a British Territory but not part of the UK, are attractive to eGaming operators due to favourable tax conditions. Operators who are regulated by the AGCC (and UKGC) include BGO, Paddy Power Casino and SkyBet / SkyCasino.
Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC)
Similar to the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man is a British Territory but not part of the UK. The GSC was set up as far back as 1962 to regulate land-based casinos and lotteries. However, its scope has grown in recent years with the growth of the online casino industry. Operators holding a GSC licence include 188Bet and many of Rational Groups Brands – PokerStars, Full Tilt, Bet Stars etc.
Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA)
Gibraltar is one of the most established hubs for online betting and gaming. The GBGA is not a regulatory body like the GSC or AGCC mentioned above. Rather, it is a trade association for the majority of gaming companies who operate out of Gibraltar. Licences are awarded by the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner. The licencees must fulfil a strict range of criteria to gain a licence, which includes everything from responsible practices to a solid business plan. However, a huge range of well-known industry names operate under the jurisdiction of the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner, including William Hill, Ladbrokes, Mansion and, Bet Victor. In addition, Gibraltar also hosts many of the B2B operators, i.e. games developers who must also hold a licence, such as Yggdrasil, NYX and NetEnt.
Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
The remit of the MGA was created under the 2001 Lotteries and Other Games Act. It is, of course, the first regulatory body on this list that does not have some links with the UK, as Malta is an independent country and full EU Member State. However, the MGA is held in high regard, so it should be considered a good thing if your chosen online casino is regulated by them. In addition, the UKGC allows operators to designate the MGA to act on their behalf to mediate in disputes. The Malta Gaming Authority is now considered one of the most important gambling jurisdictions in the world. Well known operators who operate under its jurisdiction include: Dunder Casino, Mr Green and Unibet.
European Regulatory Bodies
In addition to the organisations listed above, you may find yourself playing at an online casino regulated by a body based in another European country. These could include the Gaming Board of Hungary, Norwegian Gaming and Foundation Authority, Portuguese Inspectorate General on Gaming, Slovenian Office for Gaming Supervision and Swedish National Gaming Board. All of these organisations are reputable and will operate under compliance with European Union Law, including Norway which is not a member of the EU.
Less Reputable Jurisdictions and Organisations
Of course, eGaming does not begin and end with Europe. There are many organisations around the world that will grant licences to online casinos and betting companies. However, it is recommended that you take due care, checking the site carefully, when a casino is licensed and regulated by the following:
- Belize Computer Wagering Licensing Board
- Curaçao Gaming Control Board
- Kahnawake Gaming Commission
- Tasmania Gaming Commission
- Directorate of Offshore Gaming (Antigua and Barbuda)
- Costa Rica*
Now, there is no golden rule that necessarily states that casinos operating with a licence from these bodies are corrupt, none at all. However, UK players should proceed with caution if they are set to join an online casino regulated by the bodies above. Some of these gambling jurisdictions, notably Belize, were among the earliest to promote online gambling licences, having established themselves in the mid-1990s. However, by and large, they have a declining number of recognised operators, with most choosing places like Malta and Gibraltar instead.
*There is no such thing as a Costa Rica gaming licence, so be wary if you come across a casino brand purporting to have one.
Independent Testing Bodies
In addition to the regulatory bodies, independent testers and accreditation organisations – recognised by the UKGC and other regulatory bodies – will provide reports on the fairness of an online casino. These include:
Established in 2003 and based in London, eCOGRA (eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance) has a wide remit, but one which effectively centres around player protection. It can help settle disputes and other measures to protect player rights, but it is most notable for providing reports on fair payouts. eCOGRA will test games at an online casino to make sure that they are random (using RNGs – Random Number Generators) and that the payouts are as advertised. Many online casinos will provide links to eCOGRA reports on their sites or provide the information in the form of RTP (Return to Player), which is effectively house edge.
Gaming Laboratories International
Similar to Ecogra, Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) will work to provide independent testing and certification for online casinos around the world. GLI tests to check if an operator has adhered to the standards of a specific gambling jurisdiction, but they also act as a starting point for the regulation in newly created jurisdictions, i.e. they help to set the standards and practices of the gambling industry.
Techonology Systems Testing
TST (Techonology Systems Testing) became part of GLI (above) in 2010. It is specifically focused on the testing and consulting in eGaming and land-based casinos.
Set up in 2004, iTech Labs is one of the world’s leading organisations that tests online gaming systems. Its clients include some of the biggest software developers in the casino industry, including NetEnt and Yggdrasil, but also casino operators, such as Paddy Power and Party Gaming. iTech will provide certificates in a number of areas, but most are concentrated on compliance and software quality. For example, iTech will provide testing and certificates on RNG and RTP, but areas like platform integration and security are covered as well. Put simply, iTech will test to make sure games are fair and safe, but it also ensures that the games are robust and offer players a quality experience.
Other Areas To Note
Most online casinos by way of obtaining a licence to operate in the UK will have to fulfill a lot of requirements to make sure you and your money are kept safe. Obviously, your financial information is of paramount importance. In that respect, reputable online casinos will use TLS (Transport Layer Security) to encrypt the data that is sent from their servers to your web browsers. Essentially, this means the information, financial or otherwise, sent over the internet is secure. TLS became the de facto replacement for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). TLS is not uniquely used by the online gaming industry, but by all reputable websites who wish to ensure that their customers’ data is secure.
Peer Review Bodies
As with anything else you purchase online, you can check user reviews easily as casino players in the UK like to share their opinions with other players. This gives you an impartial insight on the online casino or betting company you are about to join. Some of the better sites providing player reviews are described below:
Operating since 2006, Ask Gamblers offers unbiased game and casino reviews. It will offer information on everything from payout times to the level of customer service available at a particular casino. It also has a popular forum where members can chat and share information about the industry. In addition it has a complaints handling service.
The Pogg was set up in 2012. Like Ask Gamblers, it provides casino reviews by players as well as other services like complaints handling. The Pogg will also test casinos on a ‘mystery shopper’ basis, publishing the information on their site.
Trustpilot is a consumer services review site, covering a broad range of industries, most of which are not related to online gambling. However, they do deal with many casino websites as well. While Trustpilot is a useful tool if you are buying something online, the reviews and grievances should not be taken at face value. It should not be viewed as some sort of ‘Trip Advisor for online gambling’, as the vast majority of gambling sites will receive mainly negative reviews, suggesting that only disgruntled players or anti-gamers use this site.
If you walk into your local electronics store and buy a new television set, you will take certain things for granted:
- You will pay the money as advertised.
- You will receive the correct change.
- The television has been tested to be safe.
- The television will work.
- The television will deliver on your expectations.
- The television is indeed Sony, LG etc.
- The television has been built and traded in compliance with UK/EU Law.
If you found that the television set did not meet any of the above criteria, you would expect to get your money back and perhaps approach a consumer group or the appropriate authorities to complain, especially if the refund was not forthcoming. The same principles should be expected for UK online gambling companies. The organisations outlined in this article act to protect you and your consumer rights when it comes to playing casino games online. They are there to guarantee fairness, make sure your financial and personal details are protected and, especially vital for players playing in the UK, ensure that all operators working within the UK are adhering to state law when it comes to online gambling.
However, for the same reasons you should be wary about buying a television from an unfamiliar retail establishment, you should also be doing your own research to make sure the online gambling site you would like to visit is legitimate. While the outcome when gambling is never guaranteed no matter where you play, taking a few minutes to do some basic research can make for a safer, happier and more rewarding online gaming experience. And remember, we check that all online casinos featured on www.top5casinosites.co.ukhave the necessary licences to serve the British public, helping to provide you with a positive gaming experience.