UK Online Casinos
It is all change for online casinos in the UK at the moment. Recently, a new law was introduced which specified that gambling site operators in all the different verticals need to be licensed and to pay taxes to a central authority. This caused some concern among casino operators, who are located in the UK and its overseas territories including Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. At the time of writing 161 different operators has applied for the first round of licenses.
You’ll find an overview of the legal situation for online casinos in the UK on this page. First of all the general environment and freedom UK players have to choose where to gamble is outlined. Next the recent changes are covered in more depth. At the end of the page you will find a guide to making sure you make the most of your freedom to choose which online casino to play at.
UK Online Casinos Regulation
The UK has some of the most liberal gambling laws anywhere in the world. On an individual level, you are free to gamble anywhere online as long as you are over 18. Many of the biggest gambling site brands in the world started in the UK, which has a long tradition of ‘high street bookmakers’ going back many decades.
Unless gambling income is your profession (defined as your only or main source of income), there is no tax to pay on gambling winnings in the UK. This country is not particularly known for pro gamblers or poker players. What you will find is a lot of people who enjoy recreational gambling, ranging from the popular national lottery, though bingo, slots (fruit machines) to full casinos.
London is a popular stock market for the big gambling companies to list on. When you find a casino which is a part of a listed company, this can give you extra peace of mind. This is because any major changes to the financial position of these casinos needs to be made public. You will never run the risk of a casino going bankrupt while holding your bankroll without fair warning to get your money off of the site.
Traditionally, the overseas territories have been tax havens for gambling site operators. Realizing the value of having these companies providing employment and taxes, many set up their own gambling control authorities which issue licenses to the operators. Over the years, these have become some of the biggest and most reputable licensing authorities worldwide. Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and Alderney are three examples. Since these jurisdictions have strict policies and requirements in the way that their licensees behave, seeing a casino which is licensed to them is a trust signal in its own right.
The New Licensing
With the licensing laws in the UK brand new, it is too early to see whether these will have a major effect on the online casino landscape. You may find that many operators who do not meet the criteria for licenses voluntarily pull out before enforcement occurs. Whether any offshore operators will continue to accept UK custom in the same way that occurs for US players remains to be seen. I expect this to happen and will be watching closely to see how tough the enforcement processes are.
The ability to advertise casinos through the traditional media will conditional on having one of the new licenses. This should give the bigger operators who are already involved in the licensing process an added advantage over their unlicensed offshore competitors.
Choosing a UK Online Casino
With so many casinos going through the licensing process, it makes good sense to stick with this list when deciding on a casino to play at. This way you’ll know that they pass the UK government’s criteria for being a legitimate operator, you’ll also have an authority to work with should you end up in some kind of dispute with a casino operator.
Software is the single biggest factor differentiating UK casinos after that. These operators have access to the biggest and best software houses around the world, and have an amazing collection of titles between them. What I advise against is getting ‘stuck’ at a casino which only offers a single software suite. Many of the latest casinos offer the games from many providers, with some casinos having 100’s of titles to choose from. If you go for one of the new breed of no-download casinos your choice of games can easily double.
You should also take some time to check the bonus offers, and in particular the small print of these. What you will find is that seemingly identical offers have big differences hidden in the terms and conditions. Make sure you check for the wager-through requirement, excluded (or weighted) games listing and whether you can cash out the bonus amount once you have met the criteria.