Gambling and laws regulating it in the UK has existed in some form or the other for centuries. In the earlier times there were laws that defined who could not gamble, and then there were laws banning the existence of private lotteries as well. We have dealt with those issues on the page dealing with a history of gambling in the UK on our site.

In the 20th and the 21st century in the UK, the laws relating to gambling are straightforward and easy to understand. On this page we take a look at some of the important laws relating to online gambling in the country and what the future holds for the gambling industry here.

Gambling Laws in the UK during the Early Days

There have been laws dating as far back as:

  • The 15th century to regulate who could gamble in Great Britain.
  • The 16th and 17th centuries to launch an official lottery (1569, 1585, 1627, 1631, and 1689)
  • The 18th century (1721) to ban private lotteries.

We will not discuss these at length on this page. Here we talk about the different gambling laws that have been passed in recent times to regulate online, mobile, and land-based gambling in the UK.

The first proper and official law that resulted in a significant change in the gambling industry in the UK was the passage of the Gaming Act in 1845.

  • The passage of this piece of legislation became possible thanks to the formation of the Select Committee on Gaming in the House of Lords in 1844.
  • This was followed by the passage of the Betting Act in 1853.
  • These two acts together ensured complete regulation of gambling in the UK and made it unavailable to the working class.

Recent Gambling Laws in the UK: The Gambling Act of 2005

When online gambling first came on the scene towards the end of the 20th century, the existing laws were not equipped to deal with it. The first proper gambling law to regulate all forms of gambling in the UK including online gambling was passed in 2005. This was the Gambling Act of 2005 and it defined remote gambling act as any form of gambling that involved the player placing a wager over any electronic technology or device that enabled communication including the:

  • Internet
  • Telephone
  • Radio
  • Television

As a result of the passing of the Gambling Act, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) was formed. This body regulated all forms of gambling. In 2013, the National Lottery which was outside the purview of the UKGC was also brought under it.

The Gambling Act allowed casino operators to offer online casinos to UK players. These included local casino operators as well as overseas or offshore operators. However, there was a feeling in government circles that there needed to be an independent licensing jurisdiction in the UK itself that operators needed to approach for servicing players there. That led to the next major law related to online and mobile gambling in the UK.

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act of 2014

The latest law that the UK Government has passed to regulate gambling in its various forms is the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act. This Act was introduced before Parliament on 9th May, 2013 and passed as legislation on 14th May, 2014 after approval by Royal Assent.

The following are some of the facts associated with the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act:

  • All gambling operators have to obtain a license from the UKGC to offer their services to UK players.
  • This includes both new operators as well as existing operators.
  • Overseas operators with a license from a whitelisted jurisdiction can continue to offer their services, but must also apply for a UKGC license. They can do this as follows:
  • Submit an application and also pay a fee for a continuity license till the UKGC license is approved.

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act has caused a few problems for overseas operators. What has caused an even greater furor is a companion bill that imposes an additional tax of 15% for any wagers accepted from UK players. This tax has been labeled a point-of-consumption tax and has resulted in quite a few offshore operators threatening to and a few actually shutting shop in the UK. Some of the overseas operators who have closed down in the UK include:

  • Fortune Lounge Group
  • Cherry Group
  • SBOBet
  • Referback Group
  • 12Bet

UK Gambling Laws: The Way Forward

Despite the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act throwing a spanner in the works for some overseas operators the Act has had quite a few followers, as highlighted by the following data:

  • The DCMS has registered almost 1000 applications so far.
  • Over 150 companies have applied for continuation licenses.
  • The UKGC has issued over 749 remote gambling licenses as of 31st March 2016
    • Gambling software: 241
    • Casino: 182
    • Bingo: 58
    • Pool betting: 87
    • General betting standard – real event: 94
    • General betting standard – virtual event: 42
    • General betting limited – telephone only: 23
    • Betting intermediary: 16
    • Betting intermediary – trading rooms only: 6
  • A number of overseas operators have begun moving their players to UK-based platforms.

The Act has already been challenged in court by the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA). This had resulted in a postponement of the Act’s enforcement to November 2014. Going forward, we are likely to see more and more overseas operators adopting the workarounds to stay and cater to the UK audience, including:

  • Apply for a fresh license from the UKGC
  • Move UK players to a single brand of theirs and stop them from accessing all their other brands
  • Block UK players from their brands and move them to other casino brands owned by the group or by an associate.

We are also more likely to see overseas operators slowly settle down, get their licenses approved, and continue catering to UK players.

UK Gambling Legislation FAQ

Do professional gamblers have to pay tax? Does the Gambling Commission guarantee your payouts? Find out the answers to this and more FAQs in this article.

The Licensing and Advertising Act of 2014 has been the subject of many questions with UK gamblers, especially ones regarding income taxation and legality. If you too are having concerns about gambling in UK casinos, take a look at the following answers to the most popular about UK gambling legislation and put your mind at ease.

What’s the Minimal Age to Gamble in the UK?

Is Lottery Considered Gambling?

What Does the Gambling Commission Do?

How does the UK Gambling Commission Define Online Gambling?

Are my Winnings Going to Be Taxed? How Does Taxation Work?

Does the Gambling Commission Guarantee my Gambling Winnings?

How can I Check Whether an Online Casino is Licensed by the UK Gambling Commission?

How Does the Verification Process Work?

Do You Pay Tax If You Are a Professional Gambler?

How Do I Know Online Casinos Are Fair?