United Kingdom Gambling Laws Overview

UK Gambling Regulations

Gambling regulations in the UK differ from other regions as they encompass physical and online casinos. Unlike other countries, which may overlook online betting or use language open to interpretation for virtual gaming wagers, the United Kingdom employs a comprehensive set of rules across all channels. Both land-based and online gambling are 100% legal in the UK as long as the provider is licensed through the UK Gambling Commission.

Residents of the UK have access to a vast array of legal gambling services right at their fingertips! This includes over 1,000 remote licensees and 8,300+ bookmaking operations. Furthermore, they can enjoy 51,000 pubs with two gaming machines each, as well as 150 land-based casinos and online betting sites.

Below is a list of all the legal gambling activities available in the United Kingdom:

  • Online casinos
  • Sports betting
  • Land-based casinos
  • Poker
  • Horse racing betting
  • National Lottery
  • Bingo
  • C or D category gambling machines in pubs

History of Gambling in the United Kingdom

UK gambling laws are designed to ensure fairness and prosperity for the industry. At the centre of these regulations is a crucial piece of legislation that keeps operators in check, helping guarantee equal opportunities and a safe play experience for all customers.

Gambling Expansion in the 1960s

The Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 saw a surge in gambling activity, with land-based casinos and betting shops rapidly appearing across the UK. In fact, within just five years, there were over 16,000 bookmakers licensed to trade. This legislation led to a new era of leisure activities for British citizens.

In 1968, the UK Gambling Law reduced casino-type betting by introducing stringent regulations for gambling venues across the country. A new Gaming Board was also established to monitor these guidelines and ensure compliance. This reform brought an end to unregulated gambling activities, which had become almost ubiquitous until that time.

The Gambling Act of 2005

The UK took a giant leap in 2005 with the Gambling Act, ushering in an age of legal online betting. This act also replaced the Gaming Board by establishing the new and improved UK Gambling Commission to oversee the industry.

The Gambling Act of 2005 seeks to stamp out criminal activity, promote a level-playing field for all gamblers, and shield the young and vulnerable from potentially harmful effects. The original legislative scheme of the act established a “point-of-supply” system, meaning operators’ physical locations held great importance. Consequently, the Act did not apply to overseas operators offering gambling services to those based in Britain.

The Gambling Act of 2014

In 2014, the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act brought forth a significant shift in how gambling was regulated. It fundamentally changed from being centred around “point-of-supply” to “point-of-consumption” regulations for British gamblers, meaning that any offshore companies providing services without obtaining a license from the UK Gambling Commission would now be legally penalised – essentially sealing the loophole of unlicensed gambling activities directed at citizens residing in Britain.

The 2020 Review of the Gambling Act

In December 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport kicked off a much-anticipated review of the UK’s gambling laws to evaluate their reliability in today’s fast-paced environment. The Gambling Commission was also subject to this assessment as there needed to be an assurance that they were properly equipped and able to stamp out all illegal activities.

After the conclusion of an extensive review that spanned four months, from December 2020 to March 2021, the Government is nearing completion of a White Paper outlining potential amendments to gambling legislation.

With its end in sight, it’s sure to prove exciting updates for all involved.

Current UK Gambling Laws & Casino Legislation

The UK has taken steps to make gambling safer and more secure by setting laws that protect the most vulnerable. These include age restrictions on betting, as well as self-exclusion options for those struggling with problem gambling.

What Is the Minimum Age to Gamble Legally in the UK

In the UK, you must be 18 to participate in most forms of gambling. However, unlike other jurisdictions around the world, those as young as 16 are able to enjoy some gaming activities, such as lotteries and scratch cards, with parental consent.

Ignoring this requirement could lead to serious consequences, like having any potential winnings denied if you are caught underage. So be sure that on top of a great strategy and some luck by your side, you’re also of the legal age before engaging in any gambling activity.

To ensure responsible gaming for all participants, online casinos and sportsbooks adhere strictly to this rule by asking customers for proof of age before setting up an account or allowing them access to their platforms.

Advertising Restrictions

In 2007, the UK relaxed its previous regulations on TV advertising, which only previously allowed ads for National Lottery, Bingo, and football pools. By 2013, this new open policy had resulted in an explosive increase as many betting promotions were broadcast compared to before the Gambling Act was passed. The Committee of Advertising Practice in the UK has unveiled updated regulations to help safeguard young people from underage gambling.

Currently, no form of gambling advertisement would be permitted on websites and games tailored towards children’s interests. This is an effort to create a safe environment for kids while browsing online.

The new regulations aim to add an extra layer of protection to ensure that gambling advertisements do not target children under the age of 18. To accomplish this, bookmakers must ensure that no online wagering promotions are broadcast to minors. To fully comply with this provision, operators must refrain from placing advertisements promoting gambling on sections of websites targeted at children.

The rules also prohibit gambling companies from running real-money wagering ads on popular children’s video games. It will be their responsibility to ensure that their marketing content does not contain imagery that may appeal to children.

The Role of the UK Gambling Commission

In 2005, the UK Gambling Act was passed to create a regulated gambling industry. Out of this legislation spawned the UK Gambling Commission in 2007; its role is two-fold: licensing and regulating bookmakers, casinos, and National Lottery vendors, plus nearly 400 local authorities across Wales, England, and Scotland.

The programme includes five different types of licenses and seven streams of income, which are:

  • Remote general betting
  • Non-remote general betting
  • Remote general betting limited
  • Remote intermediary
  • Pool betting

Gambling taxes are generated from:

  • Lottery duty
  • Bingo duty
  • Gaming duty
  • Pool betting duty
  • Machine games duty
  • Remote gaming duty
  • General betting duty

When it comes to gambling taxes, operators and machines are subject to different rates. Type one slot games come with a 5% levy, type two a 20%, while all other categories incur 25% taxation. The remote gaming duty has seen an increase in recent years – starting at 15%, its rate was upped to 21% in 2019. Ultimately, however, lottery proceeds to account for more than a third (34%) of total revenue derived from gambling across Britain.

Main Forms of Gambling

The rules for who can make bets and who can take bets vary depending on the type of gambling and where it is offered. Below are some of the major forms of gambling in the UK:

Sports Betting in the UK

Sports betting is one of the most popular forms of real money gambling in England, and such activities are regulated by stringent licensing procedures set out by the UK Gambling Commission. Businesses involved with fixed-odds wagering, pool betting, or online intermediaries must also adhere to these regulations for their operations to be legally sanctioned.

Casinos & Gaming Machines

The UK takes a strict approach to gambling, requiring licenses and regulations for all casinos within the country – both on land or online. And while there are regulations determining where physical casino venues can be situated, they must also provide approved games that adhere to specific standards.

Gaming machines come in various categories:

  • B1
  • B2
  • B3
  • B3A
  • B4
  • C
  • D

With all gaming machines enforcing a minimum age restriction of 18 and over, the D category is an exception. These low-stakes fruit machines, coin pushes, and crane grabs allow players who are younger than 18 to join in on the fun.

With a minimum bet of 10p and maximum stake at £1, D-category gaming machines offer an exciting variety of prizes for players to explore. From small rewards worth up to £5 all the way through to grand payouts amounting to sums of £50! These thrilling arcade games can be found in adult gaming centres, family entertainment centres, or pubs.

In the UK, more than 51,000 permits are issued for pubs and clubs to operate gambling machines. This lucrative combination of chips and games creates an additional revenue stream for these establishments, with each automatically eligible to request two machine-based games from the Gambling Commission.

Since their approval in the sixties, classic casino-style gaming machines are available not just at pubs but also in a wide variety of other establishments such as casinos, clubs, and adult gaming centres. The specifics, like minimums and maximum payouts, vary depending on which kind of device is being used.

Bingo & Lotteries

Bingo and the lottery are both games of chance. However, there are significant differences between the two. To begin, the lottery usually has large prize pools and is played on a weekly basis. Bingo, on the other hand, is more commonly played but does not have the large prize pools associated with lotteries. Some lotteries don’t even require gambling licenses. The UKGC allows employees to run workplace lotteries; the formal term is “work lottery.”

Since its inception in 1993, the UK’s National Lottery has been entertaining and rewarding avid gamblers across Britain. What began as a single lottery game run by strict regulations now offers multiple chances to win with games like Lotto and Thunderball – plus an exciting pan-European option called EuroMillions featuring nine countries.

One important fact to know is that 28% of lottery prize pools are directed to the “Good Causes” fund, which has raised over £40 billion to date. The majority of the funds raised go to volunteer and community organisations and are never spent on services that the government already has a statutory obligation to provide.

Changes to the UK Online Gambling Laws

UK Online Gambling Laws

In the UK, gambling is regulated and kept secure by UK Gambling Commission licenses. However, rather than focus on the expansion of their gambling laws, steps are taken to safeguard vulnerable gamblers from potential risks associated with online gaming while ensuring underage individuals do not participate in any form or fashion.

Law Changes With Age Verification and Credit Cards

In April 2020, licensed gambling sites were banned from accepting credit cards. This extends to services like PayPal, which uses debit and credit cards to fund e-wallets. PayPal has informed all of its customers, and the new legislation will be strictly enforced.

The UKGC has implemented age verification regulations for gambling providers. To ensure a secure and safe experience, they have supplied essential guidance accompanying updated training materials to help operators verify customers’ ages. This process can take up to 72 hours before players are able to access the service. Still, that action is invaluable in protecting younger individuals from gaming too early or involuntarily.

Free Services for Problem Gamblers

Even though there is a multitude of resources available in the UK specifically designed to help those with gambling problems, shockingly, only 3% actually reach out for support. Without assistance, this compulsive behaviour can become more severe and challenging to overcome.

To safeguard players and their well-being, the UK is scrutinising gambling regulations to ensure those at risk of problem gambling are identified. To assist in this regard, The NHS has compiled a comprehensive collection of services and support networks specifically designed for individuals struggling with compulsive betting behaviours.

Below are some of the services available for problem gamblers:

  • Gamblers Anonymous UK (0330 094 0322, with local support groups)

Gamblers Anonymous offers a safe and supportive space for individuals struggling with compulsive gambling. Through this fellowship, members can share their experiences to help themselves and one another find solutions to common issues they may be facing. The website features several resources, including forums, chat rooms, literature, and, the most valuable of all – a meeting finder. Meetings are held every single day across England, Wales, Scotland, and Ulster.

  • GAMSTOP UK (0800 1386 518)

GAMSTOP provides a solution to regulate your online gambling. By enrolling in the service, you can specify a duration of your preference during which you will be restricted from accessing gambling websites and apps operated by UK-licensed operators. The duration could be 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years depending on the option you’ve chosen.

Keep in mind that until the minimum period you selected has elapsed, you will not be able to cancel your self-exclusion. Once this period is over, you can contact GAMSTOP support and ask for the exclusion to be lifted; otherwise, it will remain in effect.

  • GamCare and the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133)

In 1997, Paul Bellringer founded GamCare in an effort to protect vulnerable people from the harms of gambling. As a national leader on this issue, their services include providing treatment for those negatively affected as well as creating safer gambling awareness and understanding within industry standards. They also operate a helpline service available 24/7 so that anyone can get help whenever needed. Their major ambitions include:

  1. Help gamblers recognise and prevent gambling harms
  2. Provide access to practical tools and support
  3. Provide access to caring, evidence-led, and integrated treatment

GamCare provides a supportive online community for those struggling with problem gambling. Through their chatrooms and forums, individuals can connect with others in similar situations to share experiences and receive support from members of the Gam-Anon group.

There are also areas specifically devoted to new users seeking guidance, as well as recovery diaries available for anyone looking to keep track of their progress on the path toward mental well-being. In addition, they provide face-to-face treatment at multiple locations throughout Great Britain, offering an invaluable service that helps people kickstart a life free from addiction.