Many online casino players have probably wondered what gambling licences are all about at some point. That's why we will dig deep into the world of casino licences on this page to understand how they work. So, what are gaming licenses all about?
In the gambling industry, licenses are mentioned often but rarely described well. That's why have decided to tell you the basics of casino licenses and how they work.
Gambling licence names are usually combined with a nation because they are usually provided by certain countries. In the UK and Europe, the most well-known countries handing out licences are Malta, the United Kingdom, and Gibraltar. Estonia is one country with a gambling commission as well.
Depending on the country you are playing from, there are factors relating to things like safety and taxation to consider. But for UK players, pretty much all UK licenced casinos, and European gambling sites are good options. But why is this the case?
Well, the UK and Europe have extremely strict gambling laws, and that puts UK players in a good position. Casinos working under these gambling authorities are being regulated and controlled very well, which makes them the safest option for British players.
The more well-known the licence is, the better. If a gambling licence sounds a bit too exotic, it is recommended to switch to a casino with a more familiar licence. If you have any doubts about the licence, do not hesitate to investigate how that licence works. But how do casino licences work exactly?
Many countries have their own gaming & gambling authorities that provide gambling licences. For example, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) hands out licences in Malta, the UK Gambling Commission in the United Kingdom, and the Estonian Tax and Customs Board in Estonia. These authorities also set their own requirements for getting their licences.
If you have played casino games for any length of time, you may have noticed that licences from Malta and the United Kingdom are the most popular ones. Consequently, you probably won't be surprised to learn that these two authorities regulate most online casinos.
But on this page, we are also going to mention other reliable licenses. For example, Curacao, which operates outside the EU and the UK, has a bit less strict requirements for its licence. But though all licences mentioned in this article are reliable, we still consider UK licenced casinos to be the safest options for British players.
Some commissions pass out licences more readily with less strict rules and laws than others. But the UK Gambling Commission is the strictest licencing body in the world. However, this doesn't mean that non UK licenced casinos cannot be safe and reliable. But if you bump into a commission you have never even heard of, you probably should change your direction to a casino with a better-known gambling licence.
How can casinos apply for a casino license?
For an applicant to get a licence, they must first go through many safety and background checks. This is essential so that gambling commissions can ensure the security and reliability of the applying casino. These searches include background information checks, fairness checks, RNG checks, tax information checks, financial status checks, business practices checks, and criminal background checks.
The casinos applying for licences must also subject themselves to frequent financial and tax auditing and technical tests to ensure that they meet their licence requirements. The procedures that casinos must undergo to get a license are set in place so that gambling commissions can guarantee a casino's safety. The most popular and esteemed gambling commissions in the world include:
• Alderney Gambling Commission (AGC)
• Curacao Gaming Control
• Gibraltar Gambling Ordinance
• Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission
• Kahnawake's Gaming Commission
• The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
• The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC)
Gaming licence requirements
Gambling authorities such as the Gambling Commission in the UK impose a list of gaming licence requirements that online casinos must follow to get a gambling license. We have listed below different things that gambling authorities inspect before issuing a casino licence to an operator.
Marketing and Advertising
In the UK, gambling websites must advertise gambling responsibly by law. This means that casinos cannot make any wild or false claims when promoting their products or services online or elsewhere. The UK Gambling Commission watches closely how online casinos market their bonuses and promotions, especially to younger people. The Authority also makes sure that casino operators follow international laws relating to things like online privacy.
Contributions to research, education, and treatment of problem gamblers
To obtain a gambling licence UK, casinos must contribute money to the research, education, and treatment of problem gamblers. The UKGC sets financial targets for the online gambling industry to collect enough funding for the study, education, and treatment of problem gamblers. This financial contribution is usually made voluntarily to different organisations and charities that help people with gambling issues in the United Kingdom.
Promoting responsible gambling is essential to the health of the industry and players. And if UK licenced online casinos cannot provide enough funding for this purpose voluntarily, The Gambling Act 2005 allows for an additional fee to be introduced to them.
Casino operators must provide all information necessary for players to be fully aware of casino gameplay's circumstances and conditions. This means that gambling sites must provide truthful information about their products and services and encourage players to gamble responsibly. Casinos usually display this information on their websites, but they can also distribute it via their newsletter or social channels.
Underage gambling is a serious offence punishable by law in all jurisdictions. That's why casino operators must ensure that minors cannot gamble on their websites. This is why regulators work with different authorities to make sure that online casinos follow adequate age verification measures and procedures.
Any UK licenced online casino must provide a self-exclusion option to players who want to limit or quit gambling entirely. Self-exclusion is a feature available in all UK licenced online casinos, and it allows players to ban themselves from gambling for weeks, months, or even years.
In the UK, players should also be able to delete their accounts permanently from gambling sites if they wish to do so. Online casinos must also provide adequate support for people wanting to limit their gambling.
Casino operators must also take measures to counter money laundering for criminal activities. These systems and procedures must be tested frequently, and online casinos are required to engage with law enforcement bodies and the Gambling Commission if they witness any suspicious activity on their websites.
Although they should not be seen as a measure of excellent quality or safety, licence holders must also follow different technical standards and requirements set by the Gambling Commission. These are related to the casino software and games that gambling sites use and feature.
ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)
UK licenced online casinos are bound by law to offer either a confidential third-party service or access to an ADR provider, where players can receive customer support. This ADR function is essential for building and maintaining a casino's reputation, and it allows both players and operators to manage their expectations well. ADR is crucial for mediating difficult issues.
History of gambling licensing in the UK
1800 – 1900
Throughout history, gambling has been both legal and prohibited in the UK. Before the 20th century, it was heavily regulated and legislation passed in the 1800s effectively made commercial gambling illegal. On-course betting was still allowed at horse races, but only aristocrats could participate in these events.
1900 - 1960
But after World War II, when UK soldiers brought the game 'housie' (bingo) to the islands, there was a surge in the popularity of gambling, and soon after, it was legalized more broadly. In the early 1900s, the change took off when two Royal Commissions on Lotteries and Betting were set up and put forward recommendations that ultimately led to new gambling legislation being created in 1960. After this law was set in place, betting was legalised in licenced shops under government supervision.
1960 - 1990
In the 1960s, the gambling industry experienced a massive boom when the first UK licenced brick-and-mortar casino was established. The legalisation of betting shops and the founding of commercial bingo halls followed soon after. Since then, a growing number of casinos have opened their doors in the country, including the nation's first two Las Vegas-styled "super casinos" in 2011 and 2013, respectively.
1990 - 2005
The online casino industry was born in the mid-1990s, with Microgaming becoming the first online casino game developer in the world. Microgaming essentially started the online casino industry by creating the first online casino software in 1994. After Microgaming blazed the trail for online casinos in the UK, the first live dealer online casino was introduced soon after in 2003 by the British gambling giant Playtech.
2005 – to present day
In 2005, the British government passed the Gambling Act 2005, and the UK Gambling Commission was founded soon after. The law came into effect two years later, and since 2007, regulations have been evolving and changing rapidly in the country. In 2014, the Gambling Act 2005 was updated with a requirement stipulating that all offshore gambling brands operating in the UK market must own a UK gambling licence issued by the Gambling Commission.
All online casinos featured on the Mr Gamble website are regulated by relevant authorities and own a reputable gambling license. When you play at an online casino listed by us, you can be sure that the casino is trustworthy.
Why should online casinos be licensed and regulated?
Online gambling involves entrusting your money to what are effectively "faceless" third parties. Millions of people around the world transfer money to online casinos, but very few people actually know much about the companies or people behind these websites. This is why the industry needs to be regulated and monitored. When depositing money to a gambling website, players should be certain that their money is in safe hands.
The online gambling industry has to be regulated to make sure that:
Online casinos follow the laws of the jurisdictions at which they operate
Online casinos are operated ethically
Players are safe and treated fairly
Only by owning a reputable casino licence can players be ensured that gambling sites follow the laws of the jurisdiction at which they operate. But why should players care about which gambling licences casinos own?
Well, for one thing, when you play at an online casino with a reputable gambling licence, you can be sure that you are always treated fairly and professionally. You will also know that the casino is taking measures to prevent minors from gambling and that their advertising is honest and transparent.
In addition to this, you will also know that protecting your money is a priority to the casino. When you play at a reputable, licenced casino, you can also be sure that your chances of winning are always fair and that you can withdraw your winnings fast.
If every single online casino met this criterion, the internet would be a much safer place for players. Sadly, not all casinos take these rules seriously. That's why regulating the industry is crucially important.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to completely stop dodgy casinos from acting as they please. There is no international legal body or Commission that regulates online gambling in every single country and jurisdiction.
Fortunately, shady operators are in the minority, and most casinos are based in jurisdictions where they must follow stringent laws and regulations. But the fact that there are even just a few dodgy casinos is still a concern. However, when you play at a casino with a reputable gaming license, such as the UK gaming license, you can be sure that the site operates lawfully and fairly.
Remember to always only play at trustworthy online casinos.
How to spot a UK licensed online casino
Learning how to recognise licenced UK online casinos is essential to your safety as a player. There are several things you should investigate to determine whether the online casino you are visiting is licenced:
Scroll to the bottom of the gambling site you are visiting. If the casino is licenced, you will find a panel displaying the Gambling Commission logo.
If you can't find the logo, the information might be available elsewhere. Continue investigating the website you are visiting.
If you still can't find the licecse, the Gambling Commission's public register offers a search function for finding all UK licenced casinos.
Some other regulatory bodies offer similar search facilities.
If you still can't figure out whether the casino is licenced or not, you can contact the casino directly to find out.
Below are the contact details of the UKGC if you would like to contact the Authority:
Why you should stay away from non UK licenced Casinos
It is no secret that online casinos operating outside the UK have certain drawbacks for UK residents. Most online casinos on the market don't follow the demands of the UKGC and own other licences that are easier to get. That's why we recommend that you only play at UK licenced casinos for the most part as a UK resident because other casinos:
Aren't overseen by UK authorities
Most online casinos are not licenced and regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. But most non UK licensed casinos are still reputable casinos; they just aren't accessible to British players for the most part. However, the biggest drawback of playing at some non UK licensed casinos is that winnings on these casinos aren't always tax-free.
Have games that may be rigged
Without a reliable casino licence to ensure the safety and fairness of games and their randomness, games in non uk licensed casinos aren't guaranteed to be fair. These casinos can easily use random number generators that work in their favour because no regulatory body monitors them. So, if you want to be sure that you have a fair chance at winning, you should only play slots at safe UK licenced casinos.
Offer a limited selection of payment methods
You can use a wide variety of different payment methods at UK online casinos. However, the number of available banking options is much more limited at non UK licensed casinos. But you can still use popular banking methods, such as e-Wallets and credit or debit cards on these sites.
Why do some UK online casinos own other licences?
In addition to owning the UK license, many British gambling sites also own other gaming licences. Many casinos operating in the UK market own the MGA license which is issued by the Malta Gaming Authority. But why do online casinos acquire different casino licences in the first place? Isn't holding the gambling commission licence enough?
Owning other gaming licences enables operators to offer their services to players from other European countries. This is the reason why some UK online casinos are also licenced overseas.
Many UK online casinos choose to get a licence from the following jurisdictions:
Isle of Man
Antigua and Barbuda
To find out where an online casino is licenced, follow the same procedure that we described earlier. Scroll to the bottom of your chosen casino's website and look for a stamp, crest, logo, or a name indicating where the casino is registered.
Online casino regulatory and licensing bodies in different countries
UKGC (UK Gambling Commission)
The governing body that issues the UK gambling licence is the UK Gambling Commission. The Gambling Commission sets the requirements and licence fees for applicants to get the licence. In practice, under UKGC's rules, all casinos operating in Great Britain must own the UK gaming licence and comply with the rules set by the UK Gambling Commission. If casinos don't follow these rules, they can receive some hefty penalty fees, amounting to millions of pounds.
The Gambling Commission was set up in 2007 under the directive of the Gambling Act 2005. The Commission regulates arcades, betting, bingo, casinos, slot machines, and lotteries – including the National Lottery and online casino operators, game providers, and other gambling businesses. The UK Gambling Commission was ultimately founded to protect players and their funds. However, over the years, UKGC has started to regulate and monitor many other aspects of gambling in the UK too.
Many people don't like this trend, but the fact is that the gambling industry needs to be regulated. Because without regulations, the online gambling industry would resemble the Wild West, and players would encounter many rogue operators. So, it's great that regulators such as the UKGC exist to ensure the safety and reliability of casino-operators for players. Here is the breakdown of the most important responsibilities of the UK Gambling Commission:
Ensuring fair RNG in games
Monitoring products & operations
Promotion of Responsible Gaming
Preventing Minors from Gambling
Setting regulations and guidelines for advertising
Privacy and Data protection according to GDPR
MGA (Malta Gaming Authority)
Every online casino player has likely encountered Malta's gaming licence at some point when playing at online casinos. The Malta Gaming Authority, which grants Malta's gaming licence, was founded in 2001 when online casinos made their real breakthrough. MGA is the governing body that regulates all forms of gambling in Malta, and the MGA licence that it grants is widely thought to be the most prestigious license in the industry.
The Malta Gaming Authority is the official legislative body that governs all online gambling operations. The regulatory body was initially founded in 2001 as the Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA). The Malta Gaming Authority was one of the first organizations to regulate online gambling activities in the world.
LGA began regulating online gambling with the Lotteries and Other Games Act (2001). The Gambling Act was the first of many laws and regulations to come to control online gambling activities. In 2015 LGA rebranded itself as the Malta Gaming Authority that we all know and admire today.
Today, Malta Gaming Authority is the official regulator of most forms of gambling activities in Malta. The Malta Gaming Authority regulates both brick and mortar establishments as well as online betting operators. The list of betting activities that MGA regulates includes video slots and other casino games and gambling forms such as poker tournaments, virtual sports, and even B2B and B2C services.
GRA (Gibraltar Regulatory Authority)
Gibraltar might seem like a small operator in the gambling field, but the small territory has its own licence provider, which grants gaming licences to many online casinos. Gibraltar belongs to the Great-Britain, and it is, therefore, a highly reputable provider of gaming licences. Though the Gibraltar Gambling Commission might sound like an exotic licence provider, it's still a very trustworthy operator within the casino field. Like most gambling authorities, this operator also aims to ensure the safety of online casinos to casino players.
Although gaming companies that operate from Gibraltar primarily serve British players, Gibraltar still provides some advantages to casino players and operators from other countries. For instance, online casinos with the Gibraltar license can provide their players tax-free winnings, and they enable players to play with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoins.
Estonian Tax and Customs Board
Like most other gambling authorities, the Estonian Tax and Customs Board aims to ensure online casinos' safety to casino players. To get the licence, applicants for Estonia's gaming licence must first give a detailed account of their business practices to the Estonian Tax and Customs Board. During the application process, the applicant must also estimate its costs and profits for the casino that they are founding. They must also present the Estonian Tax and Customs Board their fully detailed business plan.
Curacao is one of the islands that make up the Dutch Caribbean (formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles). Curacao is a well-known online gambling licence provider that operates outside of Europe. This licence provider is a real veteran in the gambling industry, as it has been operating since the 90s.
Many might be surprised that the requirements to get a Curacao licence are considerably easier than for many other licences. The worst aspect about online casinos with a Curacao licence is that the casinos operating under the licence cannot provide tax-free winnings to their players. It might therefore be best for British players to play in online casinos that hold an European gaming licence or the UK licence.
Caution should also be exercised towards online casinos with Curacao licences, as some of them have gone rogue and even stolen money from their players. Therefore, players should be wary of casinos that hold this licence. However, most online casinos that own the Curacao licence are still absolutely safe to play at.
Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission
The Isle of Man is a small self-governing island that belongs to Great Britain. The Isle of Man's independence with respect to its laws and rules allows the island to offer some very appealing advantages to residents and companies alike. Therefore, it's no wonder why many iGaming companies have chosen to found their offices in this place.
In 2001, The Isle of Man's Government was one of the first territories to legalize online gambling and design legislation specifically to aid gambling companies. These licencing and regulatory controls have recently been made even more responsive to the online gambling industry's needs. The Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC) is the regulatory body that grants gaming licences to casino operators.
Danish Gambling Authority Gaming
Denmark's government offers casino operators a gambling licence that allows online casinos to conduct businesses related to casinos, lotto, and other gaming-related activities. The licence granted by the Danish Gambling Authority is one of the most popular licences in the online casino space.
Denmark Gambling Licence is issued by the Danish Gambling Authority, which is otherwise known as "Spillemyndigheden". Like most other gambling authorities, the Danish Gambling Authority aims to ensure online casinos' safety to casino players.
Swedish Gambling Authority
The Swedish Gambling Authority oversees all casinos that operate in the Swedish gambling market. The Authority ensures the legality, safety, and reliability of all casino operators in Sweden. The Swedish Gambling Authority has fairly stringent requirements for obtaining their licence. To get the licence, applicants for the Swedish gaming licence must give a detailed account of their business practices to the Swedish Gambling Authority.
Why it is important to play at a safe and reliable online casino
The reliability of gambling licences has been talked about a lot during the past few years. This is totally understandable because people play with real money at online casinos. Fortunately, most players tend to first check out the gambling licence before making any deposits to a casino.
Licences help to improve the reliability and safety of online casinos. Gambling authorities ensure that casinos take care of all the essential things before handing out a licence. If casinos don't make sure that these factors are on point, no reliable licence will be granted.
So, one could say that gambling authorities look after players, as they ensure casinos' trustworthiness for the player before they deposit any money. Gambling authorities are cautious about who they grant their licence to, as they don't want to get their own hands dirty.
Nowadays, most online casino players know which gambling licences are reliable. And all players know that they should not deposit any money to a casino with no licence at all. Many players are also unwilling to play at gambling sites that do not provide tax-free winnings.
All in all, there are a lot of reliable casino licences and gambling authorities out there. But we hold that casinos with the UK gambling licence, are the best places for British players. These casinos are simply unmatched when it comes to safety and reliability. But, more importantly, winnings are always tax-free on these casinos!
❓How to get a gambling license?
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is the regulatory body that monitors and regulates all online gambling activities in the United Kingdom. The UKGC controls the entire gambling industry with its licensing system. A casino operator who wants to get a gambling commission licence must meet all Commission standards.
💳How much is a gambling license UK?
Getting the UK Gambling Commission license can be a tedious process, and its cost depends on how much work you are prepared to do yourself. If you choose to use a consultant to go through the entire process with you, the gambling license will cost around £23,000.
🚀Do UK gaming licences expire?
A casino operator must pay a small maintenance fee 5 years after the first licence's anniversary. For example, if a casino acquired its licence on 2 January 2012, the maintenance would be due on 2 January 2017. The next maintenance would then be due on 2 January 2022 and so on.
🔒Where can I find safe online casinos?
You can find all safe UK licensed casinos and other casinos with reliable casino licences on the Mr Gamble website.