UK Gambling Commission

Gambling in the UK needs to be moderated and monitored to ensure it is safe for all. The UK Gambling Commission exists to provide this service and to ensure that all online casino experiences and other gambling experiences are the best they can be. It is the key regulatory organisation for ensuring that gambling in the UK is crime free, fair and open and vulnerable people and children are fully protected.

The Gambling Commission provides licenses in operators across the industry, including both land-based and online casinos.

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History and Law

Since 2005 when the Commission was founded, it has provided regulation for commercial gambling across the United Kingdom. It was first put in place as part of the Gambling Act 2005 and it works in partnership with different licensing authorities to ensure regulation is properly managed. The Gambling Commission has also had responsibility for the National Lottery Commission since 2013. The licensing and regulation via the UK Gambling Commission includes but is not limited to:

  • Sports Betting
  • Other kinds of betting
  • Lotteries
  • Land-based casinos
  • Online bingo
  • Bingo halls
  • Gaming terminals and machines
  • Online casino software and games
  • Remote gambling such as telephone and television games

The Gambling Commission presides over almost all gambling in the UK but there are some notable exceptions and there are some areas it isn’t responsible for.

Responsibilities and Exceptions

Responsibilities

The UK Gambling Commission is committed to keeping gambling in the UK free of crime. It is also committed to ensuring any operator providing almost any kind of gambling works in a fair and open manner. It also ensures that children and vulnerable people are protected from the risks related to gambling.

The Commission is officially classed as a non-departmental public body and it is sponsored by the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

It is wholly responsible for the licensing of gambling operators in the UK. It can also levy fines and revoke licences where necessary. It has a further responsibility on an advisory level at both national and local government level. It provides guidance and advice for any gambling-related issues and it has a good range of resources for people interested in gambling as well as those who feel they may have a problem with it.

The Gambling Commission only issues licences to operators whose remote gambling and online gambling equipment is located within the UK.

Exceptions

There are many things that the Gambling Commission cannot do and is not responsible for. To avoid any confusion, the Gambling Commission is not a watchdog and it is not responsible for consumer complaints about gambling operators. It is not a legal body and cannot advise on legal issues.

The Commission is not responsible for the regulation of spread betting; this is managed by the Financial Conduct Authority.

A key thing to remember from an online casino player’s perspective is that the UK Gambling Commission is not and does not regulate every casino site you come across. Some online casino players make the assumption that any online casino they are able to access from the UK is fair game, but this isn’t the truth so it is important to check every site you visit for a Gambling Commission licence.

Criticism

Since 2005 there have been several occasions where the Gambling Commission has come under fire from both official bodies and consumers. The two main areas where it has seen criticism are in fixed odds betting terminals and in relation to online casinos disappearing, without paying out winnings.

Fixed odds betting terminals have become a serious issue for problem gamblers and the Commission has been criticised for allowing them to spread so quickly. Whilst the spread of the machines can to administrative and logistical errors, when planning permission moved from the Commission to the local authorities, they still share a portion of the blame.

The issues around online casinos became most well known in the case of the sites BetButler and CanBet. Both sites closed down without paying out outstanding winnings to customers or allowing them to empty their accounts. The Commission was directly criticised as consumers wanted to know what failsafe measures were in place to protect British customers. This has resulted in the Commission adding to their wide range of online gambling guidance, advising players to check what happens should the casino close and their accounts shut down. By agreeing to the terms and conditions of a site you could potentially be forfeiting any winnings should the site close, so it’s important to be wary.

Advice from the Gambling Commission

The Gambling Commission provides a wealth of information and guidance for people enjoying online gambling and other forms of gambling in the UK.

They are committed to ensuring gamblers in the UK feel safe and enjoy their experience and are able to remain within their means. They provide information on how to be safe when gambling and also have strict procedures in place for the protection of young and vulnerable people. They make very clear suggestions before anyone should gamble in anyway including:

  1. Always read the company terms and conditions of any gambling product before using it. This ensures you are making a fully informed decision before parting with any cash.
  2. Always check out the restrictions, wagering requirements and terms attached to specific bonuses or promotions.
  3. Be wary of offers which seem too good to be true.
  4. Always ensure you have a full understanding of what will happen should a company go bust. In light of the controversy in the past the Commission want all gamblers to fully check and agree with the terms of service should a company close down or go bust.
  5. Always ensure you are gambling for fun and enjoying the experience. You can set limits on deposits and the amount you spend online, for example, to ensure it remains fun and doesn’t become a problem.
  6. Guidance around the area of ‘self-exclusion’ which is recommended for individuals who have recognised they have a problem with gambling and need some time out.
  7. Providing direction and working in partnership with organisations focused on supporting problem gambling such as Gambler Aware, as well as measuring and monitoring the extent of the problem.

The Gambling Commission is a hugely valuable institution in the UK which ensures everyone who wants to gamble, online and in other ways, can do so and feel safe and secure at the same time.

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