The UK is something of a paradox in terms of it casino and gambling regulations. On one hand, its gambling laws are among the most liberal of any western country. On the other hand, UK licensing and oversight, provided by the Gambling Commission (UKGC), is regarded as among the strictest and safest in the world.
Much of the liberalisation of the laws is down to the 2005 Gambling Act, passed by Tony Blair’s Labour Government, which completely overhauled the legislation of all types of gaming in the UK. The Act was designed to reflect the fact that attitudes to gambling had changed, with people viewing it as an acceptable form of adult entertainment, rather than a vice.
At the time, one of the most famous provisions of the Act was the fact that it allowed for the creation of up to eight super-casinos across the country. Eventually, this was whittled down to just one, with Manchester chosen as the location. Of course, the idea was eventually abandoned all together, meaning Manchester missed our on a Vegas-style super-casino.
Online casinos now require UK licence
Today, the Gambling Act has evolved (major updates were added with a 2014 Act), but still espouses the idea of giving us a certain freedom of choice, while keeping us safe and ensuring that gambling is not funding organised crime.
There are tangible benefits of the Gambling Act too. For example, online casinos mostly operate off-shore, often in tax-haven jurisdictions like Jersey and Gibraltar. While this business practice often infuriates the British public, part of the Gambling Act insures that operators must pay a 15% tax on gross profits, meaning a healthy amount of gambling profits goes to the Exchequer.
The other interesting provision for online casinos is that they must receive a licence from the UKGC in order to operate in Britain. The Gambling Commission has a broad range of responsibilities, including regulating the National Lottery, but its main role is to ensure that gambling is “fair and open”, crime-free and the protection of children and vulnerable people.
Most players will agree that the UKGC has done a fair job of ensuring that gambling is “fair and open”. For example, the terms for casino welcome offers at UK-licensed operators must be spelled out clearly on the site, so players will know just how valuable those free spins are bonus cash award are.
Casinos publish RTP figure for games
Other important aspects have evolved with the UKGC, often in partnership with the online casinos themselves. Most operators will want to trumpet the fact that they are playing fair, so many are taking the steps to publish RTP (Return to Player, a by-word for house edge) figures and show they have been independently tested for fairness through the use of RNGs (Random Number Generators).
Of course, there are problems still to be fixed. Part of the Gambling Act’s legislation saw a decentralisation of gambling oversight to local authorities. This mean that the UKGC was not able to control the rise of FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals), which have been seen as a blight in poorer areas of the UK. It is only in the last few months that the Government has moved to regulate them.
Certainly, there are wrinkles to be ironed out, but, in general, the UK’s gambling laws are something to be celebrated. We have been afforded both freedoms and protections. As with, for example, alcohol, there are obviously pitfalls with gambling, but most of us can enjoy this adult entertainment knowing that we can do so responsibly and that we will be treated fairly.