Safety and security are paramount in the online casino world and it’s the UK Gambling Commission’s job to ensure all active sites in the UK comply with this ethos. Thanks to a 2014 legal change in the way the iGaming industry is regulated, all online casinos, bingo sites and betting sites active in the UK are now required to obtain a national licence.
Prior to the change, operators serving UK players were able to hold a gaming licence supplied by an international regulator such as the Malta Gaming Authority, Curaçao EGaming and the Gibraltar Gambling Authority. However, following the change, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) implemented its own licensing process that now supersedes all other licences.
The UKGC was originally put together by the government following the Gambling Act 2005 as a way to regulate and supervise UK gambling laws. Initially focusing on live betting shops and casino, the Commission has since assumed responsibility for a variety of betting organisations, including the National Lottery. The most significant change in the UKGC’s history, however, has been its oversight of the online betting industry.
Today, the UKGC is in charge of the licensing, implementing regulations and disciplinary action across all of the UK online betting industry. Because of this, any online casino, poker or sports betting site in the UK must now have a licence issued by the UKGC in order to be considered legal.
All online casino, bingo and betting sites regulated by the UKGC are required to display their credentials on their site. Although some simply provide details of their parent company/operating company and the UKGC’s logo, others will actually print their licence number and a direct link to their official certificate.
As a player, your first port of call should be the bottom of a site’s homepage. This is where you should see either a small UKGC logo or a larger logo/banner with words to the effect of “XXX is licensed and regulated by the Gambling Commission.”
Many operators will hyperlink part of this text so you can jump directly to their official certificate. If there is no text or link present, you can visit the UKGC’s official site and conduct a search in the following way:
If the site/company is licensed by the UKGC, its details will be found on the public register and you’ll be able to view whether it has an active licence, any penalties it’s received, the company’s details and any other sites/platforms it’s associated with.
As a player, you might be thinking: why do I need the UKGC? Well, the simple answer is safety and security. Of course, without knowing what this means in practice, you probably won’t be impressed.
To give you an idea of what the UKGC actually means for you, here’s an overview of how it handles online betting in the UK:
Licensing and Vetting: The first and perhaps most important job the UKGC performs is the initial vetting of a site. For any site to be granted a licence, it must first apply to the UKGC. Before issuing a licence, the regulatory body will ensure a site’s games, bonuses, software and promotional literature (both onsite and offsite) are fair, secure and, importantly, comply with the organisation’s three core objectives:
Oversight and Regulation: Once a site is licensed by the UKGC, it’s then monitored on a constant basis. Any time it may be in breach of a specific licensing condition, the UKGC will issue a warning, disciplinary action and, ultimately, the cancellation of an operator’s licence for continued infringements.
Securing Your Funds: Perhaps the most important regulation brought in by the UKGC over the last few years is one that specifies how your funds should be handled. Following legal issues in the US that saw players either lose or have issues accessing their bankroll, the UKGC has made it a legal requirement that operators separate operating funds and player funds.
In practice, this means your bankroll is stored in a secured, UKGC approved bank account. Because of this, it means that your bankroll will be safe even if a site runs into financial difficulties. Prior to this legal requirement, operators didn’t separate funds and that meant your bankroll could technically have been used to plug any financial leaks. Today, however, this isn’t possible.
Fairness and Safety: The final benefit for you as a player is that you can be 100% confident that any UKGC licensed site is fair and safe. All software should be secured by SSL encryption and random number generators have to be tested and certified as fair.
The way in which the UKGC handles individual complaints is by making operators have an independent Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) body. Essentially a third-party linked to but independent from the business, the ADR is a mediator and, more importantly, a regulatory requirement for all operators.
According to the UKGC, if you have a complaint, you should first direct it to the site itself. After filing a complaint via a site’s official support channel, it is required to investigate it fully before offering a resolution. At this stage, if you’re unsatisfied with the result, you must then contact the site’s ADR. The ADR will then review the case as a whole and offer a final verdict.
In terms what you can complain about, the UKGC offers guidance on this. Although any complain can be valid, common problems will fall under the following categories:
In a bid to make the complaints procedure more effective, the UKGC recently launched an online service with the help of Resolver. Offered as a free, independent service, Resolver offers players guidance, information and email templates so they can get the best help possible. At this stage it’s unclear how effective the system will be. However, it’s yet another example of how the UKGC is attempting to give players the best service possible.
The litmus test for any regulator is how it handles policy infringements by the largest operators in any given industry and, so far, the UKGC has passed with flying colours. Between 2016 and 2017, the governing body has taken disciplinary action against a variety of high profile operators, including 888Casino, bgo and even the National Lottery.
In the case of 888, issues with the site’s self-exclusion procedure led to an investigation into its player protection practices. For bgo, continued issues with the way it advertised its bonuses and promotions caused the Commission to issue a £300,000 fine. According to the results of the investigation, bgo had failed to correctly explain the terms and conditions surrounding its free bet offers on multiple occasions. This was considered potentially misleading to players and, therefore, justification for a record fine.
The National Lottery’s operator, Camelot, was hit with a £3 million fine for paying out a non-winning ticket back in 2009. For failing to carry out sufficient checks into the authenticity of a claimant’s ticket, the UKGC deemed it a breach of Camelot’s licensing conditions and, therefore, cause for a significant fine.
Currently the UKGC is investigating obstacles to withdrawals that many casino and betting sites place on customers and looking into the possibility of levying fines on those that do take too long in their payment processing or post too many obstacles to customers in their withdrawal process.
What these cases demonstrate is that the UKGC is not only willing to take action against big name operators, but that it takes a broad approach to regulation. From the advertising of products to the distribution of prizes, the UKGC covers all areas of the industry which is great news for players.
Despite its age, the UKGC is regarded as one of the leading gambling commissions in the world. Evidence of this can be seen in the willingness of international regulators consulting with and even exploring partnerships with the UKGC. For example, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJ DGE) has been communicating with the UKGC since 2015 in a bid to improve its own procedures. On top of this, liquidity sharing deals between sites licensed in the UK and New Jersey have also been a topic of conversation.
The UKGC also stacks up well against other regulators when it comes to innovations. In 2016 and 2017 alone, the UKGC has released numerous initiatives, including: the aforementioned Resolver program, new policies (such as giving player access to more of their historical account data) and improving problem gambling provisions with a free national helpline.
Overall, when it comes to wellbeing and control, the UKGC is by far the most active regulator in the world and, in many people’s opinion, the most effective commission around.