Gambling Laws in the UK

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Gambling has been a highly regulated activity in the UK since quite a while now. The first proper piece of legislation to regulate gambling was the Gambling Act of 2005. This Act defined remote gambling as gambling in which persons participate by using remote communication including:

  • The Internet
  • Telephone
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Any other kind of electronic or other technology for facilitating communication

This Act led to the establishment of the UK Gambling Commission, which is the regulatory body that oversees all different forms of gambling. The Act also picked up the responsibility of overseeing the National Lottery Commission from October 1, 2013.

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014

The next major piece of legislation to regulate gambling in the UK was the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill, introduced to Parliament on 9th May, 2013 and approved by Royal Assent and passed as the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act on 14th May, 2014.

The Act requires gambling operators providing remote gambling or advertising to consumers in Britain to obtain a license from the UKGC for the same. Any overseas operators servicing the UK can continue to do so if they have been licensed in a whitelisted jurisdiction. However, these overseas operators would be required to do the following:

  • Make an application and pay a fee in the transitional period for the issuing of a continuance license.
  • Supply only Great Britain products
  • Apply for the right size of license

Along with the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 was a companion bill that was set to take effect from December 1. This bill sought to impose an additional point-of-consumption tax of 15% on gaming duty for bets accepted from UK customers. This bill created a furor and led to quite a few offshore operators threatening to close, and some actually closing, their UK operations.

What the Gambling Act Means for Current Operators

The following are some of the nitty-gritties of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014.

  • Existing operators domiciled in the UK were to apply for a new license from the UKGC by 16th September 2016.
  • Overseas operators could apply for a continuation license to continue providing their services till their application has been processed.

The following are some statistics of the impact of the new Act:

  • Close to 1000 URLs have been registered with the DCMS so far.
  • 150+ plus companies have applied for continuation licenses.
  • As of 31st March, 2016 there were 749 remote gambling licenses issued:
    • Gambling software: 241
    • Casino: 182
    • General betting standard - real event: 94
    • Pool betting: 87
    • Bingo: 58
    • General betting standard - virtual event: 42
    • General betting limited - telephone only: 23
    • Betting intermediary: 16
    • Betting intermediary - trading rooms only: 6
  • A significant number of companies have started the process of shifting their customers to new UK-based platforms.

Practical Implications of the Gambling Act 2014

As of now most of the casino and gambling operators based out of the UK have applied for the new license as per the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014.

Things are not the same when it comes to overseas operators. These include operators that offered their services through:

  • Whitelisted jurisdictions like Gibraltar, Malta, and the Isle of Man
  • 'Illegal' jurisdictions for UK players like Curacao and Kahnawake

Basically, online gambling operators' response to the new Act has been one of the following:

  • Apply for licenses for all their casino brands. Examples include:
    • William Hill Group
    • 32Red Plc
  • Move all their UK players to a single brand and block UK players from playing at all their other brands
  • Block their UK players from their current brands. They have also recommended alternately that they sign up with a new brand; the new brand would either be one owned by the operator or an associate group. Some operators are recommending which new brand to join while some others are shifting their player accounts themselves.

Listed below are summaries of the different scenarios mentioned above. These listings are regularly updated to ensure you get the latest information. They are categorized into the following:

  • Business as Usual
  • Brand Consolidation
  • Cross-Marketing to a Third Party Brand
  • Brands Leaving the UK Market

Business as Usual

A large number of UK-based online casino operators have applied for new licenses under the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act. These include:

  • Mansion Group (except Mansion Poker, which is quitting the UK market)
Operator / Group Brands
William Hill Plc William Hill Sportsbook, William Hill Casino
32Red Plc 32Red Casino, Casino Lounge, Dash Casino, Nedplay
Ladbrokes Plc Ladbrokes Casino, Ladbrokes Bookmaker
Gala Coral Gala Casino, Coral Casino
Paddy Power
Casino Rewards (Offshore) All 28 brands including Casino Action, Luxury Casino, Golden Tiger Casino, Virtual City Casino and Zodiac Casino
BGO Vegas Casino
Mr Green
Guts Casino
Boyle Casino
Betfred Betfred Sportsbook, Betfred Casino
Roxy Palace Casino
Betway Group Betway Casino, Betway Sportsbook
Leo Vegas Casino

Brand Consolidation

The following is the updated list of remote gambling operators who have moved their players into a single brand:

Group New UK Brands
Euro Partners Titan Bet UK, Titan Bet UK Casino etc (new brands)
Winner Winner UK Sportsbook, Winner UK Casino etc (new brands)

Cross-Marketing to a Third Party Brand

The following casino operators have moved their players to a third party brand either directly or by recommending the brand to their players:

  • Vegas Partner Lounge
  • Digimedia
  • Mansion Poker (the other Mansion Group products will stay)
Group New UK Brands
Vegas Partner Lounge (Casino UK, Crazy Vegas Casino etc) UK players will be cross marketed to Roxy Palace Casino
Carmen Media (Jackpot City Casino etc) UK players will be migrated to (new - operated by Betway)
Fortune Lounge (Platinum Play etc)
Jackpot Factory (All Slots Casino etc) UK players will be migrated to (new - operated by Betway)

Brands Leaving the UK Market

The following are some of the brands leaving the UK market:

  • Cherry Group (Cherry Casino, EuroSlots, and EuroLotto)
  • Fortune Lounge Group (Royal Vegas, Platinum Play, 7 Sultans, Vegas Palms, and Euro Palace)
  • Referback Group (Lucky Nugget, Jackpot City, Gaming Club, King Neptune's Casino, Cool Hand Poker, Safari Scratch, River Belle, and Casino Epoca)
  • 12Bet
  • SBOBet

There are quite a few other offshore operators who have been planning to leave but have not made an official announcement about it yet. We will keep updating the above sections as more and more operators announce the course of action they would be taking as a result of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act.

In our next segment, Overview of Online Gambling Law in the UK, we take a look at the following areas of the Law:

Latest on Progress Related to Enforcement of the Act

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 was challenged in court by the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association. As a result, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) postponed the enforcement of the Act to November 2014. The reason given was to be able to pass the judgment without additional pressure.

In its filing before court the GBGA said the Act was 'unlawful, because it is an illegitimate, disproportionate and discriminatory interference with the right to free movement of services…and is irrational.' Analysts have called the filing a long shot at best and said that it may not produce the result that the GBGA was looking for.