We have answered the most common questions related to the UK Gambling Commission, which will provide you with a thorough insight into the company and give you a great understanding of its role in regulating the UK online casino market.
What Is the UK Gambling Commission and What Does It Do?
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC in short) is the regulatory body of the UK gambling industry. It licenses and regulates all businesses that offer gambling in Britain, whether this gambling is casino, betting, bingo or lottery, and whether the business takes place offline or online.
The UKGC also provides useful information to companies and individuals. This includes guidelines and rules that gambling businesses must follow and answers to questions that players may encounter when gambling online. For instance, what the complaint procedure is if you, as a player, feel that you have been treated unfairly by a gambling establishment.
The main goal of the UK Gambling Commission is to:
- Keep crime out of gambling
- Make sure gambling is conducted fairly and transparently
- Protect vulnerable people from gambling-related harm
The organization does this by formulating rules and policies that gambling establishments must follow.
Are All Online Casinos Licensed by the UKGC?
Far from all online casinos are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. There are hundreds of casino sites that accept UK players, which are licensed by other entities and in some cases, not licensed at all.
On paper, this is a criminal offence. The Gambling Licensing and Advertising Act 2014, states that all online casinos that offer their services to UK players, regardless of where the online casino business is located, are required to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.
However, it is practically impossible for the UK government to do anything about this, which is why unlicensed casinos continue to exist even though they are unlawful by UK legislation.
What Rules Do UKGC-Licensed Online Casinos Have to Follow?
The UK Gambling Commission has a ton of rules in place that aim to protect players and make the UK online casino industry safe. Listed below are some of the most relevant ones sourced from the UKGC’s safer gambling requirements and the UKGC’s license conditions and codes of practice.
Game Related Rules
- The option to buy bonus features must not be available in slot machines (source).
- If an amount won is less than a player’s stake, it must not be highlighted as a win (source).
- No auto-spin feature can exist in slot machines (source).
- Slot machines must have a 2.5-second delay between each spin (source).
- Manually stopping a spin in slots must not be possible (source).
- It must not be possible for a player to play more than one slot at a time (source).
- Free-to-play games must not be different from their real money versions (source).
- Virtual games must be random and proven fair via yearly audits from approved, third-party companies (source).
- Live dealer games must be fair and independently auditable (source).
- Jackpot rules must be clear and jackpot systems must be fair (source).
- Net results for the slot session must be visible at all times when playing a slot (source).
- Time spent on a current slot session must always be displayed in the slot (source).
Financial Related Rules
- Credit cards must not be accepted for deposits (source) (source).
- Players must not be allowed to cancel their withdrawal requests (source).
- High-value players must be investigated before achieving a VIP status and receiving VIP rewards. It must be ascertained that they can afford their gambling and that their gambling is not in any way causing them harm (source).
- Players must be able to easily access information about their lifetime net results, and information about transactions to and from, as well as within the casino (source).
- The option for players to set a deposit limit must be readily available (source).
- Players must always be allowed to withdraw their deposit balance (non-bonus). No daily, weekly, monthly or yearly withdrawal limits must exist (source).
- Player funds must be stored in their own separate account and the casino must inform via their terms and conditions what level of protection applies to the funds; high, medium or no protection (source).
- Casinos must meet high security standards based on ISO/IEC 27001 that serve to protect players' sensitive data such as personal information and banking details (source).
- An option for players to set a reality check (a notification of how long they’ve played) must be available (source).
- There must be policies in place that prevent underage gambling (source).
- Players’ age and addresses must be verified before they start gambling, either electronically or via supporting documents that players provide (source) (source).
- When making a withdrawal request, verification documents must only be requested from players if they could not have been reasonably asked of earlier (source).
- Before depositing, players should be informed about all the necessary verification documents that might have to be provided and why they would be required (source).
- The casino must comply with the UKGC’s anti-money laundering policies (source) (source).
- Players must be able to self-exclude themselves on the casino site and the casino must also be a part of gamstop which allows players to self-exclude themselves at all UKGC-licensed casinos using the gamstop website (source) (source).
- Operators must comply with consumer protection laws, be transparent with players and treat them fairly (source).
- The terms and conditions of the casino must be fair (source).
- Bonus terms and conditions must be clear and readily available to players (source) (source).
- Promotional terms of an offer must not be changed after a player takes part in the offer (source).
- Advertising gambling must be done in a socially responsible manner and the advertisement must comply with the UK Advertising Codes issued by CAP and ASA (source).
- Casinos must make a yearly financial contribution to an organization approved by the UKGC that is involved in harm reduction of gambling and prevention of problematic gambling (source).
- Appropriate policies must be in place to effectively handle complaints and disputes from players (source).
What Is the UKGC’s Decision-Making Process of Creating Rules?
When implementing new rules that gambling establishments must follow, the decision-making process of the UK Gambling Commission looks something like this:
- The UKGC comes up with proposals of regulations to implement based on current research and/or estimations of how the rule would improve player protection and the legitimacy of the UK gambling industry.
- The public is consulted via surveys, including the average Joe, gamblers, academics, and gambling operators – whoever wants to take part and make their voice heard.
- If deemed necessary based on the public responses, further research is carried out by the UKGC, which is then thoroughly evaluated.
- A final decision is made by the UKGC and the date which the rule comes into effect is published on their website along with it an elaborated reasoning behind it.
What Happens if a Licensed Casino Does Not Follow the UKGC Regulations?
Breaching the rules of the UK Gambling Commission normally carries a heavy fine ranging from £100,000 up to £10 million or more. In addition, the gambling establishment must take action and resolve whatever issue they were fined for. This may include hiring and paying for a firm that would independently audit the casino to make sure it operates in accordance with UKGC regulation (source).
In severe cases, the gambling establishment may also have its gambling license revoked and lose its right to operate towards the UK market, and if a crime was committed, responsible persons may be sentenced to jail.
What Examples Are There of the UKGC Penalizing Gambling Establishments?
There are a ton of examples of the UKGC penalizing casinos and other gambling establishments, all of which are posted on the UKGC’s enforcement page. Here are some notable ones:
- Betway fined £400,000 for marketing their platform on the children’s page of West Ham United’s website – September 2022
- Betway fined £11.6 million after failing social responsibility and anti-money laundering policies with seven of its high spending players – March 2020
- Entain Group (who runs Ladbrokes, Foxy Games, Gala Casino, and PartyCasino) fined £17 million for failures in social responsibility and anti-money laundering procedures – August 2022
- LeoVegas fined £1.32 million for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures – August 2022
- National Lottery fined £3.15 million for multiple failures with their mobile app, including winning tickets being scanned as non-winning ones – March 2022
- Casumo fined £6 million for failing responsible gambling interactions with players who lost a lot of money and for failing anti-money laundering procedures – March 2021
- Videoslots Limited (who runs Videoslots and Mr Vegas) fined £2 million for failures in their social responsibility and anti-money laundering processes – June 2023.
- 888 fined £9.4 million for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures – March 2022
- 888 fined £7.8 million for failed self-exclusion procedures and failing to recognize visible signs of problematic gambling of a player – August 2017
How Can I Tell If an Online Casino Has a UKGC Gambling License?
If the casino is licensed, you can find its license number, along with a statement that it’s licensed in the footer of the site. This should always be there as it’s one of UKGC’s rules that online casinos must have their license number visible to players at every screen where gambling products can be accessed from (source).
To check the status of the license and confirm that it’s valid, you can use UKGC’s license register. However, the casino should already have its license number linked to a relevant validation page.
Can I Report a Casino Site to the UKGC and What Will Happen If I Do?
If you suspect that a casino site is operating unfairly, not complying with anti-money laundering or counter-terrorist financing control, or in any other way isn’t complying with the regulations of the UK Gambling Commission, you can indeed report them. This can be done via phone by calling 0121 230 6655. All information you provide will be kept confidential.
Depending on the evidence of the report and the severity, the UKGC would carry out an investigation and if the casino is at fault, take necessary action, such as fining it or suspending its license.
The Casino Treated Me Unfairly, Can the UKGC Help Me?
While it’s possible to report a casino to the UK Gambling Commission, the organization does not assist in resolving disputes between players and gambling establishments. However, as per UKGC’s rules, all online casinos must have an efficient complaints procedure in place.
This means that the first course of action in a dispute is to contact the casino site directly. If that doesn’t lead anywhere, your complaint can be escalated to an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution). The casino should be able to provide you with one, but if not, you can find UKGC approved ADR’s here.
How Can I Get in Touch With the UKGC?
The UK Gambling Commission can be reached the following ways:
- General queries: by phone on 0121 230 6666 or by submitting an online form
- ADR complaint: via this contact form
- UKGC complaint: by phone on 0121 230 6666, via this online form, or by e-mail at [email protected]
- Reporting a gambling establishment: by phone on 0121 230 6655
- License queries: via this contact form
- Press office: by phone on 0121 230 6700, via this online form, or by e-mail at [email protected]
Please note that general queries via the online form can take quite a bit of time to receive a reply to; the UKGC aim to respond within 20 days.
What Are the Requirements to Get a Gambling License From the UKGC?
To get a license from the UK Gambling Commission, one would have to create an online account with the UKGC and then go through a thorough application process on the website. Once submitted, the application would be processed in about 16 weeks.
A bunch of supporting documents would have to be provided along with the application. The requirements for these will vary depending on the type of license applied for; if it’s for casino, sports betting, lottery or bingo; if the operations are held online or offline; and if you are a company or individual.
Here’s a breakdown of the documents that may be asked of, directly sourced from the UKGC.
|Ownership structure diagram||All but sole trader|
|Management structure||All but sole trader|
|Group structure||Part of a group only|
|Share certificates||Companies limited by shares|
|Articles of association||Limited company only|
|Certificate of incorporation||Limited company only|
|Constitution||Only if you have one|
|Memorandum of association||Limited company only|
|Trust documents||Trust only|
|Partnership agreement||Partnership only|
|Individual identity documents||Sole trader|
|Policies & procedures – LCCP||All|
|Customer terms & conditions||All|
|Rules of play||All|
|Copies of gambling licences from other jurisdictions||All if licensed elsewhere|
|Policies & procedures – Remote technical standards & testing strategy policies||Remote licence applicant only|
|Gambling software supply details||Remote licence applicant only|
|Software supply method||Remote licence applicant only|
|Operational model map||Remote licence applicant only|
|System diagram for end to end process||Remote licence applicant only|
|Bank statements for all account for last 6 months||All|
|Audited accounts||All except sole trader if applicable|
|Profit & loss projections for next 3 years||All|
|Proof of funding||All|
|Credit report||Overseas based only|
|Annual reports to regulators||All except sole trader if applicable|
|Annual returns||All except sole trader if applicable|
|Details of bonus/profit sharing schemes||All except sole trader if applicable|
|Details of bonus/profit sharing schemes||All except sole trader if applicable|
|List of individuals compensated over £200k in last 12 months||All except sole trader if applicable|
|Insolvency/administration/liquidation report||All if applicable|
|Personal Management Licence application and required supporting documents from each person responsible for a specified management office or Annex A personal declaration form if the applicant is a Small-Scale Operator||All|
|Annex A personal declaration form and supporting documents from each person who holds 10% or more shares in the applicant||All|
How Much Does a UKGC Gambling License Cost?
The cost of a gambling license varies widely depending on the products that the license covers and how much revenue these products make. An application fee as well as an annual fee applies. The former is to be paid regardless if the license application is approved or not.
To calculate costs accurately, the UKGC offers a handy fee calculator to use.
Here’s an example of fees for a small business offering online casino, online betting and online bingo, making £300,000 in yearly profit from these:
- Application fee: £7,077
- Annual fee: £14,481
Here’s another example where only online casino games would be offered and where the yearly profit would be £15,000,000:
- Application fee: £16,235
- Annual fee: £20,626
Who Funds the UK Gambling Commission?
The UK Gambling Commission is mainly funded by the licensing fees that gambling establishments and individuals licensed by the UKGC must pay. These fees are set by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), which is a government administration.
The UKGC is also funded by The National Lottery via a grant from the National Lottery Distribution Fund.
Who Controls the UK Gambling Commission?
The UK Gambling Commission is a non-departmental public body that operates individually with no one controlling it per se. However, it acts on the behalf of the UK government.
What Powers Does the Gambling Commission Have?
If a gambling establishment fails to comply with the rules of the UKGC; the organization has the power to suspend its license and heavily fine it. It also has the power to carry through the below, should it be that the establishment is suspected of failing its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing controls:
- Inspect any part of the gambling establishment.
- Question any person in the company.
- Look at any written or electronic records.
- Demand a copy of an entry in those records.
- Remove and retain anything reasonably believed to constitute or contain evidence of a criminal offence taking place, or believed to be used in breaking the law.
- Remove and retain anything reasonably believed to constitute or contain evidence of a breach in the terms and conditions of the gambling establishment’s license.