Complete Guide to Casino Gambling for British Players
Even though its legality has fluctuated over the centuries, gambling has long been a part of the history of the United Kingdom. After experiencing a resurgence in popularity during World War II, today the British enjoy some of the clearest and most open gambling laws in the world.
Our comprehensive guide to casinos in the UK includes everything you need to know about:
- A detailed explanation of British gaming laws
- Learn why gambling in the UK is tax free
- Find out about the bonuses on offer
- And learn about the many options an online casino offers
Legal Gambling in the United Kingdom
Gambling has gone through cycles of both legality and prohibition for centuries in the UK. The most recent wave of popularity and legalization began right after World War II, when British soldiers brought back the game "housie" (bingo) to the islands after deployment. The 1960s saw the immense growth of the gambling industry through the opening of Great Britain's first legal casino, the legalization of off-course bookmakers (betting shops), and the founding of commercial bingo halls.
Since then, more and more casinos have emerged in the UK, and the country's first two Las Vegas-style "supercasinos" opened in 2011 and 2013. In 1993, the National Lottery was established and in addition to being the official state-run lotto, it also oversees EuroMillions, a nine-country lottery drawn twice a week. Today, online gambling is licensed and legal as long as the operator has the appropriate certification from the government. Playing certain "pub games" such as pool, darts, and Dominoes for small stakes in licensed pubs is also permitted.
What were the first gambling laws enacted?
One of the first laws on record came during the reign of King Richard I in 1190, limiting gambling only to noblemen (as to avoid the upper class losing money to the lower classes). These aristocrats were limited to betting no more than 20 shillings in any 24-hour period, and wagering more resulted in forfeiting their entire stake plus paying another 100 shillings to the church. The first established national lotteries came a few centuries later to help fund colonies in the New World.
What laws apply to modern-day gambling in the United Kingdom?
The Gambling Act 2005 updated the UK's somewhat archaic gambling laws. One of the highlights of the act was the official legalization of online gambling for any UK-based online casino that had proper licensing and for any casino that had equipment based outside the country but interacted with customers within. A 2014 bill prohibited unlicensed gambling companies from advertising to any person believed to be in the UK market for the first time. License holders also saw an increase in taxes on their gross profits from 1% to a flat 15% with the passing of the bill.
For UK land-based casinos, the types of gambling that can be offered and the amount of machines available depends on the casino's size (e.g., "large" ones can offer betting and bingo facilities, while "small" ones can only offer betting). The Act also established technical standards for remote gambling software as well as for slot and bingo machines. Betters must be at least 16 to participate in lotteries and scratch cards, and 18 to gamble in casinos, online, or play at slot machines.
Who regulates the British gaming industry?
Gambling in the United Kingdom is regulated by the Gambling Commission, which is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport. The department licenses gambling operators, investigates and prosecutes illegal gambling, and ensures that gambling is conducted fairly.
British Player Information
British citizens should feel as comfortable gambling in their home country as they would just about anywhere in the world, as most of the major forms of gambling (including online) are legalized and regulated for those of age. If you live outside the UK and want to play on an online British casino, check with your local nation's gambling laws regarding offshore gaming.
How many Brits gamble regularly?
A 2010 study of nearly 8,000 Brits revealed that 73% (or about 35.5 million people) of those 16 or older had participated in some form of gambling in the previous year. The most popular gambling activity of this selection sample was the lottery, with 59% of participants saying they had bought at least one ticket during the year prior. Discounting those that only participated in the lottery, 56% of the remaining population participated in some other form of gambling. 10.7% said they made some sort of wager online, a number that is estimated to have gone up since 2010, as online gambling's value recently passed the £2bn per annum mark in 2013.
Are Brits allowed to play on international online casinos?
Online gambling in all its forms is legal in the UK as long as the operator has the appropriate license from the Gambling Commission and the player is over the age of 18.
Can I legally deposit and withdraw money to online casinos?
Yes. Deposits and withdrawals can be made through a wide variety of options which vary by casino. Most major sites accept various credit cards, eWallets (such as Neteller and PayPal), bank transfers, and even eCheck.
Do I have to pay taxes on my winnings?
No! Since the reform of the country's gambling laws, punters no longer have to pay taxes on any winnings. Other than it just generally being difficult to enforce, the government would have to provide tax relief for losing bets if they taxed winning ones.
Do online casinos offer play in GBP?
Yes. Any casino based in the UK will honor the pound, as will many casinos based outside the UK si/ internationally-recognized currency. Playing in GBP means you can obviously wager in your home currency, but can also view all your financial transactions that way as well.
Secure Online Play for Brits in the United Kingdom
Online gaming in the UK is extremely well regulated, meaning its casinos are some of the safest and fairest to play on. All online gambling, be it cards, sports, machines, or anything else, has to be first certified by the Gambling Commission. Several major British casinos also run some of their operations overseas, however these are more aimed at customers outside the UK.
To avoid giving your money to any casinos other than the most reputable, check out our reviews and also look for the site to display a gaming license and certification from an organization like eCOGRA. This indicates that the site is audited regularly to meet strict fair play standards.
Learn more about the many online casino sites out there with our detailed reviews that give you an in-depth look at each site.
When you want to play for real money, you can rely on the help of our experts to find you the best deals and best casinos.
How do British players know that their funds are safe?
UK online casinos that have the required operating license from the Gambling Commission typically display this in the footer of their website. You can also look on the Gambling Commission's site and find a comprehensive list of all certified operators. In the same area of a casino's site you should also be able to find a seal or certification from an accredited oversight organization such as eCOGRA (e-Commerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance). This is a UK-based organization that holds casinos to a high quality of standard and protects players' right to fair play through regular inspections.
Is play fair on the online casinos?
Brits can ensure they are playing on an online casino that follows fair practices by looking for the aforementioned certifications on their site. These certifications signify that the casino uses encryption software (to make sure player information is secure) and random number generators to ensure balanced play. Also, keep in mind that because the online casino market is so competitive with a bevy of viable options, any casino that conducted their operations in a shady manner likely wouldn't stay in business very long once word spread.
Does a player have recourse if they suspect unfair activity?
Yes. All license holders are required to have a clear and fair process for handling disputes. Should this policy not be followed or it does not resolve the issue, players can take their claim to third-party alternate dispute resolution (ADR) entities. Players should also report any suspected unfair practices, financial violations, or any other kind of foul play from UK online casinos to both the Gambling Commission and any quality-assurance organizations that the site is certified by.
Responsible Gaming for Brits
British players have many resources available to help them overcome problem gambling and learn more about responsible gaming. The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board works closely with the Gambling Commission to ensure that problem gambling is properly researched and understood. Educational publications as well as a free helpline are available to all who think that they or a loved one have a gambling addiction.
The Responsible Gaming Trust is another organization that raises funds via donations from the gambling industry. These donations go toward supporting research, education, and the treatment of problem gambling. They also fund organizations like GamCare which provides advice, support, and free counseling for those that think they might have a gambling addiction.
Those with concerns about the gambling habits of themselves or others should be able to find support meetings anywhere in the UK through these resources.