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From 1190 all you need to know about UK gambling law and regulation

Published on July 19, 2019, 11:59 am

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

Online Casino Laws In The UK: How Does It Work?

UK gambling law has existed since 1190. Since the world’s first online casino was launched in 1994, UK legislation has evolved to keep gamblers safe and keep casinos in check. Here are the key ways UK casino law works to achieve those objectives.

Recommended reading: UK Gambling Taxation System - Who Need To Pay Taxes?

UK online casino law works by protecting gamblers

Online casino legislation is designed to keep gamblers safe. It does so by ensuring casinos are solvent enough to pay out bets and responsible enough to stop them from encouraging addiction.

Since the turn of the millennium, two gambling acts have been introduced to provide legislative protection for gamblers using UK online casinos – along with giving casinos a legal framework in which to operate.

Online casinos are regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. For the most part, the laws created by the UK Gambling Commission upholds are less restrictive than a lot of other countries across the world (as you can discover from by reading this UK and US gambling laws explained post)

Gambling Act 2005

The ways that the legislation of the Gambling Act 2005 works are defined by its three main objectives:

  1. Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime,
  1. ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and
  1. protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Prior to the introduction of this act, people could set up an online casino anywhere on the globe and receive bets from UK gamblers.

The result of the act is that any online casino that operates in the UK must now have a licence from the UK Gambling Commission. This works to keep gamblers safe by ensuring that all UK online casinos are regulated by the UK government – the Gambling Commission is under the authority of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014

Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014

Brought in close loopholes in the Gambling Act 2005, the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 tightened-up the regulation of online casinos operating remotely but providing services to UK gamblers.

In its policy paper, 2010 To 2015 Government Policy: Gambling Regulation, the UK government describes how the 2014 Act works:

“This Act will mean that remote gambling by consumers in Britain is regulated on a point of consumption basis and all operators selling into the British market, whether based here or abroad, will now be required to hold a Gambling Commission licence to enable them to transact with British consumers.” 

UK Gambling Commission regulates online casinos

While the leading UK casinos all provide slightly different services to gamblers, one of the things you’ll see provided on every one of their websites is confirmation that they’re regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. The UK Gambling Commission is the public body responsible for supervising gambling law, having replaced the Gaming Board for Great Britain in 2007.

The Gambling Commission’s aims are consistent with those found in the UK government’s gambling acts and legislation – "to keep crime out of gambling, to ensure that gambling is conducted fairly and openly, and to protect children and vulnerable people." To achieve its aims, the Gambling Commission monitors, regulates, and takes action against land and online casinos. Some of the ways in which it does these things include:

  • Regularly publishing its interpretation of UK gambling legislation
  • Advising the UK government by collecting information on gambling operators
  • Working closely the UK’s other regulatory and enforcement bodies – such as, the police, and HMRC

If online casinos don’t meet with their legal obligations, the Gambling Commission can take regulatory action against them. How does this work? Take the example of 32Red. In 2018 32Red was fined £2 million by the Gambling Commission for not protecting its gamblers – it failed to carry out checks on a customer who had deposited £758,000 with the online casino, over the course of around two years, despite having a monthly income of £2,150.

A brief history of casino & gambling laws in the UK

The UK has a long history of gambling, dating back to the years of Roman occupation when betting on bloodsports was common among both the rich and poor. Despite gambling being a sin in the bible, it wasn’t until the 12th century that any legislation was passed to regulate it.

King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) and his French counterpart (Philip II) created the world’s first known gambling laws in 1190. These outlined who could bet and how much they were allowed to gamble.

It would be nearly 800 years before UK law made it possible for casinos to operate, with the Gaming Act of 1968. Before I get to the Gaming Act, I’ll give you a quick run-through of some of the key dates in UK gambling legislation and casino operation.

  • 1190: King Richard I and Philip II create the world’s first gambling legislation
  • 1509: Henry VIII bans gambling in the UK
  • 1569: Elizabeth I authorises the UK’s first national lottery – jackpot of £5,000
  • 1739 & 1745: Wagers on many pub games are banned
  • 1845: UK Parliament passes Gaming Act of 1845 – aimed at discouraging betting
  • 1853: UK Parliament passes Betting Act of 1853 – illegal to keep property for betting
  • 1845 & 1853: Gaming and Betting Acts allow gambling at certain horse race tracks
  • 1906: Street Betting Act – criminalised betting in non-designated public spaces
  • 1926: First modern UK greyhound race is allowed to take place
  • 1949-51: Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming recommends people are allowed to bet on games of skill, such as bridge
  • 1960: Betting and Gaming Act 1960 – legalised certain types of gambling
  • 1961: Betting shops were allowed to open
  • 1968: Gaming Act of 1968 legalised the construction of commercial casinos
  • 2001: Budget – Gordon Brown abolishes tax on punter’s gambling winnings
  • 2005: Gambling Act 2005 – gambling regulations are tightened
  • 2014: Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 – tackles loopholes in 2005 Act


UK gambling laws have been in practice for over 800 years. However, while it was still years before the first online casino was launched (let alone made available to UK gamblers), the 1960s provided the legal framework for online casinos to come into existence.

Today, online casinos are regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. And though the laws the UK Gambling Commission upholds are less restrictive than those found in other nations and regions, they work by keeping gambling organisations in check and ensuring that gamblers are protected – whether they’re betting online or offline.


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