UK's Gambling Act 2005

The UK's Gambling Act 2005 

10 min

Gambling in Great Britain can be traced back to the aristocracies; no odds, cashbacks, bonus spins, or bookmakers were involved — the only options were simple bets on binary outcomes. Five centuries on, the erstwhile taboo pastime has evolved beyond all recognition. Legislative efforts have shaped its course, with notable laws such as the Gaming Act of 1845 and the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 laying down the framework for regulation and control.

What is the Gambling Act 2005?

The Gambling Act 2005 is a significant piece of legislation in the United Kingdom that was put into place to regulate gambling — arcades, sports betting, bingo, casinos, gaming machines, society lotteries, and remote gambling (including online gambling). It fully came into force on the 1 September 2007, aiming to achieve three main objectives.

  • To keep gambling crime-free
  • To ensure gambling is fair and open
  • To protect children and vulnerable people

The UK Gambling Commission: Role & Authority

The UK Gambling Commission: Role & Authority

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is the product of the Gambling Act 2005, essentially born from the need to enforce the rules and objectives laid out in the Act. Nowadays, it comprises over 300 employees — ranging from compliance officers, lawyers, and investigators to data analysts and policy experts — and is recognised worldwide as one of the leading regulators in the gambling sector.

The authority bestowed upon the UKGC is substantial and extends across both online and physical gambling establishments. It has the ‘muscle’ to licence, regulate, and, if necessary, penalise gambling businesses to ensure compliance with the law. This includes the ability to issue fines, revoke licences, or impose sanctions on operators who fail to meet the required standards for fairness, transparency, and protection of vulnerable individuals. Beyond financial penalties, the Commission can launch investigations into malpractices, requiring operators to undergo audits, provide financial records, or face legal action for serious breaches.

Operating Licences: Are all online casinos legal in the UK?

For an online casino to offer any form of gambling services to British players, it must first secure a licence from the UKGC. Processing typically spans approximately 16 weeks, during which time the commission examines the applicant’s suitability in various critical areas, including:

  • Evaluates the background and integrity of the owners and key management personnel.
  • Assesses the applicant’s financial stability to confirm player funds can be protected and winnings paid out.
  • Screens for any illicit connections to guarantee the operation is free from criminal influence.
  • Verifies that games are fair, using certified random number generators (RNG) to determine outcomes.
  • Ensures the online casino’s technology protects user data and maintains operational integrity.
  • Checks adherence to UKGC advertising guidelines to prevent misleading or exploitative promotions.
  • Reviews procedures for preventing money laundering and financial crimes within the operation.

 

Once an online casino’s licence is approved, the operator must adhere to several ongoing regulatory requirements. They are also subject to ongoing monitoring, submit regular reports, and pay annual fees based on their gross gambling yield (GGY), which directly (and sometimes indirectly) supports the industry’s oversight and efforts to prevent problem gambling.

Did you know? You can easily verify if a casino holds a valid licence! Start by looking for the UKGC logo on the respective gambling site, usually found at the bottom of the homepage. This logo (or its corresponding account number) should be clickable and lead you directly to the casino’s licensing information on the UKGC’s official website. Another way around it would be to go directly to the business register and find the casino by name using the search function.Can I Play at Casinos that are NOT Licensed by the UKGC?

The specific legality of a British player gambling at an online casino without a UKGC licence is complex; however, the legal responsibility and potential consequences typically fall more on the operators than on the individual user.

That being said, playing at a non-UKGC licensed casino does mean you forfeit the protections and assurances provided by the commission. Here is a quick comparison:

Feature UKGC-Licensed Casinos Non-UKGC Licensed Casinos
Fund Security Player funds are held in accounts separate from company funds. No guaranteed separation of player funds, risking payouts during financial issues.
Fair Play Games are regularly tested for fairness by independent bodies (ex. eCogra); RNGs are certified. Fairness testing may not meet UK standards.
Responsible Gambling Must be part of the GamStop programme + offer tools and information + contribute to responsible gambling charities. May lack enforced responsible gambling measures.
Dispute Resolution Access to the UKGC-approved Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services for complaints. Limited or no impartial resolution.
Data Protection Strict UK data laws compliance. Variable data security.
AML Measures Comply with rigorous UK AML regulations to prevent financial crimes. Inconsistent AML practices.
Advertising Bound by UK advertising codes to promote gambling products responsibly and truthfully. May use aggressive or misleading advertising of gambling promos and bonuses.
Legal Recourse Players have legal recourse under UK law for disputes or malpractices. Complicated and often governed by the laws of the jurisdiction where the casino is licensed.

Who Can Legally Gamble in the UK?

In the UK, the legal minimum age for online gambling is 18. Operators enforce strict measures to prevent underage betting; upon identifying under-18s, casinos must immediately terminate the account and seize any funds won.

KYC and AML Verifications as per the Gambling Act 2005

KYC and AML Verifications as per the Gambling Act 2005

Under the Gambling Act 2005, online casinos in the UK are mandated to adhere to rigorous Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) policies to combat fraud, guarantee player safety, and uphold financial security. These verifications intertwine, necessitating operators to confirm their customers’ identity, age, and residence before permitting gambling, as well as conducting financial checks to maintain a closed-loop system.What is a closed-loop system? A closed-loop system in online gambling means that withdrawals must be processed via the same method used for deposits. If the original source isn’t available, casinos employ a specific process to verify the ownership of the new method.How Do Online Casinos Verify Your Information?

Many of today’s online casinos leverage electronic verifications that discreetly confirm your identity and age by comparing gathered data with the information you’ve submitted.

Others (or if that fails) will lead you through a step-by-step process post-account creation, which typically involves submitting documents such as:

  • Proof of identity (e.g., passport, driver’s licence)
  • Proof of address (e.g., utility bill, bank statement)
  • Proof of payment method ownership*

The procedure varies by site, with some using a prompted software, others requesting documents via email, and a few utilising live chat for submissions.

*When providing proof of payment, hide sensitive details such as the CVV and middle digits of a debit card, security codes, etc. 

Player Rights and Protections

Handing over personal documents and payment information to a gambling site naturally raises questions about the security measures in place. In response, the UKGC sets an extremely high bar for player protection, with standard protocols including:

  • Encryption of data to secure personal and financial information
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) for enhanced account security
  • Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology for safe data transmission
  • Privacy policies clearly stating how player data is used and protected
  • Regular audits by independent bodies to ensure compliance with security standards
  • Anti-fraud checks to prevent unauthorised access and financial crimes
  • Secure payment gateways for safe deposits and withdrawals

What Payment Methods are Allowed at UK Online Casinos?

What Payment Methods are Allowed at UK Online Casinos?

The UKGC allows its licensees to accept payments only via recognised service providers. This includes debit cards, eWallets (ex. PayPal, Skrill, etc.), bank transfers, and prepaid cards (ex. Paysafecard).

A Ban on Credit Cards in 2020

Extensive reviews and consultations revealed that a significant portion of credit card gamblers were at risk of accruing debt and experiencing the negative side of online casinos. Thus, in April 2020, the UKGC implemented a ban on their use with the clear goal to prevent players from betting with funds they do not own.

How are your Deposits and Winnings Protected Under the UK Gambling Act?

Player funds under the UK Gambling Act are protected through a combination of regulatory requirements, segregation of funds, and insurance mechanisms. Operators are required to keep deposits in a separate account from their own operating budgets. They’re also held to strict financial standards, including regular checks, and must clearly explain within the T&Cs what happens to your money in the event of insolvency.

Taxation on Gambling Winnings in the UK

The simple answer is NO! Whether you win a few pounds or hit a massive jackpot, your winnings are entirely tax-free at the point of receipt. The burden, instead, falls on the gambling operators who are required to pay a 15% tax on profits from bets and 21% from gross gaming revenues on all transactions with UK customers, among other specific rates.

The Act and Responsible Gaming: How are Users Protected?

A key objective of the Act is to foster responsible gaming practices, with the UKGC providing comprehensive operational guidance to online casinos on player protection measures. Operators have a responsibility to supply easy access to information on safe gambling, including proactive advice, where to find help, and what tools can help control negative behaviours.

Responsible Gambling Tools Found in UK Online Casinos

Tool Description Why Apply It Other Info
Self-Assessment Questionnaires that help players understand if gambling might be becoming a problem To be proactive. Usually anonymous and confidential.
History Access to a detailed history of transactions and gameplay. To monitor and manage activity. Includes wins, losses, deposits, and withdrawals.
Reality Checks Timely reminders of how long a player has been online. To encourage breaks and manage playtime. Can be set to appear at specific time intervals.
Deposit Limits Setting a limit on how much money can be deposited. To avoid overspending. Daily, weekly, or monthly limits can be imposed.
Bet Limits Limits on the amount a player can bet in a game or session. To manage risk and prevent chasing losses. Limits can vary by game type.
Loss Limits Setting a maximum loss limit before playing stops automatically. To set clear financial boundaries and minimise losses. Prevents further play once the limit is reached.
Time-Outs Option to take a break from gambling for a short period. To better reassess gambling habits. Time periods can range from a day to several weeks.
Self-Exclusion A longer-term break from gambling, blocking access to gambling accounts. To aid in breaking the cycle of gambling addiction. Periods can range from six months to permanent.
External Organisations Links to professional support services and organisations. To access additional support and resources. GamCare, GordonMoody, BeGambleAware.

What is GAMSTOP?

GAMSTOP is a free service available in Great Britain (England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland) that allows players to restrict their access to online gambling sites and apps by registering just once rather than individually with each operator. 

All online casinos and betting sites operating in the UK are required to participate in the scheme; thus, consumers who have self-excluded through GAMSTOP cannot return to any UKGC-licensed brand during their chosen exclusion period.

Complaints and Queries: What to Do if You Feel an Online Casino Is Violating Your Rights?

The UKGC advises initially attempting to resolve the issue through the casino’s complaint handling process. This involves checking any terms and conditions that may be relevant, then contacting the casino via phone, email, or live chat with details of your complaint, including supporting evidence like dates, transaction amounts, and communication records. 

TIP: Retain copies of all interactions!

If the operator doesn’t resolve your issue within 8 weeks or you still want to complain, you may escalate the matter to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider.

The UKGC also provides access to Resolver — a free tool that guides customers through the complaint process, though its availability depends on the gambling site’s participation.

Recent Changes to the Gambling Act 2005: Where is the Industry Heading to?

As the gambling sector continuously reshapes itself, the UK’s Gambling Act 2005 can’t afford to stand still. Recent key reforms include introducing mandatory levies on betting firms to fund addiction treatment and research, setting new stake limits for online slots, and granting additional powers to the Commission to regulate and enforce industry standards more effectively. Moving forward, the regulatory framework will likely need better adaptation to cryptocurrencies and the development of new standards, preventing innovation from outpacing the ability to uphold fair and secure gambling practices.

Adina Minculescu
AuthorAdina MinculescuSenior Author & Editor at CasinoAlpha

Adina’s analytical way of thinking is what gamblers need to understand the casino market. With her expertise in this niche combined with her studies in linguistic typology and hermeneutics, you will get the essential help to make informed financial decisions. Let her be your reliable guide!

Tudor Turiceanu
ReviewerTudor TuriceanuCEO & Chief Editor at CasinoAlpha

Tudor Turiceanu uses his multiple systematic skillsets to oversee and coordinate the CasinoAlpha project. He assists the authors in creating a transparent gambling niche for users. As a CEO and Chief Editor with broad knowledge, Tudor knows the importance of transmitting confident advice.