After enduring centuries of a back and forth struggle between gambling legality and illegality, the United Kingdom is not only legal to gamble but has also become home to a competitive Internet gambling market.
The WCI guide to UK Online Casinos provides comprehensive, honest, and unbiased reviews of online gambling operators in the United Kingdom. Our reviews focus on a number of dynamics, including, but not limited to legality, countries accepted, currencies accepted, game quality, site security, and current reputation in the industry.
Players in the UK have the benefit of online casinos being heavily vetted, making choosing a casino significantly easier.
If you are an avid poker player or sports bettor (particularly if you are from the United States), you should know that gambling winnings are not considered taxable income inside the UK. This is big a plus for Internet gamblers because online winnings can leave a paper trail that can be traced a lot easier than cashing out winnings in the casino. Even if gambling was taxable income and you only played inside a live casino, having this law on your side probably wouldn’t make a difference anyway since it’s rather easy to hide live winnings.
The Gambling Act gives the UK something most other countries do not have which is clear details on the gambling laws and regulations. Most countries are very vague with their gambling laws and the government provides you with no protection. This leaves you knowing all the gambling you do is entirely at your own risk and if you get shafted there is nowhere to turn for help.
The biggest change in UK online gambling took place with The Gambling Act 2005. It stated that gambling as no longer to be considered a crime or associated with crime in another capacity. It was to regulate online gambling for the first time and ensured that all gambling would be regulated and supervised so that everything is conducted properly which would be done so by the Gambling Commission.
The new act will also serve to keep children away from gambling and protect those addicted to gambling from being further exploited. In addition, following the Gambling Act would allow the establishment of 8 “super casinos” to be built. One can only speculate a “super casino” would be comparable to something in Las Vegas. This part faced the most controversy and would eventually be negotiated down to only a single super casino.
It was a settlement that finally presumably made everybody happy. Nobody had to jump through hoops illegally just to have a little action as a hobby, and there were ways to keep people from getting out of control and causing chaos to their family life. However, the super casino project was cancelled after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister.
To operate a gambling site, you must obtain a license from the Gambling Commission. The current legal gambling age is 18 but for certain varieties of betting like if you were in a football pool or playing the lottery, you would only have to be 16. Gambling, particularly sports betting has since made its way to the Internet. Internet gambling is so popular there can and are many different sites that feature all kinds of bets on all major sporting events in the United Kingdom and the United States. Its market is worth hundreds of millions in pounds and has over 2 million participating customers.
The Gambling Act certainly gives you a sense of security knowing there is protection and that you at least have some form of recourse if you feel like a gambling site has violated anything both parties agreed to. However, that is not to say it keeps everyone disaster proof and is as protective as it advertises.
The Gambling Act certainly lost some of its credible trust and respect in 2013 when Canbet, a sports betting site ran into some financial problems and could not pay punters (gamblers). Hundreds of reports came out of players claiming to be owed money. This only made things worse for Canbet and before much longer they closed down. Canbet voluntarily gave up its gambling license in 2014 and still has paid out to its customers.
This went to show that even with the UK being far more advanced than most of the rest of the world in terms of regulating online gambling, there is still room for company meltdowns that leave the customers out of luck. The Gambling Commission acknowledged they are supposed to regulate the industry but cannot be required to make sure that every site is in good financial health. In other words, when you gamble online you are still not fully protected in every way.
There is inherent risk that there is always some chance you will not get paid. Knowing you have to keep your fingers crossed about getting paid when you deposit was certainly a setback to the online gaming industry. But since the Gambling Act also allows the sites to freely advertise themselves, this does at least allow would be gamblers more opportunity to determine which sites they feel safer in giving action to.
The timing of the Gambling Act worked out quite well with the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in the United States. The UIGEA did not ban gambling in all forms nor did it prevent U.S. citizens themselves from doing anything. What it did was make U.S. gambling websites legally disallowed from taking and sending payments to U.S. customers.
Even though the UIGEA did not take full effect until 2010, the passing of the law quickly shut down a lot of online gambling sites. The publicly traded ones immediately established they would stop accepting business from the United States. Unfortunately, this issued them a huge financial blow. PartyPoker’s stock plummeted a gargantuan 60% overnight. Other companies claimed losses in the tens of millions as great as 50 million. Altogether, an estimated $7 billion was lost for the online gaming industry.
U.S. customers had nothing to worry about as far as them getting in trouble, but this did not change the fact they now had nowhere to go. Even though things like the lottery and fantasy sports were still permitted to accept wagers online, Internet poker was severely crippled. Fortunately, at least for the next few years, 2 privately run sites Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars got online poker going again and quickly became huge around the world. That is, until Black Friday which fell on April 15, 2011 making them illegal too. Once again heavily complicating the fate of online gambling in America.
However, in conjunction with the Gambling Act passing through Parliament, the UIGEA led to Internet gambling operators making their way over to the UK. With it having just become legal and fully regulated made it the absolute perfect place to relocate to and the timing could not have been more convenient. Since the Gambling Act didn’t take full effect until 2007 this allowed the incoming online gambling operators enough time to set up shop and then have plenty of business to reel in after launch.