Regulators and licensing

You might have noticed the small print at the bottom of every online gaming website. Small print is, by design, intended to be largely unread and modern life — especially the internet — has conditioned us to ignore it. That small print, though, contains a lot of important and should, if you are in the UK, include a reference to the site’s Gambling Commission licence. Apart from being a legal requirement this licence gives you the reassurance that the site you are using is fair and safe.

Gambling licences in the UK

Online gaming has required a recognised licence to operate in the UK since 2005 and, since changes to the law in 2014, this must come from the UK’s Gambling Commission. You will often find sites with licences issued by other regulators, but if you are in the UK, or are usually UK-resident, the Gambling Commission must be one of them. The Gambling Commission has a reputation for being one of the best, and toughest, regulators in the world.

The Gambling Commission

The work of the Gambling Commission is driven by three core aims — or objectives — given to it by the government. First is the prevention of crime and disorder, this can range from organised crime running gambling to disorder that might take place at badly managed bookies. Second, and perhaps most important for gamblers, is ensuring the gambling is fair, so you don’t find rules suddenly changing or that you are playing at unfair odds. Third is the protection of vulnerable people, for example ensuring that under-18s cannot bet or that problem gamblers are directed to help and not encouraged to gamble further.

The commission is responsible for regulating all gambling, with the exception of spread-betting, in the UK. So, whether it’s a flutter at a local bookie, playing slots at an online casino or a game of bingo at a Trusted Bingo recommendation they will all have a Gambling Commission licence.

How they keep you safe

The Gambling Commission works in lots of ways to make sure you are safe. Through the licensing process, regulating sites and the wider gaming industry, and enforcing the rules they help make sure that your gaming experience is trouble free.

Licensing

Just getting a licence from the commission is a challenge. The process takes several months and applicants have to convince the commission they are suitable and capable of operating a site. The Gambling Commission will need to see things like financial records and business plans, so they know the organisation has the necessary resources. They will need to check the key individuals, making sure that they have the right personal licences and capabilities to work in gambling, as well as making sure they don’t have criminal records. And they will investigate the other companies and organisations the applicant plan and want to work with to make sure they are suitable as well. No licence will be issued until the commission is confident that gamblers can play safely.

Regulation

The Gambling Commission doesn’t stop working when they have issued a licence. They continue to exercise their regulatory duties once a site is running. This might include checks to make sure the rules are being followed, for example that the necessary ID checks are made on new customers, or that adequate checks are made to protect problem gamblers.

They also regulate other parts of the gambling industry. One example is in gaming software, restricting gaming sites to using licensed developers. This means when a new game appears on your favourite site you know that it’s robust and secure.

Enforcement

The Gambling Commission’s work in licensing and working with gaming sites means they do not need to take formal enforcement action that often, but if they find rules have been broken they will step in. The action they take will depend on the size and nature of the problem. Often it might just be providing advice to the operator and following up to make sure it was taken, but in more extreme cases they might add conditions to the licence and levy a hefty fine. In the most extreme cases they will withdraw the licence, effectively closing the site by preventing it from operating in the UK.

Other regulators

You will frequently find that sites are regulated by more than one regulator. Sites only need to be licensed by the Gambling Commission to operate in the UK, but they might hold other licences for other reasons. For example, they might hold another licence if they are physically based in a different country or hold additional licences to enable them to operate the same site in multiple countries.

Because the UK’s Gambling Commission is one of the world’s best using sites that have additional licences is unlikely to mean the sites are any better or safer. However, there are a number of jurisdictions where the gambling regulator is considered to be as strong as the UK. Indeed, before 2014 it was not necessary to have a UK licence if a site already had one from the jurisdictions seen as comparable to the UK. The ‘whitelist’ included bodies like the Malta Gaming Authority, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission or the Isle of Man’s Gambling Supervision Commission.

While the whitelist is no longer used, many other gambling regulators are still held in high regard. Regulators frequently collaborate, sharing information and tipping each off if they have concerns about an operator they licence that also works in another country.

The small print

Next time you are on your favourite site try scrolling to the bottom to check the Gambling Commission licence. It will link you straight back to the licence page on the Gambling Commission website, which will give details of the licence as well as any issues the commission might have tackled.

Once you’ve checked you can be reassured. The UK has one of the world’s strongest gambling regulators, and the beauty of that means that you don’t really need to worry about it. If you make sure you only game with Gambling Commission licensed sites — and Trusted Bingo will only recommend them — you can be confident they are safe and focus all your attention on enjoy the game.

Sarah Price - Editor

Sarah Price is a well know expert in the field of Online Bingo. She began her career with an MSc in Computing and IT from Cardiff University before working within the industry with names like Foxy and 888Ladies.