The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is – the often much criticised – gambling control body that oversees all forms of gambling that takes place in the United Kingdom. As well as new casinos, slots and bingo sites, the UKGC (as it is usually abbreviated to) oversees all aspect of gambling aside from the lottery. This includes any online bookmaker and even real-world arcades.
As far as casinos that offer wagering services to people who are based in the United Kingdom are concerned, if you do not have a UKGC licence, then you are operating illegally and could be facing a heavy fine. Via this piece, you will learn all about the UKGC, some of the legislation that this commission has passed, and why as an organisation it often comes in for criticism.
Why the United Kingdom?
First and foremost, we must explain that the United Kingdom Gambling Commission is not like other licence providers. It is SOLELY for UK online casinos, slots and bingo sites who wish to offer their services to customers and potential customers in the UK.
So, if a casino is based in Cyprus and wants to acquire a licence to enable them to offer their services to people in North America there is simply no point in them acquiring a UKGC licence as legally, they would not be covered. They would have to apply for a licence from a provider such as the Alderney Gambling Control Commission instead.
The UK is a hotbed of gambling and always has been. The country, which is also commonly known as ‘Great Britain’ even though Great Britain and the United Kingdom are not the same things (Great Britain is the name of the main island that makes up the UK), consists of a union of four different countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Legally, they exist as one although they all have their parliaments. You would need a passport to enter the UK, but you would not need a passport to move from England to Scotland.
At one stage Great Britain spawned a vast empire, ‘owning’ other countries such as India, Australia, Canada and even parts of the United States. These days the UK is much more isolated and even more so since the country voted to leave the European Union in 2016 (although they did not officially leave until 2019).
The United Kingdom and Tax
There are no tax benefits to owning or registering to online casinos in the UK, unlike the tax breaks associated with other similar territories such as Gibraltar or Curaçao. Most individuals and companies in the UK are taxed at a rate of 20 percent.
Companies that wish to make money from people in the UK register their companies via offshore business centres to avoid paying the higher business rates they would otherwise be liable for.
The United Kingdom and Gambling
As stated previously, gambling has always been extremely popular in the UK. Betting on horse racing has been around since the 1500s. However, gambling began to become frowned upon in the 1800s and it was banned except at racecourses on race days.
All this changed in 1960 was an act was brought in that permitted off-course gambling. At the same time, bingo was legalised. Betting shops and bingo halls erupted all over the country, which at the time was still struggling to recover from World War Two. Football pools became extremely popular too, as did the national lottery which was established in the 1990s.
The rise of new UK casinos caused an unprecedented increase in gambling in the UK. At the time, online gambling companies were free to offer their services to people in the UK as long as they had a recognised licence from a provider such as Curaçao eGaming or the Gibraltar Gambling Commission.
In 2014 the UK Government worked out that they could be missing out on a huge chunk of revenue because UK-facing casino could be regulated by non-UK licence providers. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission was formed.
The United Kingdom Gambling Control Commission
The requirement for all UK-facing online casinos, slots sites, bingo sites and sportsbooks to have a UKGC licence changed the face of online gambling in the UK. Countless online sites withdrew from the UK market rather than going through the process of applying for and paying for a UKGC licence.
Since 2014 the UKGC have taken many other steps to make the UK gambling market a difficult one for online gambling providers. These include a complete ban of credit card use at new UK online casinos and established ones, the banning of games being available for ‘free play’ or ‘play money’ and options to ‘buy features’ as opposed to winning them when playing some online slots.
The UKGC also comes in for constant criticising, with people saying they are more interested in making money (usually by levying massive fines if they prove a breach by a licensed site in their stringent conditions) that doing what they are supposed to do in protecting vulnerable UK gamblers.
How to Apply for a UKGC licence
Applying for a UKGC licence can only be done online. Online gambling companies wishing to apply for a UKGC licence can do so via the UKGC site.
The UKGC for the Players
If you have a complaint about a UKGC-licenced online casino, slots, bingo or sports betting site, then you can contact the UKGC via their website. Be warned though as the UKGC has a terrible reputation for responding to player complaints.
It is hard to fathom how the UKGC has benefitted anyone, other than the UKGC. Their approach to helping problem gamblers seems simply make gambling more difficult, however, like drugs addicts, people who ‘need’ to gamble will always find a way to gamble no matter how difficult it may become.
The UKGC has also had a detrimental impact on the UK gambling niche. Some people delight in this, but it’s hardly what the UKGC was set up for. Expect more turmoil in UK gambling markets in the future.