Online Casino Regulation: A Guide To UK Gambling Commission, eCOGRA & More
The UK Gambling industry is pretty huge and busy. Hundreds of people all over the United Kingdom visit online casino sites to play slots, table games, scratchcards and live casino games. Alongside them are hundreds of people who want to join in on the fun but are worried about the safety and security of playing at such sites. However, there’s nothing to worry about as online casinos in the UK are regulated by multiple organisations whose aim is to provide you with fun, fair and safe gambling.
Why Do Casinos Need To Be Regulated?
There are a variety of reasons why online casinos need to be regulated. They range from preventing underage gambling to ensuring fairness and safety. Without organisations such as The UK Gambling Commission, eCOGRA or BeGambleAware, online gambling would take a lot more risk.
One of the biggest reasons online gambling is regulated is to prevent children under the age of 18 from gambling. Persons under the age of 18 are forbidden from participating in gambling activities including both online and in real life. Failure to stop underage gambling could expose children to the practice and potentially trigger addictions.
The above organisations work hard to ensure that all online casino operators adhere to strict regulations over advertising. This stops casinos from misleading players over bonuses and promotions and ensures that the terms and conditions are properly displayed so players can understand the bonus they’re claiming and playing with.
Safety And Fairness
In addition to the above, casinos are regulated to ensure your safety and fairness. The regulatory organisations ensure that your personal information is kept from third-parties and that money deposited and withdrawn is done so securely. Lastly, the organisations make sure that all games provided by the casino are fair to the player, providing them with a high enough chance to win. After all, you wouldn’t want to play at an online casino if you’re going to be losing all the time, right?
There are several notable organisations that regular online gambling in the UK. Some of them also regular real-life gambling, but that’s a story for another day. The most famous regulatory body is the UK Gambling Commission, which actually handles most of the work. However, other organisations such as BeGambleAware and eCOGRA also do their part to ensure everything works smoothly.
But what do these organisations actually do?
The UK Gambling Commission
The UK Gambling Commission (Often stylised as UKGC) was established under the Gambling Act of 2005 to regulate the British gambling industry. The regulator’s remit covers online gambling, land-based casinos and bingo.
Since 2013, the UK Gambling Commission also replaced the National Lottery Commission as the regulator of the National Lottery. The UK Gambling Commission is often said to be a prime example of a gaming regulator and has set a benchmark for regulatory authorities around the world.
Under the Gambling Act of 2005, all online gambling sites offering services to players residing in the United Kingdom are required to possess a valid license issued by the UK Gambling Commission. An online casino, bingo or betting site without a license will be forbidden from offering its services to players in the United Kingdom.
Some of the licenses a casino operator can obtain from the UK Gambling Commission include a casino operating license, a bingo operating license, a general betting operating license, a pool betting operating license or a lottery operating license. To obtain a license, the casino or betting operator will need to follow a string of tight rules and provide the UK Gambling Commission with a series of documents and more.
Obtaining A License
To gain a license from the UK Gambling Commission, you’ll need to file an application. The first thing you’ll need to do for the application is explain which gambling activities you’re looking to offer. You’ll also need to provide the UK Gambling Commission with a series of documents which can include an ownership structure diagram, share certificates, trust documents, partnership agreements, customer terms and conditions, gambling software details, business plan and so much more.
If you’re filing an application, you’ll need to remain in contact with the UK Gambling Commission and provide the organisation with everything it needs. Then, once submitted, the UK Gambling Commission will asses and want to see proof of your identity and ownership, your finances, integrity, competence and your criminality. If you’re successful and receive a license, you’ll be required to pay an annual fee. However, the license lasts indefinitely unless it’s revoked, suspended, you choose to surrender it, it lapses or is forfeited.
More details about all of this can be found on the UK Gambling Commission’s website.
In addition to monitoring all online gambling in the UK, the UK Gambling Commission also acts as a mediator between online casinos and players. The organisation’s main focus is to look after players and it does so by offering a comprehensive FAQ to help players. In addition, users who are involved in an ongoing dispute with an online casino are encouraged to approach the UK Gambling Commission.
However, it’s important to remember that players should always approach the online casino first before contacting the UK Gambling Commission.
What Does It Regulate?
As mentioned, the UK Gambling Commission is highly regarded and looked at as one of the best gambling regulatory bodies around the world. However, many people are still confused as to what the UK Gambling Commission oversees. Take a look below to find out:
- Protection of player funds: The UK Gambling Commission ensures that casino and betting operators protect customer funds by segregating them from the operators’ funds.
- Player protection: Casino and betting operators are required to comply with rules to protect problem gamblers and the UK Gambling Commission ensures that all licensees have systems in place to handle customer complaints.
- Fair gaming: Casino and betting operators are only permitted to use gaming software provided by licensed developers.
- Honest marketing: The UK Gambling Commission ensures that all advertisements are honest and display the terms and conditions clearly so customers know exactly what they’re agreeing to and claiming.
- Cash handling: Casino and betting operators are only permitted to use secure and legal payment methods and to implement measures to prevent money laundering.
How Does The UK Gambling Commission Regulate?
According to the UK Gambling Commission’s website, the organisation regulates the industry by carrying out frequent reviews and visits to real-life sites, providing advice and guidance to licensees, taking action against uncompliant licensees, reviewing financial information and imposing additional license conditions.
If the UK Gambling Commission discovers that a licensee has not been compliant, the organisation will launch regulatory action which includes fines and much more.
You can contact the UK Gambling Commission via email or telephone. Their contact centre is open Monday to Friday, from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Telephone: 0121 230 6666
Address: Gambling Commission, Fourth Floor, Victoria Square House, Victoria Square, Birmingham, B2 4BP
eCOGRA: What Is It?
eCOGRA, also known as the eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance, is a UK-based independent regulatory body for the online gaming industry. Founded in 2003, eCOGRA specialises in the certificate of gaming software and systems in the UK as well as European countries including Denmark, Italy and Spain.
Like the UK Gambling Commission, eCOGRA’s mission is to promote and ensure fair gaming along with player protection. The organisation offers a monthly review of payouts of different online casinos and RNG games such as roulette, blackjack and video poker in order to ensure that all games are working correctly and fairly, providing players with a chance to win.
While not all casino or betting operators are audited by eCOGRA, those who are will display the eCOGRA logo at the bottom of their website, signifying that they have been reviewed successfully and are safe and fair.
If you find an online casino that isn’t regulated by eCOGRA, it doesn’t mean the casino or betting operator is unfair or unsafe as eCOGRA only acts as an additional layer of protection and fairness. Casinos unregulated by eCOGRA are still fine to play at as the site still needs to adhere to the UK Gambling Commission’s rules and regulations.
Obtaining An eCOGRA Certification
To obtain an eCOGRA certification (In order to display the organisation’s seal on a casino website), the casino or betting operator, software develop or affiliate must meet eCOGRA’s Generally Accepted Practices (eGAP). According to eCOGRA’s official website, these eGAP requirements can include providing a clear link to player protection and a responsible gambling page on an operator’s homepage, no misleading messages, a clock available on screen at all times, responsible gambling limits, player protection and underage prevention and so much more.
You can find a more detailed list of eGAP by visiting the eCOGRA website.
eCOGRA is split into two different divisions: the ATA and SRS. The Approved Testing Agency (ATA) is one of the two divisions of eCOGRA which specialises in the certification of gaming software and systems via agency testing. To date, the ATA has produced over 500 compliance reviews for numerous established casino operators and game developers. Some of their notable clients include Bet365, Ladbrokes, Microgaming, 32Red, 888 Holdings and NetEnt.
Meanwhile, the Self Regulation Services (SRS) focuses more on customers. It works to protect vulnerable customers, prevent underage gaming, combat fraud and criminal activity while also ensuring accurate and prompt customer payments. Both divisions work hard to make eCOGRA the well-respected, independent regulator it is known as today.
You can contact eCOGRA by either calling them or sending an email to the address listed below.
Telephone: 020 7887 1480
Address: 2/F Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6BD, United Kingdom
BeGambleAware is an independent charity that focuses on protecting vulnerable gamers and preventing online gambling addictions. The organisation was founded back in 2002 and it works to provide users with information to make “informed decisions” about their gambling. BeGambleAware, also known as just GambleAware, funds the education, prevention and treatment services of online gambling and raises over £8 million a year from voluntary donations.
Endorsed by the UK Gambling Commission, BeGambleAware offers information on self-exclusion, sources of help and support for those suffering from gambling problems as well as tips for keeping yourself safe and help to keep gambling budgets under control.
You can contact the BeGambleAware by either calling them or filling out a form on their website. However, if you’re looking for help and support about problem gambling, you’re urged to call the National Gambling Helpline.
National Gambling Helpline: 0808 8020 133
Email: Via form
Address: GambleAware, Pennine Place, 2a Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0HF
GAMSTOP UK is an online service operated by non-profit organisation The National online Self-Exclusion Scheme Limited. The free service allows gamers to restrict their online gambling activity if they believe they are suffering from problem gambling.
Gamblers who register will need to provide their postcode, date of birth and email address and can select a period to self-exclude themselves from online gambling ranging from six months to one or five years. Later on, when the minimum duration period has passed, the self-exclusion remains in force until the player actively returns to GAMSTOP UK and asks for it to be removed.
The service has been used by hundreds of players throughout the UK to help them crack down on problem gambling. Most casino and betting operators will now include links to GAMSTOP UK’s self-exclusion services on their responsible gambling pages (As required by the UK Gambling Commission and eCOGRA), making it easy for users to prevent themselves from developing an addiction.
If you’re playing at gambling sites not on GAMSTOP UK, we suggest you find out whether or not the casino runs its own self-exclusion service and use that.
You can contact GAMSTOP UK by calling them or through their webchat service between the hours of 8 AM and midnight Monday to Sunday. In addition, you can also email them on the address below.
Telephone: 0800 138 6518
International Regulatory Bodies
Since the UK Gambling Commission solely works on regulating casino and betting operators in the United Kingdom, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that there are additional regulatory bodies that oversee online gambling in other countries. Four of the most well-known organisations are the Malta Gaming Authority, Alderney Gambling Control Commission, Curacao Gambling and Gibraltar Gaming.
Malta Gaming Authority
The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) was established in 2001 and is an organisation that regulates online and land-based gambling in Malta. Similarly to the UK Gambling Commission, the Malta Gaming Authority grants licenses to casino and betting operators looking to offer their services in Malta.
The organisation currently offers four different types of licenses including a remote gaming license, a remote betting license, a license to advertise gaming in Malta and a license to host and manage remove gaming operations. The Malta Gaming Authority is known for its fairness and honesty but isn’t as well praised as the UK Gambling Commission.
Alderney Gambling Control Commission
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) launched back in 2000 and is responsible for regulating Alderney’s online gambling activities. The Alderney Gambling Control License also grants licenses, but there are only two licenses compared to the Commission’s five and Malta Gaming Authority’s four licenses.
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission’s licenses include a license which covers customer interaction and the management of funds and a license which allows for online gaming transactions. Casino and betting operators can either apply for one or both licenses depending on their needs.
Curacao Gaming Control Board
Surprisingly enough, the island of Curacao became the first nation to begin granting gambling licenses. The Curacao eGambling board was established in 1993 but it eventually merged with the Curacao Gaming Control Board in 2002. Today, the organisation offers one license which is split into two parts: the Master License allows businesses to run online gambling services and offer sub-licenses to other firms while the Sub-License only allows businesses to run online gambling services.
However, the Curacao Gaming Control Board has sparked criticism for its low entry barriers and lack of restrictions. In addition, the Curacao Gaming Control Board generally tends to avoid intervening between customers and operators and has previously failed to protect customer funds and wagers. This has led to several distraught and angry customers.
Gibraltar Regulatory Authority
Gibraltar has been granting licenses since the late 1990s, making it one of the oldest regulatory bodies in the gambling industry. However, it wasn’t until 2000 that the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority was founded, an organisation that eventually took over the licensing of gambling operators. It soon developed a reputation for being a leading regulatory body around the world.
The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority is still working hard to protect players to this day and has even challenged the UK government over rules it belies are unfair and that will negatively affect player safety as well as the country’s own economy.