The gambling commission is a non-departmental government office in the United Kingdom, charged with regulating, licensing, and supervising most betting activities. The UKGC does not deal with online gambling exclusively – they are also tasked with covering arcades, sports betting shops, bingo halls, land-based casinos, and lotteries. Spread betting and free prize draws and competitions are not subject to UKGC regulation.
The commission makes frequent recommendations to the wider government regarding gambling policy. Many of these recommendations aim to protect vulnerable players from illegal or predatory gambling activity. Another major focus is ensuring that crime is unable to take advantage of the gambling industry, particularly via money laundering. The UKGC is one of the most respected regulatory bodies worldwide, therefore any online sportsbook, casino, or poker room which holds a license from the UKGC is extremely likely to be considered trustworthy.
history of the ukgc
The UKGC was formed by the Gambling Act of 2005, taking over responsibility for supervising gambling in the United Kingdom from the Gaming Board for Great Britain in 2007. As a non-departmental government office, the UKGC is not affiliated with any political party, ensuring that gambling policy remains consistent despite any changes which occur at election time.
Online gambling has always been legal in the United Kingdom, but it was woefully underregulated during the first years of the 21st century. This was especially evident when comparing the rules for high street betting shops with those which applied to online sportsbooks and casinos. Despite this, it took several years before the UKGC was given any real “teeth” to issue licenses and properly regulate UK gambling.
The biggest change in the history of the UKGC came with the passage of the updated Gambling Act 2014, which forced all online gambling websites to seek a license from the UKGC before they could offer their service to UK citizens. Although many operators did choose to leave the market at this time because of the costs and red tape involved with obtaining a license, the change was welcomed by most online gamblers at the time.
The Remote Gambling Act of 2014 created a legal framework for ensuring players were treated fairly, particularly vulnerable players. One aspect of this was regulating the “Know Your Customer” (KYC) process to ensure that underage gamblers were unable to deposit, play, or withdraw at any UKGC-approved online gambling site.
The 2014 law also addressed the issue of self-exclusion by creating an industry-wide block via a separate entity named “GamStop”. This change was long overdue, as players were previously required to exclude themselves from every possible online betting website individually.
It is widely expected that further enforcement of responsible gaming measures is likely to be introduced at some point in the future, but apart from this little else is known for sure. We only catch a glimpse of what is truly happening behind the doors of the UKGC each time they make a recommendation to parliament, so it can be tricky to guess what suggestions they will make next.
stated objectives of the gambling commission
Officially, the stated objectives of the UKGC are to keep crime out of gambling, ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair manner, and to protect children and the vulnerable from the effects of gambling. There seems little doubt that all these stated objectives are true intentions of the UKGC, although there are some who question the methodology behind many of their decisions.
For example, the complaints procedure designed to allow players to report when they have been wronged by a gambling business is outsourced to several “Approved Dispute Resolution” providers, rather than being handled directly by the UKGC itself. The ADR process does not provide a means for public disclosure of the number of complaints against specific businesses, nor does it ensure that players receive an adequate explanation when an ADR makes a ruling on a complaint.
One interesting aspect of the UKGC license is that it specifically requires all customers of an online casino to be treated fairly and identically, not just those based within the United Kingdom. If an online casino wants to offer its services to UK citizens, they cannot treat citizens of other countries unfairly, which is unique among online gambling regulators.
December 2016 – The UKGC fines Camelot Group, the company in charge of the United Kingdom’s National Lottery, £3 million for failing to identify a fraudulent ticket that was presented and paid out in 2009. The commission ruled that Camelot’s fraud-prevention controls were “severely lacking”, and that what had occurred was a serious breach of the terms of its license. Despite these failings, Camelot continue to run the National Lottery despite competing non-profit bids from other companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.
February 2018 – The UKGC fines major high street bookmakers (and online gaming company) William Hill £6.2 million for failing to protect their players. The commission found that William Hill did not have adequate measures in place to guard against money laundering via its gambling channels. The size of this fine remains a record to this day.
May 2018 – The online casino business LeoVegas was fined £600,000 for publishing misleading advertising. Further investigations by the commission found that the companies self-exclusion processes had several major issues, which led to checks being performed on several other large industry players. The following month, 32Red was given a £2 million penalty for similar violations involving a player who had deposited more than £750,000 at 32Red online casino.
July 2019 – The high street and online betting company Ladbrokes Coral was issued a fine of £5.9 million for past failings in its money laundering and self-exclusion policies. Although the issues identified by the failings had since been rectified by Ladbrokes Coral, it was found that there was sufficient evidence from prior complaints made between 2014 and 2017 to warrant issuing the company with the huge fine.
October 2021 - The UKGC introduces a “package of strict measures” including forcing all online slots and games to have a 2.5 second delay between rounds, the removal of “quick spin” and “auto play” functionality, and the banning of any description of a return that is equal to less than the players stake being described as a “win”.