Online casino gaming and the law
Is gambling legal in the UK?
It’s probably safe to assume from very visible presence of betting shops, bingo halls, casinos and gaming arcades in the UK’s towns and cities (not to mention the regular ads and Live Dealer interactive betting programmes on late-night telly) that gambling is generally legal in this country. What’s important to note though is that all of this gaming activity is very strictly controlled and regulated by Her Majesty’s Government, so don’t think that you can just set up a real-money casino in your front lounge to earn a little extra dosh or have a flutter if you’re under a certain age (which is 18 for online gaming, if you’re wondering).
Online gambling, or remote gambling as you sometimes see it referred to, is also technically legal in the UK, with operators subject to strict regulation if they wish to engage UK players regardless of whether their company – and more importantly the computers from which the business is formally run – is based in the UK or not.
2005 UK Gambling ACT
The primary source of legislation that controls all forms of gambling in the UK is the Gambling Act of 2005. It instituted a shift of licensing authority for domestic gambling businesses from the UK’s magistrate courts to local authorities, and also created the powerful Gambling Commission, described in more detail below.
The Act sets out three objectives that inform the scope and underlying principles of its provisions:
- To prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime;
- To ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way; and
- To protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
Of particular relevance to online casino gaming, the Act was subsequently updated with the Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act 2014. This includes provisions that require all off-shore gambling brands to hold and maintain a license from the UK Gambling Commission and pay a 15% point of consumption tax on gross profits if they are legally to solicit and register players from the UK.
The UK gambling commission
Replacing the previous Gaming Board for Great Britain, the Gambling Commission became the UK’s primary regulator in 2007, with responsibility for overseeing the legal activities of sports betting, arcades, casinos, slot machines and lotteries in the territory.
The Gambling Commission also regulates online betting where the operator’s servers (i.e. the physical computers which run the games and handle a consumer’s bets) are based in the UK, and since 2014 also oversees the licensing of off-shore brands, such as those based in Gibraltar and Malta, that wish to engage UK players.
Since holding an appropriate license for the UK Gambling Commission is an important legal requirement for an online casino targeting UK players, it’s an important element of the vetting procedure we apply here at Casinosfreespins.co.uk. When we look at any brand that might be of interest to our readers, the very first detail we check is that it can evidence that it holds a UK Gambling Commission license. If not, it’s game over with us and you won’t see that brand in our list of recommended casinos.
Your Casino Winnings and Taxes
We mentioned earlier in this article that the UK introduced a tax levy on off-shore gambling brands of 15% a few years back, and it may have raised the thought in your mind about whether that means your winnings from playing those online casinos will be taxed too. Well, breathe easy for the short answer is ‘no’.
Betting tax was actually abolished for UK residents in 2002, meaning that all winnings from casino gaming, sports betting, lotteries and other legal gambling activities are considered completely free of tax. Nothing is deducted, and winnings do not need to be declared to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs on your tax return either!
Interestingly it was the rise of online betting that encouraged the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to reform taxation on bets since the off-shore brands could legally avoid charging their customers the levy that was applied at the time to placed bets or the winnings from them. So, not only did the rise of online casinos create even greater choice and convenience for all us UK players it also was the catalyst to not paying betting tax any more – something else to thank the Internet for.
The good news for any UK player reading this is that, so long as you’re over 18 years of age, it’s perfectly legal for you to enjoy the great online casinos and the free spins bonuses we report on this site. You can also happily enjoy any winnings luck lands you without worrying that the taxman’s going to suddenly tap you up for a chunk of your good fortune.
We should also finish this article by reflecting that it’s comforting to know that UK gambling is so rigorously policed. This keeps operators on their toes to ensure compliance with licensing requirements and gives players the peace of mind that fair play and their protection lies at the very heart of that regulation.