The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is a regulatory body that oversees land-based and online gaming in the United Kingdom. It issues licenses to internet casinos and monitors them.
UKGC licensed online casinos boast among the best reputations in the gaming world. The following guide covers why these casino sites are so esteemed, along with more on the Gambling Commission’s role.
How do Online Casinos Obtain a UKGC License?
The UK requires operators to apply for a license when they want to:
- Offer online gaming to British gamblers.
- Host any part of their gambling operation in the UK.
Operators begin the licensing process by visiting the relevant page on the UKGC’s website. Here, casino owners can find information on licenses and the application section.
Fees vary based on an operator’s annual gross-gaming yield. Different application fees include:
- £2,640 when earning less than £550,000 per year.
- £6,452 when earning £550k to £2 million per year.
- £6,452 when earning £2 million to £5.5 million per year.
- £10,147 when earning £5.5 million to £25 million per year.
- £14,897 when earning £25 million to £100 million per year.
- £23,977 when earning £100 million to £250 million per year.
- £33,832 when earning £250 million to £550 million per year.
- £57,304 when earning over £550 million per year.
Approved operators must also pay an annual fee. They need to cover the first fee within 30 days of receiving a license.
Annual fees are also based on an online casino’s income. These costs include:
- £2,709 when earning less than £550,000 per year.
- £6,488 when earning £550k to £2 million per year.
- £9,480 when earning £2 million to £5.5 million per year.
- £13,307 when earning £5.5 million to £25 million per year.
- £35,541 when earning £25 million to £100 million per year.
- £68,146 when earning £100 million to £250 million per year.
- £136,455 when earning £250 million to £550 million per year.
- £387,083 when earning over £550 million per year.
The UKGC also requires applicants to provide information beyond the necessary forms and fees. It wants to ensure that operators:
- Provide proof of financial solvency and the ability to pay any expected winnings.
- Feature a clear ownership structure.
- Possess the necessary experience to serve the UK market.
- Don’t feature owners or key personnel with criminal records.
- Show a willingness to identify and protect problem gamblers.
All approved online casinos must pay a 15% tax rate on annual income in addition to annual fees.
The Gambling Commission refuse applications for those who don’t meet the above criteria. Rejected operators can appeal the decision to the independent HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
Benefits of UKGC licensed online casinos
Numerous gaming sites seek licensing in the United Kingdom. The following reasons show why UKGC licenses are so in demand.
The Gambling Commission is arguably the world’s top online-gaming jurisdiction. It features a rigorous application process and closely monitors licensees.
The UKGC is willing to level fines and even suspend or revoke licenses when necessary. In March 2020, for example, the commission suspended Stakers.com for violating multiple codes of conduct.
Large Country & Economy
With 66.7 million residents, the United Kingdom is the third-largest country in Europe. Therefore, it provides many potential gamblers for online casinos to benefit from.
Aside from its large population, the UK also features Europe’s second-biggest economy with a GDP of $2.7 trillion. This large economy means that Brits can afford to wager plenty of money.
The UKGC was one of the first jurisdictions to allow operators to advertise through mainstream outlets. This policy, which is still in effect today, lets online casinos reach gamblers without resorting to non-traditional advertising methods.
This jurisdiction’s application and annual fees vary based on an operator’s yearly income. The highest-earning casinos pay five or six figures in total fees.
Generally, though, entry costs are low in this jurisdiction. An internet casino that earns less than £25 million in revenue, for example, would pay £10,147 for an application and £13,307 for the annual fee.
Functions of The UK Gambling Commission
The Gambling Commission carries various responsibilities in the country’s gaming market. This non-departmental public body of the government maintains the following duties:
- Manage all primary gambling activities in the UK market, including online and land-based betting, bingo, casinos, and lotteries.
- Keep criminals out of the gambling market.
- Protect problem gamblers.
- Enforce responsible advertising standards.
- Ensure fair gaming.
- Set up procedures for operators and players to settle disputes (via third parties).
- Issue licenses and collect fees.
- Take action against gambling sites that violate the UKGC’s standards.
The Gambling Commission takes its duties as seriously as any gaming authority. It consistently monitors operators to ensure that all advertise responsibly and avoid taking advantage of problem gamblers.
This jurisdiction also requires all UKGC online casinos to undergo game testing. The latter sees a third-party lab test a casino’s games to ensure that the random number generators work properly.
The Gambling Commission assesses applications and collects relevant fees, too. Application and annual fees go towards powering the commission and providing revenue for the government.
UKGC’s Reputation as a Regulator
The UKGC is easily one of the world’s most reputable regulatory bodies. It values operator integrity and player safety just as much as revenue and fees.
This regulator has taken action against many licensees in the past. Here are examples of fines leveled by the Gambling Commission:
- December 2016 – £3 million fine against Camelot Group for failing to identify a fraudulent lottery ticket. A Camelot employee was behind the fraudulent ticket and scam.
- February 2018 – £6.2 million fine against William Hill for a series of failures to stop money laundering.
- May 2018 – £600,000 fine against LeoVegas for misleading adverts and failing to spot self-excluded gamblers.
- June 2018 – £2 million fine against 32Red for failing to monitor a high-rolling problem gambler.
- July 2019 – £5.9 million fine against Ladbrokes Coral for failing to prevent money laundering.
As can be seen, the UKGC doesn’t give operators a pass for mistakes. Instead, it levies hefty fines against gambling companies for poor decisions and outright violations of the commission’s rules.
The UK Gambling Commission could improve at handling player disputes, though. It doesn’t deal with complaints directly and puts the onus on casinos.
The commission requires operators to seek the services of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies.
The UKGC isn’t the only jurisdiction that wants sites to outsource complaint resolutions. However, it’s the highest-profile regulator to avoid directly getting involved in disputes.
Can you Trust UKGC Licensed Online Casinos?
Collectively, UK online casinos are as trustworthy as any in the world. They must adhere to strict standards regarding problem gaming, anti-money laundering, game testing, and financial details.
Of course, UKGC licensed online casinos aren’t perfect. Otherwise, the Gambling Commission wouldn’t level such heavy fines against operators.
As a whole, though, UK gaming sites are among the most credible. Each approved casino has passed a rigorous vetting process and proven its solvency.
These sites also seek third-party testing to ensure that their RNGs work properly and that odds are as stated. They may even place a testing lab’s seal of approval (e.g., eCOGRA) to assure gamblers of fair gaming.
UKGC licensed casinos also separate player funds from operating budgets. This measure ensures that operators can never touch gamblers’ money for any purpose.