Best Online Casinos in UK – Guide for British Players (UPDATED 2017)

The United Kingdom is one of the biggest legal and well-regulated markets for online gambling. Though it is considered to be a safe place for gaming and wagering online, there are some aspects of UK gambling for you to consider.

According to the latest report from Health and Social Care Information Center’s (HSCIC) Survey, about 68% male and 61% female population gambled in 2012 with the average household of £3.20 spent weekly in the UK. In 2012-2013, British government got £1.7bn from gaming duties that is considerably a lot compared to other industries (£26.6bn – fuel duty; £41bn – corporation tax). Lottery duties and bingo brought to the government £831m and £75m respectively.

Between 2013 and 2014, UK online gambling industry generated over £2 billion. That was a significant increase of approximately 7% over 2011 to 2012. This jump in the industry revenue shows how the remote betting sector has become the most popular form of gambling in the UK today. Here are some additional statistics:

  • In 2012, the number of searches for UK online gambling conducted via smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices increased by 75%.
  • The online gambling market has seen an 80% increase since 2008.

These are the latest industry statistics published by the Gambling Commission on June 26, 2014

  • From April 2013 to March 2014, the gambling industry as a whole generated £6.8bn, an increase of 6% or almost £389.5m when compared with the previous year. A complete report can be accessed by clicking here.

Licensing and Legalities

The Gambling Act of 2005 regulates all gambling activities in the UK to ensure its safety. What the Act does is providing structure and regulation for online gambling, that is defined as gambling in which people participate by communicating “remotely”.

There are licencing objectives that are incorporated into the law. Those objectives include preventing disorder and crime within the online gambling sector, ensuring UK online gambling is conducted in an open and fair way, and protecting vulnerable people from being exploited or harmed by online gambling.

To be able to operate an online casino, there is no single type of licence that a person should apply for. There are remote gambling licences available based on the type of gaming that is being offered. This means that multiple licences may be needed for the following gaming types:

  • Betting – If betting on sports, horse betting, or another type of gambling that involves betting on the odds of an outcome of a game or other event, then you will need a betting licence.
  • Bingo – Bingo halls require a license as do those operating remotely. Online bingo operates much the same way as a non-remote bingo, but computer software determines the play. Click here to read more about online bingo licences.
  • Casino Games – To operate casino games online, a remote casino operating licence is needed. The licence is required if you wish to operate a casino via a mobile phone, computer, or any online device. Casino games include blackjack, poker, roulette, and table games as well.
  • Gaming Machines – Two types of licence are needed for remote gaming machines, such as slots, and these licenses are necessary for the manufacturer, the supplier, and those who technically maintain the software over a remote connection. Licencing is also necessary when operating the remote gaming machine/software.
  • Gambling Software – If you are manufacturing, supplying, or operating gambling software of any kind, you will need to obtain a gambling software licence. Everyone operating an online casino in the UK needs this type of licence.
  • Lotteries – If you are promoting any lottery, including an online lottery, there are two types of licences. Which one you obtain depends on the type of lottery you will be running. There are remote versions of the Society Lottery Operating Licence and the External Lottery Manager Operating License. You can read more about both by clicking here.

It is very important to follow all rules when obtaining an online gaming licence, as the process is complicated. How involved depends on the type of gaming that will be offered.

Gambling Commission license is not required for an online casino located abroad, because other countries have their licensing commissions. So it is very important to ensure that each online casino, a person chooses to play at, is legal within those countries. Online casinos, which are not licensed, are considered illegal in their country, and that makes them illegal in the online gambling sector.

The UK Gambling Commission oversees the issuance of these licenses in the UK only. An applicant has to identify the activity that he intends to engage in, specify the address in which the applicable documents can be served, and state whether or not the relevant principles within the online gambling business have ever been convicted of a crime. You can learn more about getting an online gambling license in the UK by visiting the UK Gambling Commissions, licensing frequently asked questions page.

On November 1, 2014, the Gambling Licensing and Advertising Act became effective. A series of regulatory changes have been brought about by the act ensuring all remote gambling operators that offer gaming services to Britons. This will apply to all institutions providing online gambling to those in Britain, and less than 15 percent of all gambling operators was licensed before the implementation of the law.

What this law does is adding consistency to the industry, making it easier for gamers to understand their rights and make sure operators report any suspicious activity directly to the Gambling Commission. This is to provide a greater amount of transparency and also protect against match fixing. The new regulatory changes will also make it simpler for advertisers to understand whether an operator is allowed to advertise their gaming services in Britain.

Popular Games

There are some of the most popular games in the UK:

  • Online slots (5-reel & 3-reel) – While the slot machine itself has been around for over 120 years, online slots made their appearance in the late 1990s. The statistics on how many people in the UK play online slots are not definitive, but slots are the most commonly accessed game with 11.2% of UK consumers saying they have participated in at least some form of online gaming. Source: Wikipedia (Online Gambling Industry Statistics – UK)
  • Bingo – Online Bingo was launched in 1996 as a game called “Bingo Zone” and people love this game. There are 3.5 million bingo players in Britain alone.
  • Lotteries – Online lotteries take so many forms that there are not any definitive numbers on how many people in the UK play. Being that millions of people in the UK game online, the numbers are expected to be high. According to Health and Social Care Information Centre, playing the National Lottery was the favourite gambling activity for most Britons in 2012.
  • Sports betting – Online sports betting has been around since the late 1990s. The online sports betting market in the UK is believed to be worth approximately £650 million per year.
  • Online card games – Online card games take many forms from poker to baccarat. The gaming software companies began the development of online card games in the late 1990s and many more were born in the early 2000s. Millions of people in the UK play at least one round of a card game online every single day. It is this sector of online gaming that is worth billions of pounds each year.

Deposit and Payment Methods

Deposits

There are some common and easy ways to deposit money into UK online gambling accounts. Common companies to deposit through include Neteller, Prepaid ATM, Firepay, Moneybookers (Skrill), GoldMoney, Webmoney, ChronoPay, EcoCard, Citadel, and many others. Some online casinos allow using bank transfer or wire transfer. However, Visa and MasterCard are two of the most widely accepted payment methods.

Withdrawals

When it comes to cashing in the process is one that is typically fast and easy. Many UK gambling sites use the electronic casino chip system to represent money. The chips also clearly represent the amount of money that is being played. When money is won, it can be transferred to one of the aforementioned online payment processor accounts or through another method as specified by that particular casino. The money can be withdrawn and transferred to the online Prepaid ATM, Firepay, Skrill or other account that is authorized by the casino and will allow you to transfer to your personal bank account or through a debit card issued by the payment processor.

One aspect of UK online gaming and the withdrawal of winnings is different from some areas of the world – gambling winnings are not taxed here. To clarify this, your winnings are not taxed as long as you are a citizen of the UK. The logic behind this in the UK is that most bets placed are not winning bets, which would mean the government would have to provide tax relief for losing bets if they taxed winning bets.

It doesn’t matter if you win a thousand pounds or a few hundred quid, it is yours to keep and do as you please. In 2001, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that bookmakers would have to pay a 15% tax, which is why gamblers can bet tax-free in the UK. So unlike gamblers in the U.S., where all gambling winnings are a taxable income whether you are a professional or non-professional gambler, the UK lets gamblers keep their money. This rule DOES NOT apply to gamblers in different countries that may be subject to their countries’ taxation on gambling winnings.

Special Considerations

You can fund a payment or gaming account via credit card, but you may need an alternative withdrawal method based on UK rules (Moneybookers, ChronoPay, etc.). It is very important to carefully review the accepted deposit and withdrawal methods for each online casino that you choose to game with before playing. This will ensure that you can deposit and, especially, withdraw your winnings easily.

Mobile Gambling

A Mintel/GM survey showed that 29% of gamblers who have played online have done so via their smartphones in 2012. This shows how individuals like to gamble on the go, and that desire has prompted the software developers to ensure their clients can make that possible.

UK online gambling sites have done well in evolving with the times by taking away the need to download games in exchange for a browser-based play. Mobile applications have been made available, ensuring that individuals can gamble anywhere, where their mobile devices have access to the Internet.

The mobile casino industry in UK gained momentum by over 100% in 2013. According to the latest statistics published at Oddswinner.com, British bookmakers marked an average increase of 100-300% in mobile gambling that makes the industry cost over £895 million. In comparison in 2012 mobile betting market was estimated at £795 million.

Choosing Online Casino

When choosing the right online casino, there are a number of aspects that you should review. They are:

  • The signup/welcome bonus – The signup/welcome bonus should be one that will give you the desired amount of free gameplay. You can compare the signup/welcome bonuses of multiple online casinos to find one that works best for you.
  • Deposit options – This should be one of the first areas that you review, because you need to ensure the access to, at least, one of the deposit methods required by the online casino.
  • Game variety – Game variety is important because you do not necessarily want to play the same games over and over every single day. Instead, you can mix up the odds by playing different types of games.
  • Security – You want the site to be secure that your money and identity are safe. You would like to gamble at online casinos that are TST tested; eCOGRA certified, that use 128-bit SSL encryption.
  • Customer support – See if it is available 24/7 and how many methods there are to contact customer service. Some require you to call them via telephone, while others may have online chat or email support available.
  • Withdrawal methods – You need to check the withdrawal method to ensure you will be able to cash in your winnings easily. Each casino outlines how they pay out winnings, so ensure their payout method is one that will work for you.

These are some of the most important areas that you should review when choosing the right casino. Other areas, which you review, should be those that are important to your personal preferences.

FAQS

Can you engage in the UK online gambling from another country?

If you play on an online gambling site in a country other than the UK, you will be a subject to a different set of rules. There are some places, where online gambling is illegal. It is very important that you learn about the rules in your particular country, before engaging in UK online gambling, so that you do not find yourself inadvertently engaging in illegal activities.

What can you do if an online casino will not give you a payout without having proof of your identity first?

UK online gambling sites are required by the Gambling Commission to have a very robust customer identification process. This means that the gamer will have to provide the identification documents that the online casino requires before the casino releases payment. Failure to produce the proper identification can result in the casino not releasing payment. So what you do is provide the documentation that the casino is requesting.

How much are my gambling winnings taxed if I am not a Briton?

If you are in the UK and you are gambling online, the UK does not see your winnings as taxable. In other words, you do not have to pay taxes to the UK. If you are the resident of another country, then you are a subject to your country’s laws on the taxation of gambling funds. If you are visiting the UK and you win money gambling online, your country may still see that as foreign income earned, which could still subject you to taxation based on your country’s laws.

Operators are required to disclose the level of protection consumer refunds receive, so will there be a rating system for this information?

New regulations require operators to disclose to consumers whether or not their funds are protected, and the level of protection they are given, as well as a method used. This information must be found in the terms and conditions of the website. According to the latest Gambling Commission requirements, the rating category must be included in the terms and conditions by 31 December, 2015. The information that must be disclosed to the consumer includes point of deposit and the rating category. The customer must acknowledge these terms before they can deposit money into their gaming account for the first time. The levels of protection/rating categories are defined in this advice note.

Conclusion

It may seem as if there are a lot of ins and outs to UK online gambling. But it’s imperative to read the requirements of the online gambling sites you are interested in before depositing your money. Check out the games they have to ensure, make sure the casinos are properly licensed, review their deposit and payout methods, and have fun.