If there’s one place in the world where it’s truly great to be an online gambler these days, it might be the United Kingdom. There’s an extraordinary level of choice in the market today, with few restrictions, allowing players to pick from their favourite sites in a variety of different gaming categories. And with strong regulations in place, players can also feel as though they are playing with safe and reputable operators with plenty of oversight to protect them should anything go wrong or a company fail to deliver quality service.
This stands in contrast to many other markets around the world. In unregulated markets, offshore sites can feel unsafe or untrustworthy, while some regulation nations restrict their citizens to just a few options or impose such high taxes that operators have to offer worse odds to their customers. But the UK seems to have struck the perfect balance between consumer choice and protection, making it the gold standard for Internet casino play.
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A History of Leadership
The UK has always been one of the models that the rest of the world has looked to when it comes to handling the online casino industry. From the early days of the first gambling sites, it was one of the most highly sought after markets for operators thanks to its large, affluent population.
Of course, all of the attention that operators were showering on the UK quickly caught the government’s attention, especially since they could scarcely be regulated under the existing gambling laws of the nation, all of which were written well before web-based gaming had come to prominence.
The first attempt at this was the development of the 2005 Gambling Act. Designed as an overhaul of the nation’s gaming laws in order to better regulate the industry as a whole and prevent the social ills that are sometimes associated with betting, the bill dealt with lotteries, land-based casinos, and many other topics, including Internet gambling.
Under the rules of the Act, online betting sites were finally permitted to legally advertise on television and radio throughout the UK for the first time. The government did not place any special taxes on offshore sites, but it did set rules for where approved operators might be based. Known as a whitelist, this included Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Alderney, Antigua and Barbuda, the Australian state of Tasmania, and the entirety of the European Economic Area. Only sites in these areas could advertise their services in the United Kingdom.
While this was already regarded as one of the strongest regulatory regimes in the world, over time it became obvious that there were some holes in the system. Most notably, the UK Government realized that they were losing extensive tax revenue from businesses that were based overseas but which offered their games to their citizens. Not only was this costing them revenue, it also gave an advantage to the overseas casinos, which typically paid much lower taxation rates than their British competitors.
Current Laws and Licenses
Today, online casinos in the UK are governed by the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act of 2014. While the legislation had plenty of impact on the industry as a whole, some of the biggest headlines were related to how it would change the regulation of Internet casinos. Under the new laws, all operators who wanted to offer services to customers here would need a license from the UK Gambling Commission, essentially eliminating the whitelisting system.
As a condition of that license, site owners would now have to pay a 15% point of consumption tax on all revenues that were derived from the United Kingdom, regardless of where they or their servers were hosted. In order to get such a license, firms would also have to limit just how much of their business came from so-called “grey markets” around the world. That forced many operators to choose between a lucrative UK license or continuing to service less regulated regions; while a few decided to focus on other countries, most major companies decided to continue on in Britain even with the new taxes, meaning players are still spoiled for choice here.
For players, the key thing to know is that online betting is entirely and unequivocally legal in the UK. Adults aged 18 and over are allowed to participate in all forms of gaming, including interactive sites like casinos and poker rooms (the only exception applies to some televised games that are not available in Northern Ireland). In addition, players benefit from the fact that gambling winnings are not taxable, which means you can keep every last pound you win while playing at online or live venues.
Banking at Online Casinos
Because of the strong regulations in place in the United Kingdom, it is simple for players to find ways to get money in and out of their online gambling accounts. Most reputable casinos here over a wide array of options for both deposits and withdrawals, allowing you to move money around no matter what resources are available to you.
Of course, credit card payments are always a possibility, with MasterCard and Visa being the most popular options here. And you are likely to be able to transfer money from your bank account in a variety of ways as well. But there are also more specialized options that are designed for online and/or gambling use.
For instance, many e-wallets work at a majority of Internet casinos, including services like Skrill and Neteller. This is also one of the few places where PayPal is often a viable option, since it is happy to work with well-regulated gaming operators. Another option may be a prepaid card or voucher, such as the paysafecard, which is a perfect workaround for those who lack access to traditional financial instruments.
Finding the Right Casinos for You
When it comes to choosing an Internet gambling room, we often have to be very careful about ensuring our readers find reputable sites because of the presence of some less-than-trustworthy options out there. But that’s hardly a problem in the UK, where players benefit from a combination of strong governance and the presence of most of the world’s biggest and most trusted names in betting. From slots to poker to table games and sports betting, you can play anything and everything you want from your computer or mobile device.
Of course, we’re still happy to recommend a number of great sites for you – ones we believe are the best of the best. And if you want to do some research on your own, almost all gambling websites offer free play options that allow you to try before you buy. Once you find one you like, we can also help you get the best bonuses possible so that you get as much value out of your play as possible.
If you’re living in the UK and want to place bets online, any of our highly recommended casinos are a great place to start. Sign up for an account, make your first deposit to get the best bonus for you and get started with real money play today.