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Quick Overview of the Gambling Laws in the UK

By Elisha Franklin, Updated: June 2, 2024

Over the years, the UK, like many other locations has seen a change in many laws that pertain to gambling. It is important for gamblers to be up to date on all current laws when they access any online gaming site.

Gambling Laws in the UK

Today, many gamblers have become used to being able to place wagers on casino games and sporting events using their mobile phone, but things have not always been this simple. Gambling in the UK dates way back to the 11th century when the monarchs would make the decisions on who could and couldn’t gamble.

Gambling became quite popular during the 16th century in the UK and during this time, Queen Elizabeth I approved a way for all social classes to enjoy gambling with the offering of the National Lottery.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t until about 300 years later that the formal regulations on gambling in the UK were introduced. Here, we take a look back at those laws and how they have changed over the years to become what is now in place.

New Gaming Law in 1845

In 1845, The Gaming Act was put into law when it was granted the royal assent from the monarch. It was designed to discourage people from gambling and made all types of wagers enforceable by law. This meant that anyone offering gambling services would cease to have legal support to charge any sum when players lose.

What Are “Unlawful” games?

Unlawful games is a term that is commonly used, and it represents any type of card, ball, dice, tables, counters or various instruments that are used to play an unlawful game. The new laws made changes to the Outdated Games Act where games of skill such as tennis were considered to be unlawful.

When the Act was created, it was very strict, and it contained a clause that stated: “Commissioners of Police may authorise Superintendent and Constables to enter Gaming Houses and seize all Instruments of Gaming and take into Custody all Persons found therein.” Luckily, things have changed drastically, and such laws are no longer in effect. However, these changes did not come as quickly as the gambling laws remained in effect for the following 100 years in the UK.

The Swinging Sixties was a time of change for gamblers and the gambling industry when the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 was introduced.

New Laws with The Betting and Gaming Act 1960

In the early 1900s, there were not many changes that were made to the gambling laws aside from some minimal changes were made to try to discourage street betting. Overall, Britain still had very strict gambling laws. This would change in 1960, and a year afterwards, bookmakers would start to operate and offer great legal betting options to those in the UK.

In 1949-50, some new recommendations for the UK gambling laws were published, and this started the major changes in laws on gambling. During this time, there were papers drawn up to examine the current laws and the different legal practices on lotteries, gaming and betting.

With this new review of the laws, a new Act was set forth that would allow cash betting in person or through the post. The new law also stated that all betting offices must obtain a license to operate under section 4 of the Betting and Gaming Act.

Battling Various Loopholes

When various betting shops started to open in 1961, the UK gambling laws would once again undergo some changes throughout the decade. In 1963 and 1968, licenses were offered for various forms of gambling. Unfortunately, these soon became a cover for different gambling criminal activities.

In the 1970s, stricter laws were designed to combat this illegal activity, and a new Gaming Act was introduced. This made for controls more stringent on granting licensed for slot machines and bingo parlours, which would now be regulated by the Gaming Board which would report to the Home Office.

More Changes with The Gambling Act 2005

Once again, new laws and regulations came into effect in the 1990s, and this was a result of the thriving online gambling industry. Criminal activity was still a priority in regards to gaming regulations and laws, but there were also new rules for fairness and the protection of underage gamblers.

Online and Remote Gambling

The new act introduced remote gambling, in reference to any form of betting conducted online, through the radio, television or telephone. One major improvement was the internet gaming clause. Online gambling would now be a legal activity and providers would have to adhere to the same licensing rules as land-based gambling sites. The most important change during this time was the new introduction of the Gambling Commission.

Introduction of the UK Gambling Commission

The UK Gambling Commission is an organisation that has been set up to regulate and provide supervision for gaming laws within Great Britain. This Gambling Commission takes the place of the Gaming Board and has multiple duties, such as licensing and promoting objectives. The Commission also offers regular updates to objectives, and it took over the monitoring of arcades, lotteries, general betting, casinos and slot machines in 2007.

By the time 2013 rolled around, the Gambling Commission was fully responsible for the National Lottery, and many more developments would be coming in the following year.

2014 Sees the Offering of The Gambling Licensing and Advertising Act

This newer Act was designed to make sure that all remote gambling operators with offshore equipment would still be licensed under the Gambling Commission. Before this, offshore operators required a license if they had a single piece of equipment in Great Britain. With this new Act, all companies that offer any gambling services in the country will have to be licensed even if the equipment is not present in the UK.

These changes were the cause of some debate, and one of the major issues was a new 15% tax on any profits generated from UK gambling customers. However, there were positive things for customers, such as enhances testing, more education on problem gambling and better crime reporting procedures.

Things Customers Need to Know

It can be difficult to keep track of the many legal changes that have taken place in the UK over the years, and there are new laws always being added, so it is essential for any gambler to be up to date on all current laws. The most important thing to consider is the license held by the operator. This information should be clearly stated at a site and should include the Gambling Commission number.

The Commission works on a regular basis to offer fair play and strict Codes of Practice. These are in place to reduce criminal activity and to provide gamblers with a safe and fair experience when they play online. The Commission also offers protection to players and works alongside government bodies like the HMRC to offer the best practices.

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