A Complete Guide to the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) (2023)

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Last Updated on: 27.02.2023

The UK Gambling Commission is the regulatory body for gambling in Great Britain, providing a framework for the incredibly high standards that apply to British operators. In this guide, we’ll be going through everything you need to know about the Commission, and list our picks for top three licensed UK bookmakers.

Top 3 Bookies With UKGC Licences

  1. Paddy Power
  2. bet365
  3. Parimatch

What Is the UK Gambling Commission?

UK Gambling Commission Safer Gambling Page Screenshot
Source: UK Gambling Commission
  • The UK Gambling Commission supervises and regulates just about everything gambling related in the United Kingdom - from sports betting to casino gambling, even covering bingo betting and lotteries. The only exception out of their jurisdiction is spread betting.
  • From your perspective, if you’ve heard of them, it will be through licensing. They’re indeed the public body which provides licences to establishments which have followed their incredible strict criteria. Make no mistake - they’re considered one of the toughest regulatory bodies in the whole world of gambling - so much so that there have been some attempts to make them less strict because their yardsticks are so very high. Therefore, if a site is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission, you can rest assured that they are not only legal and legitimate, but they have passed some incredibly tough criteria.
  • In being so strict, the Gambling Commission UK don’t just hand out licences - they create the framework for what are acceptable business practices in the UK. Furthermore, they also provide advice to both business and users, including everything from how to complain about an issue to UK Gambling Commission loot boxes advice, while researching ways to continue to make gambling in the UK as safe as possible. You can get additional advice through their website, which is used instead of a UK Gambling Commission phone number or UK Gambling Commission email.
  • The UKGC's main aims are to ensure that all gambling is fair, to keep crime out of gambling, and to protect young people and the vulnerable - the latter point being key to the vital focus responsible gaming has in the UK. And their work is truly never done.

Actions Taken by the UK Gambling Commission

To highlight the magnitude of the UKGC's importance, we felt it pertinent to provide a few of the many examples of key actions they have taken over the years – since its inception under the 2005 Gambling Act, and finally fully taking over the Gaming Board for Great Britain in 2007.

Credit Card Ban
On the 14th April 2020, a ban on businesses accepting credit cards for the purposes of gambling was implemented. This came after a long period of research and a public consultation. However, there are many alternatives for credit cards available in the UK.
Requiring Online Retailers to Participate in GAMSTOP
Another measure recently adopted to help deal with problem gambling was the requirement for UK-licensed gambling sites to participate in multi-operator exclusion scheme GAMSTOP. This makes it easier for those who wish to stop gambling to do so unilaterally. Both this and the credit card ban are examples of the UK Gambling Commission going further than most other licence providers in understanding problem gambling and encouraging responsible gaming.
Fining Camelot
In 2016, the Camelot Group - who run the National Lottery in the UK - were fined £3 million by the UKGC for failing to verify a fake lottery ticket in 2009. It was found that this was part of a fraud between a member of the public and a Camelot employee, and they claimed a £2.5 million prize with the fraudulent ticket.

The UK Gambling Commission Criteria

UK Gambling Commission Guidance Page Screenshot
Source: UK Gambling Commission

Considering the Gambling Commission UK is one of the strictest regulators in the world, it’s no surprise to learn that their criteria for getting and keeping a licence is incredibly tough. It’s a process of constant assessment, of always checking and double checking that operators are behaving to the highest levels of responsibility.

Every site is different – from money laundering to UK Gambling Commission advertising rules, cases are often nuanced and complicated. However, what guides the criteria of the commission register always comes down to three key principles. These include:

  • Making sure all gambling is conducted in way which is both transparent and fair. This is a rather broad statement, but some practical examples include that the ownership is not kept in secret, and that any gambling operation has sufficient funds before getting a licence - in order to ensure that winners never fail to get paid. Ensuring separate player funds is another example of keeping the user experience both fair and safe, alongside utilising encryption and data protection.
  • Preventing gambling from being used as a source of crime. This is another example of why transparent ownership is so important and why the anti-money-laundering criteria is also extremely strict. The background of the operator applying for the licence is checked too, and this plays a vital part in ensuring that gambling funds are used for honest practices.
  • Preventing the harm of children and vulnerable people. All betting sites in the UK must have measures in place to prevent underage people from using their site, such as an identity verification processes. This also helps prevent fraud.

There’s also UK Gambling Commission technical standards that must be adhered to, which is regularly revised to keep up-to-date with technology. These include rules regarding the display of transactions, time requirements and reality checks, alongside responsible product design and auto-play functionality. All this is to ensure the operator is competent in the key three criteria stated above.

Benefits of a UK Gambling Commission Licence

In general, the benefits of having a licence issued by the UK Gambling Commission are easy to understand. Aside from the three key criteria mentioned above, they guarantee that a site is both safe and legal. If a betting site doesn’t have a licence from the UKGC, then it cannot be considered legal in the UK.

However, this is not the only benefit of acquiring such a licence. Here’s a list of seven aspects we consider key positives beyond the basics.

  • It ensures that the betting site you’re using has the funds to pay your winnings, should your bets be successful.
  • They can be considered objectively fair. In other words, they’re offering you a reasonable, clear way of winning.
  • Your sensitive financial and personal data is kept safe from cybercriminals.
  • There is adequate support and a set of tools to help you gamble responsibly. Furthermore, the use of GAMCARE now helps enforce self-imposed restrictions across a wide variety of operators.
  • You can also rest assured that the money spent on these sites isn’t going towards any illegitimate practices.
  • You have a clear path of complaint should an operator behave in a way you feel is illegal or against the criteria set out by the UK Gambling Commission.
  • It helps you quickly and easily understand what operators are legally available in the UK, as opposed to other international jurisdictions.
Paddy Power logo
Paddy Power
  • Ideal for casual bettors and experts alike
  • Amazing streaming selection
  • Arguably the best horse racing betting site in the world

New Customer Offer. Place your FIRST bet on any Sportsbook market and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £10. Only deposits made using cards will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply. Full T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.org #ad

  • Near perfect all-rounder
  • Immense sports variety
  • Unbeatable reputation

18+ - Offer for new customers at bet365. Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and Full T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.org #ad

Parimatch logo
  • Fantastic promotional quality and variety
  • Great pick for bet boosts
  • Wide variety of account customisations

T&C`s: 18+, New customers only. Opt in, bet £10 on any sports (odds 2.00+) in 7 days. No cash out. Get 4x£5 sports free bets for set markets (odds 2.00+), which expire in 7 days. Offer is valid from 10:00 UK time on 16/01/2023. Card payments onlyT&Cs Apply | begambleaware.org | Please gamble responsibly. . Click for full T&Cs. BeGambleAware.org #ad

How To Check for a Licence

UK Gambling Commission License Search Tool Screenshot
Source: UK Gambling Commission

Any good betting site will wear its UK Gambling Commission licence proudly and will likely back that up with a solid reputation, meaning that checking for licence and legitimacy should never be especially complicated. However, if you’re unsure, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what you can do:

  • 01

    Step One: Check on the Site Itself

    Usually, information on the licence is found on the bottom of the page of any decent operator. If not, this may warrant further investigation. When in doubt, you can always ask customer service if they have information on their licence.

  • 02

    Step Two: Check for an Account Link

    Often, the bookmaker will provide you with a link to their licensing information. If you click on this link, it should take you to the UK Gambling Commission website, which will provide you with all the information you need to confirm the licence. It is important to check that the link is indeed taking you to the UKGC website before proceeding, as links on websites you are not sure about can be a source of harm to your device.

  • 03

    Step Three (If Needed): Input the Account Number Manually

    If there is no link, then you should still be able to get an account number. If there is no account number nor any other clarifying information to be found, it is best to veer on the side of caution and assume their credentials are illegitimate. If an account number is available, you can go to the licensee hub and check the gambling business licence by adding the account number - sometimes, the name of the business will work as well). This should confirm or deny the licence status of any operator you are interested in.

Non-Licensed Betting Sites

  • We’ll say point blank that unlicensed betting sites are a great danger to you and your finances. Our policy is to never recommend any site that doesn’t meet the highest expectations of security, and having a proper licence is the absolute minimum of those standards.

However, it’s worth noting that non-licensed betting sites often don’t have a licence for different reasons. They could, for instance, have simply decided that the UK market isn’t for them, but be viewed as entirely secure and respectable elsewhere.

Here’s a breakdown of some well-known examples and their reasons, so you can get some context of why this may be the case:

OperatorCurrent Licensing Situation
Big Bet World Casino No longer available
BetBright Ceased operations following 888holdings takeover
GamebetNo longer appears to be available, former crypto betting site licensed in Malta
River BetOnly holds licence from Romania
1xBetSold UK trademark in 2020, announced they will no longer be operating in UK
BookeeFormally licensed, now out of business
22BetFormally licensed by UKGC, no longer operate in UK and continue with Curaçao Gambling Authority for international audience
BethardFormally licensed, UK Customers now sent to SportNation, appears to be a business decision rather than any failing on their part. Licence surrendered in 2020
BetssonUKGC Licence handed back in 2020, currently licensed for international audience by Malta Gaming Authority
BetsafeConsolidated into Rizk brand, continues to operate internationally with licence from Malta Gaming Authority
MoPlay Licence suspended in February 2020
Football Index Formally licensed, entered administration in March 2021

How To Make a Complaint

Just like verifying a licence, making a UK Gambling Commission complaint only takes a couple of steps. Now, this is advice provided by the commission rather than something they deal with directly, and of course, they’re involved in any serious complaints which may be a breach of licence.

This step-by-step guide is a great example of the kind of advice the UKGC provides.

  • 01

    Step One: Check the Terms and Conditions

    The first thing is to make sure your complaint is legitimate with regards to the terms and conditions.

  • 02

    Step Two: Contact the Business

    Before you go any further, you must attempt to complain to the business directly to give them the opportunity to deal with the issue themselves. You can use the online tool resolver, available through the UKGC website, to get advice before lodging a complaint with the UK Gambling Commission. Make sure you follow their complaint policy and share evidence you have related to the complaint. Record all your communications.

  • 03

    Step Three: Wait Eight Weeks

    The business has eight weeks to resolve your complaints from when they receive it. Importantly, the period does not begin when you start to have issues - rather, it starts from when you contact them.

  • 04

    Step Four: Get Outside Help

    If it has failed to be resolved at this point, you can take your complaint to an alternate dispute resolution provider. This is a free, independent service provider which should be suggested by the gambling operator. These are also known as an Independent Betting Adjudication Service. This procedure does not involve direct contact with the UK Gambling Commission.

What About Licences From Other Countries?

The UK Gambling Commission licence is far from the only one that’s out there. You may have even heard of some others, such as those from the government of Curaçao or the Malta Gaming Authority. There’s some confusion as to whether these are usable for British players.

Indeed, there used to be a list of UKGC whitelist countries whose licences were believed to be at the standards of the UKGC, and were legal and legitimate for players from the UK. This is no longer the case.

All of those sites have had to either apply directly for a UK Gambling Commission licence or no longer offer services in the UK. Put simply, any site that wants to offer gambling legally to UK customers must have a UK Gambling Commission licence. Non-UK Gambling Commission sites cannot be considered safe for UK players.

Other Security and Fairness Considerations

We said earlier that we view a licence from the UK Gambling Commission as a baseline for what you can expect with regards to security and fairness, but it’s not the only consideration. Our top three picks, for instance, had to go much further than simply having a licence to be considered the best UK licensed betting sites.

Here are five other things that we consider on this subject before any operator can get a recommendation from us.

  • 01
    Fair and random casino games
    One thing that the UKGC is not in charge of is the fairness of individual casino games. These can be verified through independent companies like eCOGRA, as well as the general reputation of the software provider themselves.
  • 02
    Promotions terms and conditions
    The terms and conditions for any bonus, assuming they’re made clear, are more to do with fairness than security. We deeply analyse each betting promotion and bonus code to see whether the terms are objectively fair and can provide value to the online gambling experience of the average user.
  • 03
    Quality customer service
    There are no criteria that an operator must offer great customer service, but we would say it is a vital point of security and fairness, so it is something we take very seriously in our considerations. Round the clock, high-quality service is the gold standard.
  • 04
    Wide variety of banking options
    Obviously, all licensed bookies must at least ensure the variety of payment options are safe. But beyond that, there is the question of how fast and easy the methods are to use, and the fairness of any fees.
  • 05
    Even with the most comprehensive tests we can manage, we need to double check our experiences are typical. Checking out user feedback and general reputation is therefore vital, especially with regards to security.

UK Gambling Commission FAQs

The UK Gambling Commission are the providers of licences and regulations for gambling in Great Britain.
Yes, a UK gambling licence ensures a betting site is legal to bet with.
The bookie usually has the UKGC licence number in the footer of the website. The player can then confirm it on the UK Gambling Commission site.
While there are legitimate licences available elsewhere, the only one which allows for legal gambling practice in the UK is from the UK Gambling Commission.
No, but they do provide guidance on complaints we have outlined in a step-by-step guide.

ThePuntersPage Final Say

The UK Gambling Commission is the baseline of standards for online security for British players and something we consider to be a non-negotiable for our readers. While it’s not the only security consideration, it sets an extremely high bar.

Make no mistake, the best UK betting sites can compete with any in the world. And although the job they do may be complicated, we hope you can see that from their three key principles to using them to check for licences, understanding them is about as simple as it could possibly be. Whatever changes the future brings to British gambling regulation, that should stay the same.