A Complete Guide to the UK Gambling Commission (2021)

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The UK Gambling Commission is the regulatory body for gambling in Great Britain, and the name you want to look for when checking if a betting site is licensed. They’re also much more than that, providing a framework for the incredibly high standards found in UK Gambling. In this guide, we’ll be going through everything you need to know to understand them, alongside our picks for top three licensed UK bookmakers.

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Top 3 Bookies with UKGC

  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 supervise and regulate just about everything gambling related in the United Kingdom, from sports betting to casino gambling, even covering everything from bingo betting to lotteries. The only exception out of their jurisdiction is spread betting. Other than that, everything that is legal in terms of gambling in the UK is so after going through their incredibly high standards.
  • From your perspective, if you’ve heard of them, it will be through licensing. They’re indeed the public body which provides licenses 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. Not only can you rest assured if a site is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission that they are legal and legitimate, but they have passed some incredibly tough criteria to receive a license.
  • In being so strict, the Gambling Commission UK don’t just hand out licenses, they create the framework for what is acceptable business practices in the UK. Furthermore, they also provide advice to both business and users, with everything from how to complain about an issue to compliance to UK Gambling Commission loot boxes advice, while researching ways to continue to make gambling in the UK as safe as possible for many years to come. You can get additional advice through the website. This is used instead of a UK Gambling Commission phone number or UK Gambling Commission email.
  • Their UKGC aim to keep crime out of gambling, ensuring that all gambling is fair and protecting 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.
  • Their UKGC aim to keep crime out of gambling, ensuring that all gambling is fair and protecting 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.

Examples of Actions by the UK Gambling Commission

Since the Gambling Commission inception under the 2005 Gambling Act – and finally fully taking over the Gaming Board for Great Britain in 2007 – their work is constant. Just check out their recent work on their homepage to see just how much they work through any given month. Of course, we’re sure there’s plenty more behind the scenes not published. That said, to give you some examples of the magnitude of their importance, we felt it pertinent to provide some examples of key actions they have taken over the years. Again, this merely scratches the surface of the kind of work they conduct.

Credit Card Ban
In April 2020, the Gambling Commission announced that as of the 14th April that year there would be a ban on businesses in Great Britain being allowed to accept credit cards for the purposes of gambling. This came after a long period of research and a public consultation. 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 gambling sites licensed in the UK to participate in multi-operator exclusion scheme GAMSTOP. This makes it easier for those who wish to stop gambling to do unilaterally. Both this and the credit card ban are examples of the UK Gambling Commission going further than most other license providers in understanding problem gambling and encouraging responsible gaming.
Fining Camelot
For those of you who didn’t know, the Camelot Group run the National Lottery in the UK: something which has also been under the supervision of the UK Gambling Commission since 2013. In 2016, they were fined £3,000,000 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 Criteria of the UK Gambling Commission

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 license 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, and from money laundering to UK Gambling Commission advertising rules, the cases which are presented to them are often nuanced and complicated. However, what guides the criteria of the UK Gambling 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 rather a 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 license, 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 license is also checked and is a vital part of ensuring that gambling funds are never used as a source for crime or laundering.
  • 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 updated to keep up to date with technology. Some examples of new technical requirements 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 License

In general, the benefits of having the UK Gambling Commission license are easy to understand. Aside from the three key criteria mentioned above, they make it clear that a site is both safe and legal. If a betting site doesn’t have a license from the UK Gambling Commission, then it cannot be considered legal in the UK. However, it’s not the only benefit of such a license. Here’s a magnificent seven selection of things we considered key positives beyond the basics.

  • Ensures that the betting site you’re using has the funds to pay you should your bets be successful
  • They can be considered objectively fair. In other words, they’re offering you a reasonable, clear way of winning.
  • A UK Gambling Commission license also means your sensitive financial and personal data is kept safe from cybercriminals.
  • There is adequate support and tools to help you gamble responsible. 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 practises.
  • 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.
  • Helps you quickly and easily understand what operators are legally available in the UK, as opposed to other international jurisdictions.


How to Check for a License

UK Gambling Commission License Search Tool Screenshot

Source: UK Gambling Commission

Any good betting site will wear its UK Gambling Commission license proudly and will likely back that up with a solid reputation, meaning that checking for license 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: Look on the Betting Site

    Usually, information on the license is found on the bottom of the page of any decent operator. If it’s not there, you can ask customer service if they have information on their license, but this would usually not be needed and is quite unusual. In fact, it may warrant further investigation, which leads us to our next step.

  • 02

    Step Two: Check for an Account Link

    Often, next to license information, 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 (Note: Do check that the link is indeed taking you to the UKGC website before proceeding, as links on websites you aren’t sure about can be a source of harm to your device). This should then give you all the information you need to confirm the license.

  • 03

    Step Three (if needed): Put in 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’s best to veer on the side of caution and assume their credentials are illegitimate. If there is an account number, you can go to the Licensee hub and check the gambling business license by adding the account number. Sometimes the name of the business will work as well. This should confirm or deny the license status of any operator you’re interested in.

Non-Licensed Betting Sites

Malta Gaming Authority Homepage Screenshot

Source: Malta Gaming Authority

  • We’ll be blunt here and 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 license is the absolute minimum of those standards.

However, it’s worth noting that non-licensed betting sites often don’t have a license 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 with 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.
RiverbetOnly holds license 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 Curacao 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. License surrendered in 2020.
BetssonUKGC License handed back in 2020, currently licensed for international audience by Malta Gaming Authority.
BetsafeConsolidated into Rizk brand, continues to operate internationally with license from Malta Gaming Authority.
Moplay License suspended in February 2020.
Football Index Formally licensed, entered administration in March 2021.


How to Make a Complaint

Just like verifying a license, 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 license. This step-by-step guide is a great example of the kind of advice the UKGC provide.

  • 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: Get in contact with 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 UK Gambling Commission complaint. Make sure you follow their complaint policy and share evidence you have to the complaint. Record all your communications between them.

  • 03

    Step Three: Wait eight weeks

    The business has eight weeks to resolve your complaints from when they receive it. Importantly, it’s not from when you start to have issues: the period begins once 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. There’s no UK Gambling Commission contact directly in this procedure. The ADR should be suggested by the gambling operator. These are also known as an Independent Betting Adjudication Service.


What About Licenses from Other Countries?

As many of our readers will already know, the UK Gambling Commission license 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 Curacao or the Malta Gaming Authority. There’s some confusion is to whether these are useable for British players.

Indeed, it used to be the case that there was a list of UK Gambling Commission whitelist countries whose licenses were believed t 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 license, 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 license. Non-UK Gambling Commission sites cannot be considered safe for UK players.


Other Security and Fairness Considerations – UKGC

We said earlier that we view a license 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 license to be considered the best UK licensed betting sites. Here’s 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, each bonus code to see whether the terms are objectively fair and can provide value to the average users online gambling experience.
  • 03
    Quality customer service
    There are no criteria that an operator must offer great customer service, but we’d say it’s a vital point of security and fairness, so it’s 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’s the variety to consider, as well as how fast and easy they 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

❓ Who are the UK Gambling Commission?

The UK Gambling Commission are the providers of license and regulations for gambling in Great Britain.

⭕ Does a license from the UK Gambling Commission mean a betting site is legal?

Yes, with a UK Gambling license a betting site is legal to bet with.

❗ How do I check for a UKGC license on my chosen bookmaker?

To check for a UKGC license the player can see if there is information on the operator’s site, and then can be confirmed on the UK Gambling Commission site. The bookie usually has the UKGC license number in the footer of the website.

✅ Are there other legitimate gambling licenses for UK players outside the UK Gambling Commission?

While there are legitimate licenses available elsewhere, the only license which allows for legal gambling practise in the UK is from the UK gambling commission.

❓ Can I complain to the UK Gambling Commission if I have a problem with my operator?

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. It’s not the only security consideration but it sets an extremely high bar.

Make no mistake, the best UK betting sites can compete with any in the world. And while the job they do may be complicated, we hope you can see that from their three key principles to using them to check for licenses, 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.