The UK is firmly regarded as one of the most attractive markets for online gambling. Tens of billions of pounds are wagered every year, through a combination of online and land-based gambling ventures which include casinos, sports betting, bingo, and lottery sales. There are hundreds of UK Gambling Commission licensed betting sites to choose from, so players based in the UK are spoilt for choice. What makes a site one of the best online casinos in the United Kingdom, though, and what do UK players like wagering on? It is time to read on and find out…
An Overview of Gambling in the United Kingdom
As you will no doubt be aware, all forms of gambling are legal in the United Kingdom, under certain conditions. The UK Gambling Commission regulates gambling in the country. This authority has the power to dish out gambling licenses to both land-based and online operations. It also has the power to keep them in check, via fines and the removal of licenses if those businesses do not toe the line and following the regulations set by the UKGC.
Gambling laws in the United Kingdom come from the Gambling Act of 2005. An amendment was made in 2014, known as the Gambling Licensing and Advertising Act, and it stipulated that the UKGC must license all gambling companies if they wish to cater to a UK audience. Moreover, there are strict rules which they must adhere to regarding the advertisement of gambling games. These include clearly displayed terms and conditions, ensuring that wagering requirements are fair, and that sizeable, often ridiculous bonuses are not provided to players.
The UK Gambling Commission’s regulations also include several other things. Aside from being licensed by the UKGC, these domains must also ensure that they adhere to responsible gaming policies. In short, this means that players must have the option of setting deposit and wagering limits. It means that players must also be able to take a cool-down period or exclude themselves from the casino. Players must also be able to opt-out of any promotions and bonuses they do not wish to claim, and banking transactions must not include extortionate fees. Moreover, withdrawal caps must be reasonable and fair. For the most part, all major UK online casinos licensed by the UKGC adhere to these rules.
About UK Offshore Casinos
The main reason for the implementation of those rules was offshore casinos. While gambling online in the United Kingdom has been legal for ages, it was only formally regulated in 2003. However, one problem which kept occurring was that companies would move their businesses offshore, in a bid to avoid paying tax in the United Kingdom on their revenue. This caused a great deal of frustration within the UK, and so the current laws were implemented.
These laws stated that any operator which wished to offer digital gambling services to players in the United Kingdom would be required to snap up a UKGC license, or their services would be deemed illegal. However, receiving a UK Gambling Commission licensed means that those sites are also signing up to paying tax on their revenue to the country. Many smaller-scale offshore operators fled the scene, but for the bigger, more extensive casinos and high-street bookmakers with online websites, there was no choice but to agree. To do otherwise would have meant missing out on one of the most lucrative gambling markets in the world.
Any offshore casino is theoretically permitted to obtain a UK Gambling Commission issued license. That license gives offshore, foreign, and domestic operators permission to offer i-gaming services to players in the United Kingdom. However, they will have to adhere to the responsible gaming policies set forth by the UK Gambling Commission, and they are required to pay a chunk of their revenue (made from UK bettors) in duties.
Any online casinos which are not licensed by the UK Gambling Commission are considered offshore or foreign sites. This even extends to Maltese and Gibraltar licensed domains. While the United Kingdom does not shut-off access to these domains via blanket bans or ISP (internet service provider) blocks, it does hunt down those foreign operators breaking the rules and fines them. This naturally means that many foreign sites choose not to accept players from the UK.
It is not against the law for players in the UK to sign up and play at those foreign and offshore casinos. They may (or may not) required a VPN (virtual private network) to do so. However, with hundreds of online casinos legal, regulated and licensed by the UK Gambling Commission, the number of UK players visiting offshore casinos are minimal.
The United Kingdom’s Most Played Casino Games
Players in the United Kingdom love to gamble. Moreover, they do not mind gambling on many different types of games. UK-based players have a myriad of different things that they can (and do) bet on. We should look closer at some of these games:
Slot Machines: Slot machines are commonly found across the United Kingdom. Virtually all the major casino software providers offer up games to UK casino sites. UK casinos offer up progressive jackpot slots and are home to many of the world’s leading classic slots, too. Pub fruit machines (reminiscent of those found in pubs and arcades in the 80s and 90s) are particularly popular with UK players, as are MegaWays games.
Card Games: Blackjack is one of the most popular card games you can play in the United Kingdom. Although baccarat is also offered at almost all top UK casino sites, few UK players have an interest in it, at least compared to how popular blackjack and its many variants happen to be.
Table Poker: Table poker games do very well in the UK, with the country providing many amateur poker players, and a few seasoned pros to boot. Texas Hold’em is the primary game of choice amongst UK-based players, although Stud and Draw poker games are also popular alongside Hi/Lo. Oddities such as Bridge, Solitaire and others can also be found in a few domains.
Other Table Games: Given the sheer number of games found in the best UK casino sites, it will not surprise you to learn that roulette, craps, and other table games are also played by UK residents. It is rare to see sic bo get a lot of attention, and the same is true of Dragon Tiger, but both games can be found and played in major domains.
Live Dealer Casino Games: The UK is home to some of the best live casino games around. Some are streamed from renowned land-based venues, such as the Hippodrome. Virtually all the table games we have mentioned above can be found and played at UK casino sites, and many different software providers each offer their own take on the games. A few we have not mentioned include Monopoly: Live, Deal or No Deal, Dream Catcher and Football Studio.
Video Poker: Video poker machines are arguably more popular in the United Kingdom than in most other European countries. Brits do not mind having a crack at Jacks or Better and some of the more straightforward video poker titles. It is not uncommon to regularly find ten or more video poker variants in online casino sites.
Lottery, Keno and Bingo: Instant lottery, keno and bingo games are found in UK casinos, although most players tend to prefer the real deal. For instance, rather than play digital lottery games, UK residents prefer to play the National Lottery. Moreover, most prefer online bingo via bingo sites than instant bingo games at casinos. That said, Slingo has a huge following in the country, and many Brits regularly play this cross between online bingo and slot gaming.
Instant Win Games: Instant win games are commonly found in the best UK casino sites, but they tend to be just as popular as they are elsewhere, which is not very much. These games (such as scratch cards) are just too simplistic for many players. That said, Brits do buy physical scratch cards often. The love of “scratchies” just does not seem to have translated to the digital world.
Many of the United Kingdom’s leading online casinos also offer far more than online casino games. It is not uncommon for these “all-in-one” casinos to also provide other avenues to gamble online, all with a single UK Gambling Commission license. Some of the other popular gambling pastimes that British players love to engage in include:
Sports Betting: Sports betting, live in-play betting and e-sports/virtual sports betting are all popular in the United Kingdom. Fantasy sports betting is too, and many of the larger domains offer up these markets alongside casino games. The UK is home to one of the largest sports betting markets to be found anywhere in the world.
Bingo Rooms: As mentioned, Brits love to play bingo, with the 90-ball bingo games the nation’s favourite. However, rather than play instant bingo at an online casino, most Britons prefer to visit an online bingo room. Those bingo rooms not only dish out an ample supply of bingo games. They generally carry a decent variety of online casino games, too.
Poker Rooms: While not as popular as casino, sportsbook or bingo rooms, poker rooms get their fair share of the action, too. These are most frequented by those poker players who wish to compete in major tournaments and competitions.
Lottery Games: Lottery betting is widespread in the United Kingdom. Seemingly everybody loves a flutter on the National Lottery and Euro Millions. However, Brits tend to visit lottery ticket agents and betting sites, rather than play simplistic lottery games at online casinos.
Taxes on Big Wins at UK Casinos
The United Kingdom is home to some of the best gambling tax laws in the world if you are a player. Under the country’s gambling laws, you will never have to pay any tax on wins acquired by betting online. It does not matter whether you have won a few quid playing on the slots, or tens of millions of pounds playing at major lottery game. Whatever you win, whenever you win, it is yours without having to make any contribution whatsoever to HMRC. This has been the case since 2001, when the UK abolished gambling taxes on players.
However, the same is not true if you happen to be an operator providing players with gambling options. Operators must pay a 15% levy on anything they earn from UK players. This revenue accounts for billions of pounds to HMRC. However, it is worth noting that the 15% gambling tax on operators in the United Kingdom is considerably smaller than what many of the country’s European counterparts are demanding from their license holders.
The Best UK Online Casinos to Join Today
We have looked at the UK Gambling laws, what they mean for you as a player, the lack of any gambling taxes for players, and we have had a look at what UK-based players love to wager on. Now we need to find you an ideal online casino. As a player based in one of the most extensive and well-regulated gambling markets in the world, you can afford to be very picky about where you play.
The United Kingdom is home to hundreds of online casinos, all of which are made to jump through hoops to maintain their UKGC license. As a result, any online casino bearing such a license can be trusted completely. That said, some things to do still help an online casino stand out from the pack, and here are just a few of those to help you get started:
Security and Safety: Avoid any online casino which is not licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. Any site which does not have a valid UK license is deemed illegal and is not regulated by the UKGC. As those regulations are designed to protect you as a player, we urge you to play at those licensed casinos, and not offshore sites.
Responsible Gambling: All UK Gambling Commission licensed casinos will also believe in responsible gaming and be signed up to services which offer that. They may be tied to GamCare, GambleAware and other programs to ensure that any player who needs it gets the help they deserve. Expect fair terms and conditions on bonuses and transparent rules regarding those deals at the best UK online casinos.
Convenient Options: The best UK licensed casinos will not just offer up a UKGC license and responsible gaming options; they will go above and beyond to cater to players based in the country. This means that you can expect to play in English. Moreover, you should be able to use the GBP (British Pound Sterling) currency option when depositing, wagering, or withdrawing. Customer support should also be accessible in English via live chat, e-mail, or a toll-free UK telephone number.
UK Payment Methods: Many of the best UK casinos permit deposits via PayPal, and they are one of the few countries across the globe to allow this. Moreover, prepaid vouchers and pay-by-mobile options are also popular in the UK, with some options accepted there which are not available anywhere else. UK payment methods should not charge you a fee for using their service. Other options will include bank and credit cards, e-wallets, and bank transfers. Note that in 2020, new rules may come into place regarding depositing with credit cards.
All Options Under One Roof: As mentioned, many of the UK’s leading casinos will offer you bingo, poker, sports betting, and casino games all under one roof. Moreover, they will do so via mobile-friendly domains. This is one of the major lures of the best UK betting sites, and it enables gamblers to try their hand at a variety of top games without ever having to leave the website or sign up at another domain.
As you can see, the United Kingdom excels at ensuring that its players can sign up and wager at friendly, safe, and secure casinos. The UK is one of the strictest nations in the world when it comes to regulation, but at the same time, it is also one of the most open when it comes to gambling online. It is hard to find a country which has managed to maintain this balance as well as the UK. Owing to the number of casinos which are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission, the array of games you can choose from, and regulations which are in place, UK players are always advised to play with a recommended online casino like those on this website and avoid playing at offshore casinos. There is just no need to take that risk when you have so many star quality options representing the best casinos for players in the United Kingdom.