Casino licensing and regulation: A complete guide

Casino licensing and regulation: A complete guide - Banner
Sam Gascoyne
by Sam Gascoyne Last updated:

Everything you need to know about casino licensing and regulation

Licensing and regulation might seem boring at first glance, however it's without doubt the most vital cog in the machine when it comes to absolutely any online casino. 

Casinos require a license from at least one of several high-profile regulators in order to legitimise themselves as a reputable and safe site for players to bet at. 

The licenses handed out by regulators give casinos a strong set of rules and regulations to abide by which ensure they're being held to the highest of standards in a number of key areas.

It's important to us here at No Wagering that every single no wagering casino featured on the site offers players the very best online casino experience. That's why our casinos are always licensed by a trusted regulator such as the UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority or the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association.

What do casino licenses ensure?

As mentioned above, being licensed by a regulator means that casinos must follow a number of strict guidelines that ensure they're always acting fairly and socially responsible at all times.

It's easy to assume that the number one thing regulators clamp down on is financial disputes, such as unpaid winnings, however it goes much deeper than that. Regulators ensure a number of things are kept in check including: 

Anti-money laundering safeguards

All licensed casinos are required to keep a tight check on their anti-money laundering safeguards, ensuring the relevant processes are in place to detect and combat possible money laundering with the help of the regulator and law enforcement. 

Due to the very nature of online gambling it's very possible that unscrupulous individuals/organisations could use a casino as a way to turn ill-gained funds into legitimate funds.

Self-exclusion schemes

Licensed casinos are required to offer their players the opportunity to self-exclude if they feel that their gambling habits are spiralling out of control. 

Self-exclusion can range from a short period of time (A few days or weeks), and is often referred to as a cooling off period. A longer period of time (Several months) would be referred to as a temporary suspension and a full self-exclusion, which is a much more permanent solution, can last for up to 5 years.

Underage Gambling

Naturally all casinos are expected to ensure that underage gambling does not occur whatsoever at their sites. Regulators often work with outside organisations to test just how successful operators are at combatting underage gambling and the procedures they have in place to stop it in its tracks.

Advertising and marketing materials

It's imperative that casinos are socially responsible, this extends to all of their advertising and marketing. Regulators ensure that the advertising and marketing materials put out by operators does no overly-glamorise online gambling, showing it as a easy way to make quick money. 

It's also important that advertising does not appeal to, or target minors or vulnerable players that have self-excluded. 

Technical standards

Casinos must comply with the regulators technical standards and requirements. This means that games should be thoroughly tested using trusted casino software that ensures they're safe and fair to use. Whilst this is more of a point geared towards developers, it's still important for casinos to ensure the games they host are compliant.

Educating responsible gambling practices

Casinos are required to provide players with the information that educates them on safe gambling practices, as well as opening an honest dialogue as to what the consequences are of excessive gambling. This information should be displayed across websites as well as in marketing materials and advertisements.

Contributions to research, education and treatment of problem gambling

Those holding a license from the UK Gambling Commission specifically are expected to make a voluntary financial contribution towards research, education and treatment of problem gambling. 

What happens to casinos that don't comply with their license? 

If it's found that an operator is being non-compliant with the rules stipulated in their license then it's down to the regulator to investigate the matter first and foremost before taking further action. 

If it's a small issue that hasn't directly impacted individuals such as something administrative, then it might well just be a slap on the wrists and a stern talking to for the offending party. 

If it's found that a casino has seriously breached the rules such as failing to do the proper affordability checks with high-spending player, tracking the source of funds or marketing to self-excluded players, they can expect to be handed a large fine reaching into the millions, or they could be stripped of their license to operate altogether.

Which regulatory bodies can casinos be licensed by?  

There are a number of trusted regulatory bodies around the globe that are responsible for licensing online casinos, seeing their logo at the bottom of a casino's website can be hugely reassuring as it means that they're held to account and will hopefully operate to the very highest of standards. 

In many cases, casinos catering solely to a specific player-base in a specific country are licensed by a branch of their own government. This allows them to carefully curate what kind of casino games / betting options residents have access to.

UK Gambling Commission (UKGC)

The most sought after and reputable license an online casino can possess, the UK Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating all commercial gambling within the United Kingdom. 

The Gambling Commission are responsible for thousands of operators and have earned themselves a reputation for being one of the safest jurisdictions in the world. If any domestic or overseas operator wishes to offer their online gambling services to players within the UK then they must obtain a UK license. 

In order to obtain a remote operating license (One that lets players bet online) operators must meet strict criteria and pay a registration fee and commit to paying a yearly fee from then on which is calculated based on the operators overall income. 

Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)

The Malta Gaming Authority is a regulatory body that's held in very high regard and offers a good alternative to a UK license for operators (However, if they wish to have UK players they still must obtain a UK Gambling Commission license). 

Despite being located in the tiny country of Malta, the Malta Gaming Authority were active before the UK passed their own gambling bill in 2005. Malta was also the first EU country to regulate iGaming and hosts around 10% of the world's iGaming companies.

Casinos holding a license from the Malta Gaming Authority can be genuinely trusted as they ensure their operators abide by a strict regulatory framework.

Trusted casinos regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority:-

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Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA)

The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association are renowned for having representing a number of high-profile Gibraltar based operators that have included Bet365, Betfair, Ladbrokes and William Hill all at some time in the past decade. 

Gibraltar has been offering gambling licenses since 1998 and has been popular due to the its low tax and lack of VAT charges. Such has been the success of the iGaming economy in Gibraltar that it has been named as the 'Virtual Las Vegas'. 

Casinos regulated by the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association can be trusted. Especially if the operator also holds a UKGC License or MGA License.

Curaçao eGaming

Curaçao eGaming have been in operation since 1996 and are known for being significantly more relaxed in terms of who they license. Many brand new casinos will opt for a Curaçao license for a number of reasons, most notably the low income tax rate of 2% and the short 2-3 week turnaround it takes in order to get your license approved. A Curaçao eGaming license also covers all gambling products, which is much more convenient for the operator.

Whilst it's not to say that all casinos holding a Curaçao license should be completely avoided, players should approach sites that only hold this license with a degree of caution as players aren't as well protected as they would be by other regulators. It's also worth noting that Curacao licensees cannot accept UK players unless they have the necessary permit. 

Other casino regulatory bodies to be aware of

There are a number of other casino regulatory bodies to look out for that can be trusted. If you're a UK player you can safely play at casinos regulated by Alderney, Isle of Man, Antigua and Barbuda and Tasmania, as long as they have a UK Gambling Commission license as well. Other well known regulatory bodies include: New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (United States), Spelinspektionen (Sweden), Veikkaus (Finland), ARJEL (France), Roskomnadzor (Russia) just to name a few.

Unlicensed casinos and the danger they pose

Players may be drawn into playing at an unlicensed casino due to an incredibly generous welcome offer that seems too good to turn down, or perhaps because online casinos aren't accessible in their locale... However, playing at an unlicensed casino is never recommended due to the risk it carries. 

Because there is nobody in place to regulate them, unlicensed operators are free to operate as they like, this means they can take liberties and potentially scam players.

Rest assured, here at No Wagering we promise players that we will never point them in the direction of an unlicensed online casino that could pose any sort of risk. Here are five potential dangers posed by playing at an unlicensed casino:

Lack of customer support

Many online casinos are run by a small number of people, meaning that they do not have the infrastructure in place to help and support those that require help for any reason. You could find yourself struggling to withdraw, and having no sort of assistance in order to get what is rightfully yours.

Predatory terms and conditions

Unlicensed casinos may well attach unfair wagering requirements to their bonuses that are completely unattainable. Because they don't need to answer to any regulatory bodies they may well change their terms and conditions whenever they feel like it, meaning that players are stung by small print that they didn't initially know existed. 

Potential security flaws

Regulated casinos have the benefit of being secure and safe to use as a must. Unregulated operators may well have unsecure websites or apps, meaning that attackers may well be able to compromise the site and steal personal data.

Rigged games

All casino games at regulated casinos must be tested by an approved third party to ensure that they're fair and completely random. Unlicensed sites may tamper with the RNG of untested games so that they're rigged in their favour, meaning the casino is winning more often than they should be.

Your personal data could be stolen

Signing up to a casino often means handing over a lot of personal data. There are strict rules and regulations in place to determine what is done with this data and how it's used. It could well be the case that an unlicensed casino is collecting personal data and selling it onto a third party.