Self-excluded players targeted by illegal sites in the UK and beyond

Self-excluded players targeted by illegal sites in the UK and beyond - Banner
Paul Clare
by Paul Clare Last updated:

British gamblers have access to an arsenal of safer gambling tools, including those which enable them to self-exclude, which is a central part of the industry’s efforts to combat problem gambling. However, a number of illegal sites have sought to undermine these tools and are actively targeting vulnerable individuals. 


There are a number of illegal casinos operating throughout Europe. Recently, Yield Sec, a black market analysis tool, found a number of unlicensed companies committing what it refers to as ‘vulnerable victimisation’.

When a legal casino breaches rules by contacting a self-excluded player, they are held accountable. However, Yield Sec has found illegal operators deliberately targeting people registered for self-exclusion.

Search engine keywords and terms have been used in an effort to appeal to UK players registered with Gamstop’s self-exclusion scheme. Similar patterns have been observed in Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany and Sweden. 

In fact, one study found that, despite the fact that Spelpaus, Sweden’s self-exclusion scheme, aims to stop access to all legal sites, almost half of those registered have engaged in gambling, and most of this took place online – suggesting an alarming amount of illegal activity taking place.

In pursuit of increased revenues, illegal gambling sites have demonstrated that they are willing to go to drastic and immoral lengths – which will ultimately be very damaging to some of the most vulnerable individuals. 

The wider problem with illegal casinos

Malicious marketing tactics aren’t the only thing wrong with illegal casinos. Whether by design or oversight many often lack the required support tools designed to help vulnerable gamblers.

The are also far less likely to contribute to the economy in the same way as licensed sites. And when the mandatory levy is brought in as a result of the industry’s ongoing overhaul, they are unlikely to be rushing to pay that either.

Illegal casinos are also much more likely to overlook, or even enable, underage gambling, which can cause substantial individual and societal harm. They may not perform responsible background checks, leading to players losing larger amounts of money in shorter periods of time.

Furthermore, a number of these websites have previously been associated with other illegal activities, including money laundering. According to the data, these organisations currently make up 2% of the UK gambling market, and they’re on the rise

How to avoid illegal casinos

Here’s the good news: there are plenty of reputable, reliable and upstanding casinos out there for players to choose from. And you will only see reputable, licensed casinos on this website.

That said, it’s not always easy to sort the wheat from the chaff, especially when, in some cases, there are legislative ambiguities which have led to legal grey areas. Here are a few simple steps that players can take to stay safe:

  1. Check the casino's licence. This is the most straightforward and thorough way to confirm that a particular casino is legitimate. Look for the licence number at the bottom of the webpage, then check it against the UKGC’s register. 
  2. Don't play at a casino that isn't licensed by the UKGC.
  3. Consider the payment methods. Reliable sites will support well-known e-wallets and debit cards. Note that if a site accepts credit cards, they are breaking UK law.
  4. Contact customer support. In the case of most legitimate sites, it’s generally quite easy to get in touch with a customer service agent. If it’s tricky, consider that a big red flag.
  5. Look into security and responsible gambling tools. Reliable sites offer tools such as session timers and deposit limits. Trustworthy sites are also more forthcoming with information about SSL encryption and anti-fraud measures.
  6. Expect to verify. If a site doesn’t require you to present and confirm your ID before letting you withdraw, be very wary.

The British gambling industry is robust, regulated and healthy. In order to maintain this, players are urged to report any illegal casinos they come across to the UKGC.

The British gambling industry

The internet is, in many respects, an ungovernable wilderness. VPNs enable people to negate blocks, and blacklisting sites appears to have a limited effect.

Whilst mainland Europe is generally vulnerable to illegal sites, UK players are relatively safe. Our industry is tightly regulated, ensuring individuals are protected. 

Authorised casino websites are are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), after they have deemed the casino reliable, trustworthy, and in adherence with the Commission’s regulations pertaining to transparency and fairness.

The UKGC is responsible for auditing, vetting, and granting licences to casinos, and widely considered to be as effective as any gambling regulator in the world. 

Still, it faces a number of tough challenges, as well as the possibility that imposing a stake limit may have undesired adverse effects.

The bottom line

The British gambling industry is well-regulated, with plenty of measures in place to protect players, and various defences against illegal casinos’ efforts to attract them.

But that’s not to say that individuals carry no responsibility or can be too blasé – some degree of due diligence should be carried out. It’s crucial that we look critically at a casino site before surrendering our personal details and money to it. 

By following these best practices, UK players will go a long way to ensuring their funds and personal details are in the safest possible hands.

All casino sites reviewed or recommended on have been licensed by the UKGC.