Dave Talbot
Last updated: January 2, 2024

What Are Gambling Licenses?

There are multiple different jurisdictions and licensing options for an online gambling operator in today's market. The UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority, Isle of Man, Curacao and Spelinspektionen (Sweden), Alderney, Denmark and Belgium licenses are the most commonly issued licenses. This article is going to fully explain everything you need to know about online gambling regulations and licenses and help tackle any questions you may have about each one and what they mean to you. 

We aim to provide you with an informative, up-to-date guide on the top online gambling jurisdictions in the world and how they help us determine an online gambling site's safety, credibility and accountability. This is so that we are confident that anything we put on our pages is safe and legitimate, and as a customer – you’re entirely safeguarded.

Gambling online is not legal in every country or jurisdiction; in fact, it’s illegal in many countries. However, in those where you can gamble online legally, there will often be a license that a gambling operator will need to acquire before they can offer online gambling (or take any wagers or online bets) to that country.

Countries Where Online Gambling Is Regulated

In countries where it is legal to gamble, such as the UK, Denmark and Sweden, it’s up to the government what regulations, gambling rules, taxes and laws they demand on the gambling industry. This means that jurisdictions can differ wildly from one country to the other. Heavier regulation has thrown a spanner in the works for many online gambling operators: some have not found it possible to acquire such licenses for operational or even economic reasons, but it has helped to weed out the mediocre gambling sites operating in regulated jurisdictions.

💡 Governments often want to license and control the gambling industry because it’s a surefire way for them to earn tax revenue from profits and licensing fees. The worldwide online gambling industry is worth billions, after all, so it’s no surprise that, little by little, governments have become savvier and have applied laws to force operators to obtain licenses in their territory. This results in much more tax revenue for the country, and it also helps attract reputable businesses only, which in itself helps protect the countries by making safe and legal gambling sites available. Regulation is a win-win scenario for all.

What Licensees Have To Uphold

Obtaining a gambling license is not as easy as waving a wad of cash in front of a regulator; It’s far more intricate than that. Below is a quick-glance list of what gambling licensees will be subject to an answer for:

  • Regularly monitored by the regulator
  • Safeguarding the rights of players
  • Protection of players and operators from criminal activities
  • Measures against fraud and money laundering
  • Protection of minors and an active approach to gambling
  • Protect problem gamblers: ensuring safe gambling at all times, offering tools and self-exclusion programs for those with a gambling problem.
  • Failure to uphold their licensing obligations will often result in a strike-off, where the gambling operator could lose their license to trade in that country indefinitely or face huge fines.

Most Trusted Gambling Licenses

Below is a top list of the world's most sought-after, highly respected gambling licenses. Whilst some may not apply to you if you see a gambling site with one in its possession, it only points to very positive things:

  • United Kingdom
  • Malta
  • Sweden
  • Alderney
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Gibraltar
  • Isle of Man
  • AAMS (Italy)
  • New Jersey (as well as many other US states)

UK Gambling Commission (UKGC)

Possibly the toughest gambling regulator is the UK Gambling Commission. The UK Gambling Commission, or the “UKGC” for short, provides licences to any gambling operation (both offline and online) in the United Kingdom. Without a licence, gambling companies cannot operate within the UK or target UK players legally. The Gambling Commission was set up in 2007 with HQ with over 300 staff after the 2005 Gambling Act was introduced.

What Does The The UKGC Do?

The UKGC tackles a wide range of activities, including their UK gambling research, implementing new gambling rules, investigating player complaints, and issuing licenses, among many other things. The UKGC is well known for being the most stringent of regulators – one which you do not want to fall foul of. The UKGC offers a comprehensive website that is full of information about online and offline gambling in the UK, the latest news, as well as a handy lookup area where you can look up licensees and gambling operators for all sorts of information, including their trading names, license number and all of their verified URLs which are active (or inactive) under their operations.

Maintaining Safety, Responsibility & The Protection of Minors

However, the UKGC’s main priority is the safety of online gamblers in the UK. Regulating online gambling operators ensures that they can, to a certain degree, ensure gambling sites are operating fairly and transparently, pay out winnings' faults, and protect players and minors from crime and money laundering. The UK Gambling Commission enforces a fine on any company which fails to meet its regulations. And they aren’t shy about the matter either. To help enforce their rules and policies, operators aren’t just let off with a warning or a threat to lose their license. They are also threatened with hefty fines, which the UKGC aren’t afraid to dish out.

💡 There have been some highly publicised casualties in the past couple of years, with the biggest fine of £7.5 Million being ordered to an online casino because they failed to implement enough responsible gambling measures for their customers. We think that the size of the fine is a pretty clear indication of just how seriously the UKGC takes responsible gambling.

Other Notable Licensing Regulatory Bodies

In addition to a UK Gambling Commission licence, some online casino operators also carry licenses from other regulators. These are jurisdictions outside the UK that carry out a comparable role to the UK Gambling Commission. Most of the time, operators will hold licenses from secondary (and occasionally more) licensing authorities to market and freely attract customers from wider territories than the UK. Licensing authorities are located all over the world, but the most established and trusted are:

Malta Gaming Authority

Whilst Malta may be one of the smallest countries and islands in the world, it has successfully ensured that it’s one of the biggest iGaming hubs in the world, positioned nicely thanks to the set up of the Malta Gaming Authority back in 1996. This made Malta the first country to set up a remote gambling license.

Gibraltar Gambling Commission

The Gibraltar Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating online gambling and also land-based gambling operations in Gibraltar. This includes more than 30 of the most popular online casino brands you see online today.

Alderney Gambling Control Commission

The license that’s issued by the Alderney Gambling Commission is a popular licensing jurisdiction among game developers: NetEnt, Play’n GO and Playtech each hold permits from this regulator. Gambling operator licensees that are also licensed by the Alderney Gambling Commission include BGO (and its sister casino sites) as well as land-based Aspers Casino.

Isle Of Man Gambling Supervision Commission

The Isle of Man has been governing land-based and online gambling operations for over 60 years. It’s recognised as a highly innovative regulator and recently became the first regulatory body to license a blockchain lottery operator.

What Gambling Licensing Means For You

As you can see, online gambling brands have to satisfy a wide range of rules and legalities to be able to market to and transact with players in the UK. It doesn’t matter if the operator is based in the UK or abroad. They must satisfy their licensing obligations at all times.  Always remember: if you are playing from the UK and a gambling site holds one of these alternative licenses, it must also hold a valid UK Gambling Commission license. All gambling sites that target players in the UK must have one. Otherwise, they are operating illegally and must be avoided at all costs because you won’t be protected.

Gambling Laws - Summary

The UK Gambling Commission is regarded as one of the best gambling regulators in the world. Since its inception, it has played a vital role in guaranteeing thousands of people across the UK to enjoy a safe, fair and responsible online gambling experience. The UKGC has made sure that you can get online in the safest way possible to play casino games and slots, bet on sports, buy lottery tickets, and all the other gambling products that fall under its dominion. Their goal is to protect you. 

This is why it’s imperative to play at online gambling sites that are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission (or licensed by those which will regulate your jurisdiction if you are reading this from outside the UK). The great news is that all of the online casinos, slot sites and sports betting sites we recommend on hold an active UK Gambling Commission licence, so you can be reassured that you will be playing at the best UK gambling sites.

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