Understanding Online Bingo Regulation in the UK
With the UK’s online bingo market set for huge regulatory changes at the end of 2014, our team at VIPBingo.co.uk decided to explain how online bingo is currently regulated in the UK.
In this guide, we’ll explain how bingo sites are regulated and governed by the UK gambling commission; the different whitelisted gambling jurisdictions; the steps required to gain a license; and the overall level of trust you can expect from bingo sites.
- How are Bingo Sites Regulated in the UK?
- How Does Being Regulated Ensure Trust and Safety?
- Where Can I Find Which Bingo Sites are Regulated?
- How do I File a Complain with a Bingo Site?
The gambling commission was established in 2005, taking over from the Gaming Board of Great Britain, in regulating the majority of gambling related activities in the UK. This includes both land-based casinos and remote gambling operators such as online casinos and bingo sites.
The UK Gambling Commission is a non-departmental, independent commission that is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS). It includes around 200 employees and is funded by the license application and renewal fees of its members.
2. How Does Being Regulated Help Ensure Trust and Safety?
Becoming compliant with the Gambling Commission requires operators to act in accordance with the UK Gambling Act (2005), the License Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) and any technical standards that apply to operating licenses.
As can bee seen on the Gambling Commission’s official website, the commission ensures compliance through:
- Carrying out reviews and visits
- Giving specific advice and guidance to license holders
- Taking remedial or preventative action
- Imposing additional license conditions
- Reviewing financial information
What this means for players is that bingo sites are required to provide you with a fair gaming experience and to keep your funds safely secured. This means when you deposit your money or play real money at a bingo site then you can rest assure that the games aren’t rigged and that everyone has a good chance of winning.
Finally, any legal issues at a bingo site can be reported to the relevant licensing authorities. This means that players will always have an avenue to discuss their grievances.
3. How Does a Bingo Sites Apply for a License?
Any bingo site that wants to advertise its services to UK players will need to be licensed by the UK gambling commission. There are two ways a bingo site can receive a license:
- Any country that’s part of the European Economic Area (EEA) is automatically allowed to advertise their services to UK players.
- Operators that have a license from the Gambling Commission’s official whitelist of accepted regions.
Gambling Commissions Whitelist of Accepted Regions:
This currently includes:
- Alderney (whitelisted in 2007) – gamblingcontrol.org
- Antigua and Barbuda (whitelisted in 2008) –antiguagaming.gov.ag
- Gibraltar –gra.gi
- Isle of Man and Tasmania (whitelisted in 2008) – gov.im/gambling
Any operator that is licensed by one of the above territories will be authorized automatically by the UK Gambling Commission (under the 2005 Gambling Act) to advertise to UK players.
The reason why these regions are whitelisted is because they meet the strict requirements and conditions of the UK gambling commission. This includes fair gaming, security, player fraud and ensuring the all players are at least 18 years of age.
Subsequent applications for regional authorities to become whitelisted by the Gambling Commission were closed in April 2009.
4. What are the Requirements of Applying for a License?
Bingo sites must meet a number of criteria before they can apply and have a license accepted. These vary from the different licensing authorities but in general include:
- Gambling is conducted in a safe and fair way using random number generators (RNG) to prevent fraud
- Gambling is not used to support criminal activities in the region
- Gambling doesn’t affect children or vulnerable players
- Operations are subject to rules of money laundering
- Players can withdraw their winnings within a reasonable time period
- Players can easily get in touch with the appropriate authorities to resolve any disputes arising at a bingo site
5. How Can I Find Which Bingo Sites are Licensed in the UK?
Bingo sites are required to publish their regulatory and license information on the homepage footer of their website, such 888Ladies.com has done below. If you can’t see any licensing information then you should avoid depositing money here.
The Gambling Commission also has a website set up that allows you to search and view the status of operators with and without a UK license. You can search and view all license holders here.
The only issue with the website is that different operators have different types of licenses. For example, some sites will have “software licenses” while others will have “bingo” or “remote gaming” licenses.
6. White Label Bingo Sites that are licensed as Network Skins
It’s well worth noting that many bingo sites actually operate as skins and are therefore licensed by the bingo software themselves. For example, all bingo sites on the Live Bingo Network (including 40+ with 16 new bingo sites launched in 2014) are licensed and operated by Cozy Games Management Ltd.
Many affiliates decide to launch bingo skins because they’re easy to manage (they can launch a skin in less than 2 weeks) and are already regulated through the software provider. This means that although the skin is realistically owned by an individual, for licensing and regulatory purposes it is regulated through the software provider.
What Happens if you have an Issue with a Regulated Bingo Site?
If you have any issues with a bingo site then you should first try contact the site itself. Most of the bingo sites promoted on VIPBingo.co.uk offer live customer support and email, which will allow you to get in contact with the site.
Please note that you should also read the terms and conditions of the site carefully when it comes to things such as rollover bonuses, promotions and withdrawal requirements before you submit your complaint.
If you cannot resolve your problem then the next step is to contact the licensing body (see the footer of the site for licensing details) to address your problem.
Why do Most Bingo Sites Operate Abroad?
You’ll find that approximately 95% of bingo sites are based abroad in order to avoid the high taxes of the UK financial system. In the UK, remote gambling operators are required to pay 15% tax. This is in comparison to the 1% tax that online gaming companies pay in Gibraltar for example (capped at £425,000).
As you can see, it makes much more financial sense to base operations in whitelisted regions such as Gibraltar or Alderney then it does to remain in the UK.
If you want to know where a bingo site is based then this information should also available in the homepage footer of the website.