Are Non-UKGC Licensed Casino Sites Illegal?

It’s a common expectation within the UK that all gambling sites are legally licensed under the appropriate UKGV licenses. This ensures that they can operate fully legally and with efficiency throughout the country and not be at risk of legal intervention.

UKGC Logo
UKGC Logo

But with non-UKGC licensed casinos appearing in the market, the discussion of their legality is brewing. Leaving many gamblers in a state of confusion about legislation, non-UKGC licensed casinos provide an enticing alternative to regular gambling sites - but the ins and outs of their legal status are unknown to a majority of gamblers.

Are They Legal?

To answer simply - no. The implementation of UKGC licensing is in place so that online gambling firms can be regulated by the Gambling Commission. The primary purpose of this licensing is to ensure that gambling sites aren’t taking advantage of their players whether this is through a lack of gambling-conscious advertising, a lack of financial support, or through other more deceptive ways in which gamblers are being taken advantage of.

A majority of non-UKGC licensed casinos operating in the UK are created with the sole purpose of conning gamblers out of their money and leaving them vulnerable to cyber financial attacks, which can damage the financial health of the gamblers using these platforms.

Illegal gambling platforms often have no platforms overseeing their operations, meaning they can operate however they choose and this is often with malicious intent. With them not having a UKGC license this shows that they are unverified and not to be trusted, as the UKGC is one of the most distinguished and strict gambling legislators in the world.

Why Are There More Illegal Sites?

With the internet facilitating all sorts of shady websites and content, it is unsurprising that unregulated casinos can operate under the nose of regulatory officials. With the internet not prohibiting illegal activity with comprehensive legal action, many non-UKGC licensed casinos are able to open their doors and lure gamblers in their direction.

The internet allowing this type of illegal activity means that governing bodies have a hard time trying to isolate every unregulated and illegal online casino, as there is a huge volume of them. Many of which show up in search results for ‘sportsbook’ and ‘online casino’ search categories.

How Do They Get Customers?

To many people the thought of knowing that a gambling site is illegal acts as an instant deterrent from using their sites. However, they have a multitude of methods that allow them to attract vulnerable gamblers with their range of promising offers.

Many non-UKGC licensed casinos offer extortionate odds that are not inapplicable in a general betting context and this hosts a treasure trove of crime. With these immense odds on unregulated online casinos, many gamblers may feel obliged to place a bet in this category and take their chances with these huge odds.

The same premise applies with the extortionate stakes and top jackpots that they openly broadcast around their sites - with these often dwarfing regular online casinos. These enticing offers leave many gamblers susceptible to their lure and ultimately result in people placing bets and taking a chance at these games.

Yet these unregulated casinos often take advantage of gamblers’ finances by using unregulated payment methods that can put gamblers in positions of danger with their finances. These can then expose them to a barrage of cybercrimes that can attack their finances or leave them with a huge deposit taken from their account, never to be seen again.

Due to the gambling sites being illegal, gamblers cannot file fraud complaints with the site itself to try and retrieve their lost funds - which essentially strips gamblers of their consumer rights and exploits them financially.

Additionally, these gambling sites don’t tend to have any displayed gamble-aware or conscious advertisements or information on their site, which creates an environment where safe gambling is out of the question. They also don’t place any restrictions on how long gamblers can play for, which exploits those who are more vulnerable to unlimited gambling and takes advantage of these consumers.

Legal Ambiguity

There is an aspect of the law that does allow these non-UKGC casinos to operate, however. Gambling companies are expected to receive a license and sign up to the Gamstop scheme, which is essentially a tax measure that determines how much an online casino has to pay each year and the regulations they need to abide by.

However, companies who are not signed up to Gamstop are legal for gamblers to play on, yet they aren’t allowed to advertise.

So with many licensed gambling companies not opting to sign up to this scheme due to legal ambiguity, unlicensed casinos are also able to take advantage of this and evade legal prosecution by falling under similar categories as licensed, non-taxpaying casinos.

This essentially creates a breeding ground in which unlicensed casinos can exploit the legal system and claim to be operating legally, despite how they are fundamentally illegal due to their lack of license.

The lack of license means that they are illegal as they haven’t received verification from an authoritative body, yet signing up to Gamstop isn’t necessarily illegal - just morally and legally ambiguous.

Non-Gamstop Casinos

As touched upon previously, casinos that are granted a license are recommended to register with Gamstop, so that they can legally advertise within the UK - at the cost of having to abide by legal implementations such as the GambleAware programmes, that aim to limit exploitation of gamblers and to reduce the percentage of gamblers who suffer from gambling addiction.

Casinos that operate without a Gamstop registration are entirely legal, yet they are prohibited from advertising their services due to the fact that they are believed to incite unhealthy gambling behaviours.

These casinos abide by no Gamble Aware schemes and they don’t limit how long gamblers can play for and they don’t have to advertise the importance of safe gambling.

These casinos are often a hub of players who are either adventuring through the online gambling platforms that the internet has to offer or they are removing themselves from safe gambling environments so that they can play irresponsibly.

The similarities between non-Gamstop casinos and non-UKGC licensed casinos are starkly similar, which emphasises how unregulated casinos are free to operate often without consequenece due to the blurred lines between the two types of casinos and the services that they offer.

This allows non-UKGC casinos to hide in broad daylight and offer their services to a range of gamblers across the country with ease.

Government Action

With the legal ambiguity that surrounds non-UKGC licensed casinos and how easily they can blend in amongst the rest of non-Gamstop casinos - this shows the dire state of the online gambling market and how action needs to be taken in order to take a stand against fraudsters and exploiters.

In May 2020, the Gambling Commission first began to impose stricter regulations that aimed to protect gamblers during the first lockdown, as online gambling boomed due to the convenience and accessibility of having those platforms available on your mobile phone.

Whilst the government, as of yet, haven’t enforced any legislative restrictions on these non-UKGC licensed companies, they have begun to take more moves to tackle the issue of gambling addiction and problem gambling as the pandemic has left many gamblers resorting to the comfort of their favourite apps throughout the day.

In a move to help limit the potential for problem gambling to rise throughout the course of the pandemic, the Gambling Commission implemented interim checks on gamblers who were engaged for more than an hour consistently, new customer monitoring to hone in on any unusual behaviour, amongst a series of other moves made with the intent of limiting problem gambling and addiction throughout the UK.

This move shows a gradual start to the government implementing more protective measures for gamblers - yet the need for more regulation on non-UKGC licensed gambling sites is dire.

The Bottom Line

With non-UKGC casinos being illegal within the UK, this highlights the lack of authority taken over the unregulated casinos within the country. As non-UKGC licensed companies become rifer amongst the online gambling market this presents a pressing need for government action to protect the best interests of gamblers who could be exploited by this content.

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