Regulation, Bonuses and Games at Licensed UK Online Casinos
The UK has been a gambling-friendly country for many years. There are slots (fruit machines) in every bar – and at least one bookmaker on every high street. If you live in England, Scotland or Wales then any company providing gambling online comes under the jurisdiction of the UK Gambling Commission. This body has multiple roles including licensing, dealing with advertising and ensuring UK players get a fair deal.
This guide to online casinos in the UK covers the Gambling Commission’s role and much more. You’ll find detailed information on getting the most from casino bonuses, how to deposit and withdraw – plus the types of casino games available below.
Top UK Casino Sites Online in 2019
Here is how this information is laid out:
- UK Gambling and the Law: How the Gambling Commission regulates online casinos and protects UK players.
- Finding a Reputable Casino: Not all licensed casinos are equal, this section covers what to look out for to find the best UK casinos.
- Casino Bonus Offers: Within the guidelines of the Gambling Commission, a UK casino online can offer a range of bonuses, free play and promotions.
- Payment Methods: How you can get your money safely onto and off from casinos
- Game Choices: Here I look at popular table games (including the live dealer options) plus slots.
UK Online Casinos and the Law: The Gambling Commission
Anyone over 18 can gamble in the UK. In 2005 an act of Parliament created the Gambling Commission. This is an independent agency with wide ranging responsibility covering all gambling activity. They monitor all gambling sites including high street bookmakers, bingo halls, live casinos, the national lottery and online gambling in all formats.
In 2014 a licensing system was bought into effect for any online casino wishing to offer casino games for UK players. In order to get a license, online casinos need to;
- Prove game fairness
- Segregate player funds from operating expenses
- Provide protection and self-exclusion for problem gamblers
- Not operate in grey markets (for example the US outside of regulated States)
- Adhere to a fair system of dealing with player complaints
- Adhere to advertising regulations provided by the commission
This is quite a list, especially when you compare it to the less formal criteria for licenses in offshore tax havens.
UK players enjoy broad protection via the commission. It should be noted that under UK law, gambling losses are not recoverable from UK gambling sites.
Finding a Reputable Casino in the UK
With so many licensed casinos under the watchful eye of the Gambling Commission, there is simply no need for UK players to use unlicensed brands. That does not mean that all UK gambling sites are equal. You’ll find big differences in the level of customer service, speed of cash out requests and types of games available between the brands.
My recommendation is that you stick with the biggest and best-known brands around. While it is easy for a casino to claim they are the ‘best’, only after 5 or more years dealing with players fairly and quickly can you be sure. Examples of big brands with excellent service (and game-selection) include Bet365 and Betway.
UK Casinos: What Kind of Bonus Offers Can I Find?
One of the big advantages to United Kingdom players of having a regulated and competitive market is that the casinos are fighting for your custom. To entice new players, there are many forms of bonus available.
The Gambling Commission does not allow ambiguity in advertisements. This makes casino bonuses easier to compare than those in other countries. There are differences in the ‘small print’ which you need to be aware of. These include play-though requirements, how many days your bonus is active for and in some cases restrictions on the kind of games you can play.
Here are the main types of online casino bonuses in the UK:
- Free Spins: Many casinos give you a small number of free spins on slot games before you make a deposit. You can keep some winnings, subject to a cap and play-through requirement. You will often get more free spins the first time you make a real money deposit.
- No Deposit Chip Bonuses: Slots are not the only way to enjoy a no-deposit bonus. You will find some casinos offering free play on table games (or even live dealer casinos). Again, expect your winnings to be capped for these offers.
- Matched Deposit Bonuses: This is the most common format. All casinos will double your first deposit, with some offering a 200%+ match (£20 in bonus money for every £10 deposited). Play-through and weightings on bonus clearing for different games should be compared before taking a matched bonus.
- Tournament Entries: You’ll sometimes get entry to a slot tournament along with your initial deposit.
- Reload Bonuses: These are for existing players, giving you some extra cash to play with if you need to reload your account.
- Loyalty Rewards: The most common format is a points collection scheme. Some casinos run these in tiers, giving you bigger rewards the more you play. Points can be exchanged for bonuses or cash.
You might also find bigger UK casino brands offering incentives to try out their other types of gambling. For example, a no-lose bet on a major sporting event.
Moving Money: Deposit and Withdrawal Options for UK Casino Players
Unlike in other countries, there are no restrictions in what payment methods you can use to fund your casino accounts. Some players are happy to use their credit or debit cards, while others prefer to keep their bank and casino gambling separated.
While not every casino will accept every possible option, the list below will give you an idea of just how wide your deposit method options are:
- Credit / Debit Cards: MasterCard, Visa, Amex, Maestro and Visa Electron are the most common brands used. You might also find some casinos welcome Diners Club.
- Virtual Cards: You can find these via online services like EntroPay and EcoCard, essentially a MasterCard or Visa which you fund from your bank account before using online.
- Electronic Wallets: PayPal is the best-known, though there are many others including Neteller and Skrill. Only the biggest and best casinos accept PayPal.
- Prepaid Vouchers: PaySafeCard is the best-known in this category. You buy these from petrol stations and convenience shops. They contain a pin-number like a credit card – and can be combined in an online account.
- Banking Services: Local bank transfers, wires and even paper cheques come under this category.
- Mobile Payments: ApplePay, Boku and other popular mobile phone payment options are starting to become widespread.
All online casino sites in the UK need to perform a ‘Know Your Customer’ check before you can withdraw any money. This is to prevent fraud and money laundering and is part of their obligations under the Gambling Commission licensing scheme.
If you want to speed up withdrawing your winnings, then I recommend being prepared for this check. You’ll need id and (if you used one) a picture of your bank / credit card (you can black out some numbers).
Once this is completed, your withdrawal will go back to whichever method you used to deposit. This is not always possible (especially with vouchers / virtual MasterCard options). The default here would be to use a local bank transfer instead. You might be able to work with a casino to arrange alternative withdrawal methods.
Game Choices at the Top Online Casinos UK
With the biggest and best brands around, you’ll have a massive choice of games. What you will find is that the casinos and the creators of the games are separate companies. The casino brands license games from the likes of IGT, MicroGaming and NetEnt. Some give you the option to play all the titles, while others curate their own ‘best of’ lists.
The broad categories of casino games available are:
- Table Games
- Live Dealer Games
- Video Poker
- Bingo and Novelty Games
Below is a quick overview of what to expect from each category
Slots at UK Online Casinos
You’ll get the biggest selection of slots from the biggest and best software houses. There are literally 1000’s of games to choose from. These range from titles with multi-million progressive jackpots, to simple 3-reel games where you simply line up the 7’s.
While slots used to be created by a handful of huge software houses, the move to browser-based (no-download) casinos has led to a boom. New, smaller software houses can now get their titles licensed by big casinos – bringing players even more choice.
Most online slots look nothing like the fruit machines you’ll find in pubs. The complexity of bonus games, amazing animations and entertaining themes get more complex with every passing year. Fortunately, you can try out video slots at most UK casinos for free before you spin for real money.
Many of the best online casinos in the UK have separate ‘Vegas’ or ‘Arcade’ sections. Here you will find online versions of popular live slots from the likes of WMS, Bally and IGT.
Table Games and Live Dealer Table Games at UK Casinos
Until recently, table games including blackjack, roulette and baccarat were played against the computer. These games are still popular, though these days many players prefer live dealer table games instead.
Instead of playing against the software, you’ll bet while a real dealer deals cards (or spins the roulette wheel). This is done via remote studios around the world. The betting layout is the same as that from the software table games.
A major difference when enjoying live dealer table games in the UK is that they are timed. Since many players are enjoying the same game, you’ll have 15 seconds to make a decision before the hand continues without you. There is a social element in these games. You can chat with the dealers or the other players via text if you want.
Live dealer table games include the following options these days:
- Blackjack: This is the most popular table game and is played with 7 seats at a table. There are also one hand to many player variations which are a little faster.
- Roulette: Live dealer games with croupiers are running, some with impressive slow-motion replays. You can also find ‘Auto Roulette’, with wheels that spin without the need for a croupier.
- Casino Poker Games: These games work well in the live dealer setup. Many people bet on a single hand, which continues to the end (someone always bets!). Variations include 3-Card poker, Casino Hold’em, Caribbean Stud and Ultimate Texas Hold’em.
- Baccarat: The high roller favourite is also spread in live dealer casinos.
There are other games, including wheel of fortune style games, Sic-Bo and ‘Party’ themed variations of regular table games. If you have not yet checked out Live Dealer casino games, I recommend you do so next time you play!
Video Poker Games, Bingo and Novelty Games
There are plenty of video poker games available online. This popular format includes traditional titles like Deuces Wild, Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker. You’ll also find some entertaining variations. Double Double Bonus Poker, 100 hand variations and even games based on different poker formats can be enjoyed.
Bingo games include Keno (the US version of Bingo). These games are often played with entertaining themes. Single player games can be found at most UK casinos, with special bingo sites (or sections on larger gambling brands) offering more social multi-player games.
Novelty games include scratch cards and game-show style mini-games. These can be entertaining, and some have huge top prizes. I do recommend you double check the house-edge before you play this type of game.