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.
Here is how this information is laid out:
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;
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
Below is a quick overview of what to expect from each category
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.
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:
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!
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.