Gambling laws can be tricky for anyone who doesn’t fully understand them. Of course, it is wholly unreasonable for you to be expected to read through page after page of legal jargon, especially when there are so many amendments to laws frequently being passed. Fortunately, I’m well-versed in how gambling law in the UK works, and I’m here to share my experience with you.
The big question of the day is, can UK players legally wager at so-called offshore casinos, or will you get into trouble doing so? Well, I’m happy to tell you that there’s good news. Allow me to explain right here.
Essential Things You Need to Know About Offshore Casinos
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of UK gambling law, let me first explain offshore casinos to the uninitiated. Offshore casinos are (in this case) any online gambling sites, specifically casinos, which aren’t registered and licensed in the United Kingdom. They may be licensed out of Curacao, or we could be talking about Malta-licensed online casinos. The critical thing is that they aren’t subject to UK laws and regulations because they are based abroad.
Now, back to the question at hand: is it legal to play at these sites if you’re based in the UK, or are you forced to play at nationally licensed sites? Here’s what you need to know:
It Is Not Against the Law to Play at Offshore Casino Sites
The good news is that playing at offshore casino sites in the UK is not illegal. If you’ve been through the UK’s gambling laws (and I have, extensively over the years), you’ll find that while there are plenty of laws set out in the UK Gambling Act (2005), there’s nothing which prevents you from joining any online casino located, licensed or regulates anywhere in the world.
The UK Gambling Act sets out requirements for a nationally regulated industry in the UK. For instance, the UK Gambling Commission is the authority which licences sites, and all those sites are subject to UK laws and regulations. For example, they must offer GamStop as a service to their members.
However, there’s a difference between illegal and unregulated. Offshore casinos are unregulated (by the UK) but regulated by an offshore body, such as the MGA in the case of Maltese-licensed sites. It is not illegal to play at these sites.
Are Offshore Casinos Catering to UK Players Safe?
While the UK Gambling Commission won’t regulate offshore casinos, they are not without regulation at all. Some licensing and regulatory bodies outside the UK, including the MGA, can be just as thorough in regulated casinos. Moreover, independent auditors and third-party bodies often licence and regulate Curacao-licensed casinos. If the casino is properly licensed and well-regulated and offers fair play and responsible gambling options, they can be just as safe as UKGC-licensed sites and, again, it is entirely legal for you to play at those domains.
Offshore Casinos and GamStop
GamStop is both a wonderful and dreadful thing. On the one hand, it is a lifesaver for those with severe gambling problems – I’ll bear no bones about that. However, it can be a nightmare for the casual gambler if you accidentally trigger it. The UK’s gambling authority makes it mandatory for UKGC-licensed casinos to feature GamStop. This isn’t an issue you’ll have to worry about at many offshore casinos.
Many offshore sites choose to go their own way regarding responsible and program gambling tools featuring in-house options. They aren’t all tied to GamCare, Gamblers Anonymous, GamStop, or similar programs. Just because a site isn’t on GamStop doesn’t make it unsafe, and it certainly doesn’t make it illegal for UK players to join.
How to Find the Best Non-UKGC Casinos
As you can see, there are no legal impediments to stop you from joining non-UKGC casinos. In fact, UK players are some of the freest when it comes to having the pick of the litter of top sites to join. How do you identify the best non-UKGC casinos to join, though? In my years of experience, I’ve drawn up a five-point checklist which can be used to determine the top places to play. Here’s what you need to know:
- Accepts UK-Based Players: Firstly, any offshore casino must accept UK players (not all do). This is important because you may need to verify your personal and residential details via a KYC process later. You’ll run into trouble if the casino doesn’t accept UK players and you have UK-based documents and proof. Fortunately, most casinos accept UK-based bettors.
- Licensed and Regulated: Just because a casino isn’t UKGC licensed and regulated doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be licensed and regulated elsewhere. I like to see sites licensed and regulated by independent bodies outside the UK to trust that they are safe, as should you.
- GBP Currency: If you want to avoid conversion fees, exchange rates and so on, you should choose a casino which accepts the British pound sterling currency. Fortunately, if they accept UK players, most casinos will also accept GBP as one of their currencies.
- UK-Friendly Promos & Bonuses: UK players should be able to claim all bonuses and promos at a site which accepts them. Moreover, they should be claimable in GBP.
- Customer Support for UK Players: Any offshore casinos catering to UK members should offer customer support which works for you. This means call centres and live support hours should have GMT or CET opening hours.
Why Play at Independent UK Casinos in 2024?
There are many reasons why international online casinos for UK players are the way to go. If you want to avoid GamStop, and don’t like the UKGC’s heavy-handed regulation when it comes to wagering limits, credit card deposits and limited promos and bonuses, then offshore UK casinos are the way to go. Again, there’s nothing in UK law preventing you from joining any casino that accepts you. Just be sure to follow my advice on which sites are suitable to ensure the best and safest experience in the future.