The Differences Between UK-Licensed and UK-Facing Casinos: Explained

If you’re based in the United Kingdom and play online, you should know that there are two very similar but ultimately different types of UK online casinos you can join. When you come across a “UK online casino”, it may belong to one of these two categories – UK licensed or UK facing. Of course, it is entirely possible that a casino may belong to both groups. Don’t worry if this sounds confusing to you – I’m going to deep dive into both groups and look at UK online casinos here today. First, let’s touch on UK-licensed casinos and explain them simply for those not in the know.

What Are UK-Licensed Online Casinos?

The first type of casinos I want to mention are UK-licensed casinos. Naturally, there are online casinos which have acquired a gambling licence from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. This isn’t easy to do and comes with all sorts of strings attached, including very heavy regulation, affiliation with GamStop, being forbidden from offering credit card deposits, not offering buy-a-bonus rounds in slots, and limiting the array of bonuses and promos supported. 

The upside is that these casinos are officially regulated by the UK’s licensing body and are, therefore, open to every player residing in the United Kingdom. They may offer sports betting services and bingo options alongside conventional casino action and are fully legal for you to play without question.

What Are UK-Facing Online Casinos?

By contrast, there are UK online casinos that aren’t licensed outside of the UK. These casinos will often be licensed elsewhere, such as out of Malta or Curacao, but still offer their services to gamblers in the UK. There is a common misconception that UK casinos licensed offshore are illegal. This isn’t true. They are perfectly legal – they simply aren’t regulated out of the UK. For instance, UK-facing venues may include US casino sites for UK players, European casinos which accept Brits, or worldwide online casinos. 

UK-facing casinos will typically play faster and looser when it comes to bonuses and promos, permitting credit card deposits, and tend to offer larger, more extensive gaming libraries than their UKGC-licensed counterpart. They also have the freedom to choose whether they want to be affiliated with GamStop, another problem gambling program, or offer their own in-house responsible gambling tools and options. Many offshore UK casinos choose to do that.

The Similarities

There are certainly similarities between UK-licensed and facing online casinos. Whichever site you choose to join, you should expect to see the following services offered: 

  •     Both types of online casinos cater to players based in the United Kingdom.
  •     It is not illegal for UK players to join either of these casinos.
  •     Both types of online casinos will accept deposits, withdrawals and wagers using GBP.
  •     UK-friendly payment methods can be found at both types of UK casinos.
  •     Customer support should be available according to GMT.

 As you can see, most of the major features which will appeal to players in the United Kingdom appear at both UK-licensed and UK-facing casino sites, so you’re in good company whichever site you choose.

UK-Licensed Sites Focus On Gambling Issues

The Differences

Next, let’s look at the key differences between these two types of UK online casinos. The primary and most obvious differences include the following: 

  •     UK-licensed casinos cannot offer you buy-a-bonus features in slots, but UK-facing casinos can.
  •     Credit cards aren’t accepted at UK-licensed casinos, but UK-facing casinos do offer this option.
  •     UK-licensed casinos are affiliated with GamStop, and this isn’t a requirement for those licensed elsewhere.
  •     Promotions tend to be larger and more adventurous at UK-facing casinos, while UK-licensed sites have their promos regulated.
  •     UK-licensed casinos cannot offer crypto options, but UK-facing ones “may” do.

Here, it is clear to see that the choice between UK-licensed and UK-facing casinos comes down to protection from problem gambling versus fewer restrictions and freer gameplay. I know what I prefer, but it’s up to you to decide which suits you.

About GamStop and Non-GamStop UK Casinos

Let me end by touching on GamStop a bit more. GamStop is a blocking program, a problem gambling service, which all UK-licensed casinos are required to adhere to. If you run into trouble, you can sign up to GamStop. After doing so, it will block you from every online casino affiliated with it. In effect, it shuts off any avenues to play at UKGC-licensed casinos for at least six months, perhaps even longer, depending on how you set it up. Once it is set up, there is no going back. 

However, you don’t necessarily need GamStop, and many players consider it overkill. Instead, I personally believe it is better to have more flexibility with problem gambling and responsible gambling tools. Each trusted site on this webpage has its own responsible gambling options for you to choose from. They can also help to keep you safe. If you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to read my guide on how to get around GamStop here.

Buy-a-Bonus Modes Are Outlawed At UKGC Sites
Buy-a-Bonus Modes Are Outlawed At UKGC Sites

Should I Play at UK-Licensed or UK-Facing Casinos?

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine whether it is a UK-licensed or UK-facing casino that ticks your boxes. There are definitely benefits to choosing one over the other, depending on what you’re looking for. For instance, if you don’t trust yourself when betting, want to limit the promos you receive, and prefer not to play with credit cards, then you can’t really go wrong with a UKGC-licensed online casino.

Personally, I’m partial to UK-facing casinos licensed offshore. There is a far greater choice out there, with many hundreds more sites available. Secondly, I find having access to a broader gaming library more appealing, while I like to have the option of having a larger selection of payment options. I’m also quite comfortable with using in-house responsible gambling tools to limit my activity, so I don’t rely on overly restrictive platforms such as GamStop. 

Of course, the choice is yours. If you want to find the best UK online casinos, irrespective of what you’re looking for, look no further than the UK online casino reviews on this page.