UK Gambling Act 2005

There is one major gambling law in the United Kingdom. This is known as the Gambling Act 2005. The GA 2005 dictates all the gambling protocols in terms of what is allowed, licencing, regulation, etc. It breaks the legal structure down in a simple way without the need for multiple convoluted laws that get lost in the fray. This page is dedicated to covering the U.K.’s premier gambling law, the GA 2005, and has helpful information to form a better understanding of the legal powers that be in Great Britain.

We also have a detailed article on the Gambling And Advertising Act of 2014 which is an amendment to the 2005 act.

How Did The Gambling Act 2005 Come To Pass?

The Gambling Act 2005’s main purpose was to reform the prior gambling laws, which were multiple pieces of legislation that covered individual components of gambling like casinos, bingo, gaming machines, sports betting, lotteries and more. The British Parliament wanted to centralize their gambling legislation, much like other countries have done, in order to simply the protocols applicable to gambling in the United Kingdom. There are 3 objectives written into the law. These are:

  1. Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime.
  2. Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way.
  3. Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

What Forms Of Gambling Are Legal Under The GA 2005?

There are multiple gambling forms considered legal in alignment with England’s GA 2005. The law categorises gambling activities into 6 sectors—Arcades, Betting, Bingo, Casino, Lotteries and Gaming Machines. There are provisions for online versions of betting, bingo, and casinos. The GA 2005 helps to distinguish which gaming activities require a licence and which ones do not. We have provided a more in-depth look at the categories below.

Arcades

The 3 types of arcades in the UK are:

  • Adult Gaming Centres (AGCs)
  • Licenced Family Entertainment Centres (FECs)
  • Unlicenced Family Entertainment Centres (UFECs)

Both AGCs and FECs require a licence issued by the U.K. Gambling Commission, the standing regulatory agency (more on the UKGC in another section). UFECs are required to obtain a licence from their local authority.

Betting

There are multiple legal betting forms in the United Kingdom. These are:

  • Fixed odds betting
  • Pool betting
  • Acting as a betting intermediary
  • Spread betting

Any gambling entity looking to offer betting must first obtain a license from the UKGC. Fixed odds betting is featured in betting shops, on racetracks and through online sources. The U.K. is densely populated with legal brick-and-mortar betting shops. Major metropolitan areas like London seem to have them on every street corner.

Pool betting involves a higher number of wagers that contribute to the overall prize amount. It is popular with racecourse betting, football pools, and fantasy sports wagering. Think of pool betting like a progressive slot in an online casino, where more wagers yield a higher end payout. Horse racing is currently under a monopoly with The Tote Limited being the exclusive licencee allowed to host pool betting in Great Britain. However, that licence expires this year.

Betting intermediaries serve as connections between 2 or more betting parties. They can take a portion of the wager without being responsible for it in any way. The GA 2005 permits both local and remote intermediaries. As for spread betting, the regulatory responsibility falls to the Financial Conduct Authority.

Sportsbetting is allowed at domestic sportsbooks and bookmakers as well as on an online platform, so long as these sportsbook operators are licenced by the U.K Gambling Commission or an approved and legitimate jurisdiction. This licencing requirement allows British and non-British operators to completely comply with GA 2005.

Bingo

Bingo is loosely defined in the United Kingdom. It is considered a lottery style game of chance. The UKGC actually published a note dictating the procedures applicable to bingo. Key takeaways are that bingo must be played as an equal chance game and must not involve betting against the bank. It is considered a separate gambling activity from casinos, thereby requiring its own licence to be seen as legal.

Casinos

The GA 2005 legalizes casino games in brick-and-mortar and online venues as long as they have a proper licence. You can find fruit machines, table games like baccarat and blackjack, poker and more. Casinos are limited by their licence in terms of how many gaming machines they are allowed to have, their applications fees based on their square footage and gross gambling yield, etc.

Lotteries

Lotteries are broken down into:

  • Raffles
  • Tombolas
  • Sweepstakes

In the United Kingdom, lotteries are reserved for beneficial causes, not for commercialism or private gain. The National Lottery is the largest organization and has its own legislation behind it, though it is regulated by the UKGC.

Gaming Machines

Gaming machines are any devices used to gamble, though the definition specifically applies to slots. There are certain exclusions for gaming machines including computers, telephones/mobile devices, betting terminals, lottery terminals, bingo machines and certain casino games outside of reel-based gameplay.

Poker

In the U.K, both brick and mortar poker rooms whether standalone or found inside of a casino and regulated and licensed online poker sites are legal and available forms of gambling permitted in the UK.

How Do You Obtain A Licence Under The UK GA 2005?

Any organization looking to apply for a licence must do so through the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. The Commission in England has slated multiple licencing categories, including:

  • Non-remote and remote casino
  • Non-remote and remote bingo
  • Non-remote and remote bookmaker or pool betting
  • Licence to operate arcades, adult gaming centres or family entertainment centres
  • Licence to supply software (remote or non-remote)
  • Licence to manufacture, supply, maintain, install or adapt gaming machines (remote or non-remote)
  • Society lottery and local lotteries (remote and non-remote)
  • Non-remote and remote betting intermediary licence

As you can see, the licences fall in line with the types of gambling allowed under the law. Fees are a changing variant and are based on things like the facilities’ yield, the number of outlets, etc. The licencing process takes about 8-10 weeks and involves a caseworker being assigned. The caseworker looks for items of concern and whether the organization meets the stringent requirements of the licence. If a potential licencee has any issues brought up in the application process, they can before the UKGC’s regulatory panel with legal representation. Issues of concern can something like a representative having a criminal record, for example.

Gambling Act 2005 FAQs

Does The GA 2005 Make Online Gambling Illegal?

No. Online gambling is legal based on the GA 2005. Further clarification came in 2014 with the Gambling Act 2014. The only condition is that online operators must possess a licence from the UKGC.

What Did The GA 2005 Lead To?

It helped the United Kingdom clear up their gambling laws and consolidate them into one benchmark. It also established the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, the chief regulatory body for all UK gambling.

Which Types Of Gambling Did The GA 2005 Legalize?

Arcades, casinos, bingo, betting, lotteries and gaming machines. Each facet is broken down into subcategories and requires a licence. Online gambling is also permitted.

How Long Does A Licence Last?

Licences are considered indefinite. The only way to lose a licence is via forfeiture, surrender, lapse or revocation. Forfeiture involves the licencee being convicted of a felony offence. Surrender is voluntary. Lapses occur when the licencee passes away, is deemed unfit to hold the licence or is bankrupt. Revocation occurs when the licencee breaks the benchmarks set out by the original licence.

What Is The Legal Gambling Age?

The legal gambling age in the UK is 18. There is an exception for some lottery activities (16).

Are There Any Restrictions With Licenses?

Yes. Non-remote casino and bingo licence holders are not allowed to offer credit. Bookmakers are not allowed to offer wagers on the outcome of the National Lottery. Certain types and numbers of gaming machines must be adhered to based on the individual licence requirements.

Are There Any Reforms Planned?

The Gambling Act 2014 addressed problems with remote operators circumventing UKGC licences. Any other reforms would likely have to do with tax rates.

Resources

UK Gambling Act Of 2005