Explainer: Why UK Slot Sites Have International Licenses
Published On: 22nd February 2022
If you are a regular reader of these pages, then you will know that we like to make a big point about the importance of playing at sites with a UK license. It is an assurance of quality, security, fairness and safety, and one of the first points in our article on identifying rogue slot sites.
But you may also notice that many casinos carry more than one license, usually one from a European jurisdiction like Malta, Gibraltar or the Isle of Man, alongside that from the UK Gambling Commission. And if you dig deeper, you will also notice that they are not based in the UK either, but instead have their offices located in their alternative licensing jurisdiction.
So, what does this all mean? Why don’t operators with a UK license have their offices here, and are they even paying tax on your bets if they reside in Malta?
In this article we will explain how the UK gambling licensing system works, how these companies pay tax to the UK government, and why they carry multiple licenses.
UK Gambling Licenses and the White List
You may already know that in the UK we are currently on the brink of major reforms of how betting firms can operate. The new Gambling Act which is expected in 2022-3 will be the result of a review of existing legislation that was passed in 2005 and 2014 which established the current status quo.
Before the 2014 Act there was no requirement for gambling firms taking bets here to be based here. And whilst the 2005 act required those whose offices were in the UK to have a UK license, there was also a whitelist of international jurisdictions whose licensees were exempt from this rule.
Therefore, any betting firm carrying a license from these locations was allowed to run a site taking bets in the UK: Malta, Gibraltar, Alderney and Antigua.
Point of Consumption Tax in 2014
The 2014 closed up these loopholes and from that date on, any firm engaging with UK customers had to have a UK license. It also introduced a new tax called ‘Point of Consumption’ tax. This tax was based on the location of the customer rather than that of the operator. Therefore, an operator whose servers and offices were based out in Gibraltar but took bets from customers in the UK would still have to pay tax to the UK government on the total value of those wagers.
International Gambling Jurisdictions
So that’s all well and good – all slot sites taking my money must be licensed here and pay taxes here. But a bit of research will show that many of them are still based outside the UK. Why is this?
International gambling jurisdictions grew up in the 1990s and 2000s as online gambling needed regulators to establish rules around how operators could go about their business. Customers needed assurance that the games were fair and secure and that the businesses they spend their money with were safe and legitimate.
Around the turn of the century a few regulators sprung up to serve this purpose. They were based in territories with lower tax rates and generally favourable climates and they facilitated online gambling globally. If you resided in a country with no gambling laws, then you could still place bets at a site that carried a license from one of these jurisdictions safe in the knowledge that you were protected from bad practices.
These international jurisdictions still exist today as follows:
Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
The MGA was established in 2001 and you will find that 100s of online slot sites in the UK carry an MGA license as well as a UK one. Both the White Hat Gaming and Genesis Global group of sites operate under license from Malta.
Gibraltar Gambling Commission
Next to the MGA, the Gibraltar Gambling Commission is the most popular jurisdiction home to big names like Bet365, 888 and 32 Red. The Gibraltar Commission have an excellent reputation for upholding high standards amongst their licensees. You can find information about their codes of practice on their website here.
Alderney Gambling Control Commission
In the channel islands the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, established in 2000, regulates online gambling for a small selection of operators who are taking bets in the UK, also under UK Gambling Commission licenses. They include Daub Alderney, home to Magical Vegas and Spin and Win, and Sky Casino.
Antigua and Barbuda
This West Indies jurisdiction was one of the first to offer online gambling licenses from 1994. Whilst they may have been successful in the 1990s and 2000s in gaining licensees, since then their prestige has been lost and you will now not find any UK-licensed slot sites who also carry an Antigua and Barbuda license. Therefore, if you do see a casino advertising in the UK who are licensed from this jurisdiction, we recommend that you steer clear.
Does It Matter Where a Site ls Licensed?
Ultimately, if you are sensible then you are only ever going to play at sites licensed by the UK Gambling Commission anyway, so does it matter which of these international jurisdictions your operator is based on anyway?
Well, in that respect, no it doesn’t.
The UK GC upholds pretty high standards and they say that they are working to regulate the UK market in such a way as to be both respectful of personal freedom but also robust enough to protect vulnerable customers and to prevent gambling sites being used for unlawful practices like money laundering.
The UK market is one of the biggest in the world – currently online gambling generates over £5 billion gross revenue annually. It is also quite strictly regulated – the commission have not been shy to dish out fines and suspend licenses where necessary if they feel operators are not acting within the terms of their license. You can find out more about this on their news pages.
Other Characteristics of UK Slot Sites
Finally, it’s not just a license that helps define a slot site as being UK-focused and suitable for you as a player from the UK. You might want to consider these factors too:
UK Themes and Style – whilst many operators go for a multi-national approach to their brand to avoid being tied into one region, some still offer a UK-focused approach. You will find this in sites like All British Casino. They can be fun if you on a patriotic tip!
UK Brand Ambassadors – its always nice to play at a site fronted by one of your favourite celebs, be it a sports start or a musician or presenter. Perhaps because of the controvery surrounding online gambling it is less common these days but classic examples include Frankie Dettori who worked with Ladbrokes and Barbar Windsor who was the face of Jackpotjoy for a time.
UK High Street Brands – Of course there are some brands from the UK high street that provide great slots entertainment. These include Betfred, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and the bingo names like Mecca and Tombola.
Ultimately, if you choose to play at a site licensed by the UK Gambling Commission then you are in safe hands spinning slot games in the UK. We strongly advise always that you avoid any site that doesn’t carry that status that ensures safety and fairness. The international jurisdictions like Malta and Gibraltar offer further protection, but for your peace of mind, its all about the UK GC.