Is Online Bingo Legal in the UK?

Unlike many other countries, in the UK online bingo, as well as other forms of 'for money' gaming are not only legal, but also licensed and regulated. This means that, provided you're playing through a licensed bingo site, you're guaranteed a fair game.

So, the first thing you should do when looking at a potential gaming site to sign up to is check its license status. Any platform offering real money online games to players in the UK should be fully licensed and regulated to do so by the UK Gambling Commission. While there isn't any legal definition of the game of bingo, or a standard set of rules under which the game is played, the product has evolved to the point where it is considered equal chance gaming.

However, while there isn't any statutory definition of bingo, the UK Gambling Commission has published their own view of what the game is and how it differs to other forms of gambling. Because of this, any platform wishing to offer its bingo games to the UK public needs to have acquired a licence from the Gambling Commission in order to do so legally.

The Codes of Practice

Under section 24 of the Gambling Act 2005, the UK Gambling Commission issues codes of practice to the platforms wanting to acquire a licence in order to ensure that:

  • All gambling going on is conducted in a fair and open way
  • No under age or vulnerable people are able to be harmed or exploited by gambling
  • Assistance is readily available to people who are currently, or may be in the future, affected by problems relating to gambling

Types of Licences Available

The UK Gambling Commission offers up three different types of licences that bingo businesses may need to apply for before they can legally offer products to gamers. These are separated into an 'Operating Licence', a 'Personal Management Licence' and a 'Premises Licence'. Some businesses may be in need of all three licences.

The operating licence is what is needed in most circumstances if you're providing bingo services, which relates to all online platforms. This licence covers bingo halls and remote bingo services where people pay to play. Such a licence will cover a business to offer their services via not only the internet, but through television, mobile devices or radio technology.

Should you ever wish to check on the legality of an online bingo platform, and furthermore, check upon whether or not the licence they claim to hold is still valid, you're able to do so at the following link: https://secure.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/gccustomweb/PublicRegister/PRSearch.aspx

What Else Does the Licence Include?

As well as the aforementioned points, a licence awarded by the UK Gambling Commission requires platforms to adhere to certain rules. It's not just an application that is sent in and then the licence is awarded. They have to have ongoing rules in place to follow throughout their time as an online games company. Such rules include:

  • The protection of customer funds - This requires operators who hold customer funds to disclose information to customers about whether their funds are protected in the event of insolvency, the level of the protection and the method by which this is achieved.
  • Segregation of funds - This requires all remote operators who hold customer funds to keep them separate from those which belong to the company.

Whenever a company submits an application to be granted one of these, the Gambling Commission has a plentiful list of elements to consider before processing. Such points that are covered include the identity and ownership of the site, the financial status of the applicant or persons relevant to the application, the honesty and trustworthiness of these people, as well as the experience, expertise, qualifications and history of the applicant(s). Of course, any criminal record will also be taken into account as well.