Is Online Bingo Legal in the UK?

Legal UKUnlike many other countries, online bingo as well as other forms of ‘for money’ gaming are not only legal in the UK, 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 potentially joining a new gaming site is to 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 its own view of what the game is and how it differs from other forms of gambling. Because of this, any platform wishing to offer bingo games to the UK public needs to have acquired a licence from the Gambling Commission in order to do so legally.

You can find their status by either searching the UKGC website here, or by scrolling to the bottom of the gaming site in question where they have to display their license number and a link to it.

The Codes of Practice

Codes of PracticeUnder 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 underage 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

The UKGC monitor all licence holders and deal with any complaints they receive about them, and if any company is found to be breaking the terms of their licence they can be issued with heavy fines and even have their licence suspended in extreme circumstances.

Types of Licence Available

UKGCThe UK Gambling Commission offers three different types of licences that bingo businesses may need to apply for before they can legally offer products to gamers. Some businesses may be in need of all three licences, while others might only need one, it just depends on the nature of the business and where it operates.

  1. Operating licence
  2. Personal management licence
  3. Personal functional licence
  4. Premises licence (issued by the local council, not the UKGC)

The operating licence is what is needed in most circumstances if you’re providing bingo services, which covers 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.

The premises licence from the council legalises the use of the building you are in, such as a bingo hall, the personal functional licence is for casino workers like croupiers, cashiers, and game supervisors, while a personal management licence might be required by those who work behind the scenes such as in marketing or security.

What Else Does the Licence Include?

security computer key screenshot
Credit: GotCredit/

As well as the aforementioned points, a licence awarded by the UK Gambling Commission requires platforms to adhere to certain rules and practices; it’s not just a case of filling out an application form. They have to have procedures in place which must be followed for as long as the gaming company wants to trade. 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 that 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. This is called ring-fencing.

Whenever a company submits a licence application, the Gambling Commission has a long checklist 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 their experience, expertise, qualifications, and any historical bad behaviour. Of course, any criminal record will also be taken into account.