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UK Online Casino Guide

The UK Online Casino sector is massive.

It is a recent addition to, and now the most visible and dominant part, of a gambling industry that has a long history and has seen enormous expansion and change in the past could of decades, in a process signalled by the passage of the 2005 Gambling Act.

The Gross Gambling Yield, which is the amount bet by gamblers after winnings have been paid out, was £8.4 billion in 2011. In 2018 it was £14.4 billion. The gambling industry in 2018 employed around 100,000 people in the UK, though most of the jobs associated with the UK online casino sector are probably overseas.

The UK online casino sector is politically very controversial. The gambling industry in the UK is visible and politically powerful in a way that it never has been before: it is enormously wealthy, and donates large amounts of money to political parties; online gambling brands advertise everywhere they are allowed to, most notably on football shirts of a huge number of big UK football clubs.

There have recently been changes to gambling laws in the UK that have been designed to meet concerns about the damage caused by unsafe gambling. It is likely that there will be more changes.

It is possible to use UK online casinos completely safely. However, as well as making use of all the safeguards that the industry does offer, you really do need to be aware of your own financial and personal health and take steps to keep yourself safe.

We’ll cover all of this and more in our guide to the UK online casino industry. Not lastly, we’ll show you the best UK online casinos that are high-rated at the top.

The History of Online Gambling in the UK

Gambling seems to be all-but innate to humans. It certainly seems that people have played games of chance for most of human history; gambling probably pre-dates writing.

The UK is no exception to this tendency (much though some British politicians like to believe the people of the UK are exceptional in some ways).

We won’t survey the whole history of gambling in the UK, but we’ll start with the period that includes the online gambling sector.

For much of the 20th-century gambling was very tightly controlled in the UK. Gambling could only take place in licensed premises, including book maker’s shops (which offered sports betting, primarily horse racing) and casinos.

The explosion of the internet into everyday life from the 1990s invented a new jurisdiction that existed beyond national boundaries.

Once the problem of sending money online had been transcended, the gambling industry went online. There was immediately a problem of trust. This was first met in 1994 by the territory of Antigua and Barbuda, in the Caribbean, which started to licence online gaming companies.

The British – in the semi-offshore shape of the Isle of Man – were early pioneers of online gambling, and the company that set up the first online casinos, Microgaming, is still a very big part of the world of online gambling today.

Poker was the first gaming industry success story online. And the industry really started to take off around 1996, when the number of sites exploded from 15 to around 200. Revenues started to soar into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The story from then is one of exponential growth around the world: estimates of revenues are $21 billion in 2001 and $45.86 billion in 2016 with a predicted growth to $56.05 billion by 2018.

The same picture has been replicated in the UK. And the regulation of the sector has also gone on a journey.

The History of Online Gambling Regulation in the UK

There were already strict laws about gambling in the UK when the internet came along to challenge them all.

Gambling had been semi-legal until the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 allowed betting shops to open. This law remained the main regulatory tool (along with other bits and pieces of law that dated back as far as 1845) until the passage of the 2005 Gambling Act, which is the framework, with some subsequent additional laws, notably in 2007 and 2014 for gambling regulation in the UK today.

Current UK Gambling Laws

Gambling in the UK is legal. It is regulated by license and restricted by age. There are also a number of other things that companies must do to keep their customers safe. This is likely to become more developed in the near future.

If a company offers services to anyone within the UK it must now be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.

This is a relatively recent change to a system which previously allowed companies to be licensed in a number of overseas jurisdictions that were recognised by the UK government as competent. It is one of the reasons why a load of apparently British companies have bases overseas.

Let’s look at what a UK gambling company must be doing:

It must ensure that its customers are of legal age to gamble. In the UK this is – with the exception of the National Lottery, other lotteries, and the football pools – 18 years of age. The gambling company is committing an offence if it has customers under 18. And so are you if you gamble before you’re allowed to. So don’t do it!

This means that UK online casinos will demand that you verify your age in the same way as you would expect to in the real world, usually with a copy of a document like a birth certificate or passport that certifies who you are and your date of birth.

Advertising is also regulated. In fact, if you look at Gambling Commission decisions, a number of them are to do with advertising that isn’t considered “responsible”. “Responsible” is quite a vague term, and you can find fuller details on the Gambling Commission website.

The full codes of conduct contain a lot of technical detail, much of which touches on things that don’t impinge on the customer’s use of the site.

Things that it is useful to know are:

  • That all software at licensed UK online casino sites must be supplied by a company that is itself licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. The software must also meet a set of technical standards and specifications.
  • UK online casino sites have responsibilities for the information they hold.
  • They also have obligations around money laundering, fair gambling, problem gambling, and dealing with complaints.
  • Online casino sites must segregate customer funds so that if anything happens to the business they can still pay out what they owe. They have to inform their customers how they protect their funds and how they’ll pay them if the site goes bust.
  • Payment methods must be regulated by the Payment Services Regulations 2009.
  • Credit must not be given to customers. This includes the banning of credit cards to fund accounts.
  • “Fairness” is regulated by the Consumer Rights Act of 2015.
  • UK online casino sites must display a link to their licence.

All of these rules are there to help keep you safe, but you need to do a bit of work yourself, as we’ll now see.

How to Keep Safe in UK Online Casinos

We are not alarmists, and we’re here promoting the UK casino industry, so please bear that in mind. We believe it is possible to enjoy gambling safely and securely and without coming to any harm.

However, it is also possible to get into an awful lot of trouble.

Gambling is potentially addictive. The industry is regulated, but so is the alcohol industry and that hasn’t wiped out alcoholism. But alcoholism doesn’t mean that no-one should be able to drink. Good education about the risks of addiction, and how to spot if you are falling into dangerous behaviours is the best way to keep yourself safe online.

Only Play at Licensed UK Casino Sites

The first thing you need to do is use the tools that the UK Gambling Commission has given you.

Play at licensed UK online casino sites only. And see that they are following the rules we’ve laid out above; at the very least do click on the link to their licence and see that everything there matches the site you’re looking at.

And you have to follow the rules too: don’t play at sites you’re not allowed to use, because they’re in another jurisdiction, or because you’re banned or self-excluded from them, or because you’re under 18.

(Be aware that laws might change when you’re on holiday and you need to be in line with local laws too.)

Make Sure you Follow Safe Gambling Procedures

Any good site will have safe gambling information prominently displayed. They should have links to safe gambling organisations like Gamble Aware.

Why not check them out?

Seriously. Knowing how to play safely and the warning signs that might indicate you’re getting into trouble will take you just a few minutes, and it could, literally, save your life.

We’ll even help you out.

And the first thing we’ll tell you is that problem gambling can affect anyone. You don’t need to have come from a “difficult” background, you don’t need to have financial problems before you start gambling; there is no ethnic, gender, sexuality, or age profile that means you will or will not get into trouble with online gambling.

However, addiction medicine often finds that using an external tool – like drinking or drugs or gambling – as a way of medicating away emotional issues is a good way to get into trouble. Gambling, alcohol, and drunks will not deal with problems elsewhere in your life.

Tips to play safe online casino games

And here are some good pointers to behaviour that might mean you’re getting in trouble.

  • Are you spending more money on gambling than you intend to you or that you can afford to spend?
  • Are you spending longer than you intend to spend on gambling sites?
  • Do you argue with your friends or family about gambling or the money and time you spend on it?
  • Would you like to spend less time or money gambling but you’re finding it hard to achieve?
  • Do you try to hide your gambling behaviour, or tell lies about your gambling behaviour?
  • Are you changing your behaviour to make time for gambling by ditching your former hobbies or friends?
  • Do you think about gambling a lot?
  • Do you talk about gambling a lot?
  • Are you gambling to try to get out of financial trouble?
  • Are you gambling to make back the money you’ve lost while gambling?
  • Do you gamble until you can’t go on – either because you’re too tired or you have no more money?
  • Do you borrow cash, sell things, or skip other financial responsibilities in order to fund your gambling?
  • Are you forgetting your family, friends, and your personal needs to gamble?
  • Do you gamble for longer, or risk larger sums of money to feel the same thrill you first had from gambling?
  • Are you suffering from mental health symptoms like guilt, anxiety, depression, or anger?

We are not professional psychologists or gambling counsellors, but this is good advice, and if you look at this list and recognise any behaviours you’re showing then you owe it to yourself to take this seriously.

The big slogan of the UK gambling concern campaign is a good one: When the fun stops, stop.

Gamble because you enjoy it. If you don’t, then stop.

If you feel like you might be getting into deep waters with gambling the best thing you can do is to talk to someone. There are helplines and online contacts for gambling charities, but simply admitting your problem to a friend or family member can be a very powerful first step.

You can also try to take a break. If you find that hard to do then that’s not a sign that you’re gambling for fun in a healthy way. If you find even thinking about it a challenge then that’s even more of a concern.

There are tools that you can use to help you take a break or take stock of your gambling behaviour.

Self-exclusion from a site, or from a series of sites that are signed up to a programme like SENSE, or GAMSTOP, which will bar you from all UK-licensed sites.

Any site should allow you to self-exclude, including removing yourself from mailing lists.

Use tools like maximum deposit limits to set safe limits on your play.

You can also stop yourself from reversing withdrawal requests on some sites, that’s a useful way to make sure you do actually cash out your money and not roll it over to play again.

At some UK casino sites, you can set time limits or reminders, and manage the way you use autoplay functions.

Even using the game history features on a site will help you keep track of how much time you are spending on a site. Use your account to monitor how much you’re spending too – you might be surprised.

Some sites have quite sophisticated exclusion features that allow you to take short breaks for a day, week, fortnight, or more.

Gambling sites take this sort of thing seriously. As they should. Self-exclusions usually can’t be reversed, and you shouldn’t be able to set up a new account.

How to Fund Your Account at a UK Online Casino

We’ve shown you a lot of stuff about how to be careful with casinos. But we’d like to start moving beyond that now.

Never forget safe gambling. But remember to have fun too.

In order to play at most UK casino sites, you’ll need to put cash into your account, or rather you’ll need to put online digital resources into your account.

This can be done in a number of different ways.

As we’ve seen you cannot use credit cards to fund a UK online casino account. Any site offering this option to you – as a customer in the UK – is breaking the law, stay well away.

We’ll look at the ways you can put money into your account, most of these methods can also be used to receive payments, but not all. You may need to verify your identity to a high degree before payments can be made to you – be prepared to do so.

These are the options you can use:

Bank Transfers

This is a relatively old-fashioned option but it’s fast and direct. One of the reasons people like to use online payment processors is because they put a buffer between the internet and your bank account. That doesn’t apply here, but UK banks use the best encryption and security available.

Simply, you send money directly from your bank account to the casino company. Payments should be fairly instantaneous and there are usually no fees on these payments.

You can use Bank Wire or Instant Bank Transfer methods. Trustly and iDebit are online bank transfer services that streamline the service.

Debit Cards

Visa Debit and MasterCard debit cards are the most common option here. You may also see the Maestro brand offered. Prepaid debit cards, for example, Prepaid Mastercards, are another option, these cards allow you to “cash-up” a card and then use the card online without having a bank account.

Most people are now confident users of debit cards online: you simply type in your card’s details and payment is instantly taken out of your bank account.

It’s simple and very fast and comes with the security that your bank offers. There may be a fee on payments.

Online Payment Processors  – Digital Wallets

This is an expanding area of the online world, and every UK online casino site will accept at least a few of the biggest names.

The market is quite diverse.

Digital wallets carry money online. You can fill them by having payments made into them or by making payments into them yourself from your own bank account or from another digital wallet or other online payment processors.

Digital wallets are a buffer between your bank account and the internet. They are designed to be used specifically for online payments and work very quickly. There may be fees for payments made from e-wallets. You can usually accept payments back into these processors.

There are now a lot of brands in this area:

PayPal is the biggest online payment systems in the world. It is now available to gamblers after taking a break from the market while the US was sorting out the legal status of online gambling. Because PayPal is so well known and has been selective in its re-entry to the gambling market, the PayPal brand on a casino site is often seen as a mark of quality and security.

Skrill is perhaps the biggest competitor to PayPal and it made something of a name for itself by charging into the huge gap in the market left by PayPal and it has a strong following in the online casino market.

Neteller has a similar history and reputation, and both are now part of the same company, Paysafe, which also owns Paysafecard.

EcoPayz is an e-wallet. So is WebMoney.

Prepaid Cards and Vouchers

We’ve mentioned pre-paid debit cards, and pre-paid cards are a way to take money online if you don’t have regular internet access or an internet-enabled bank account. The cards can be bought with cash from real-world retail outlets and then cashed up. Some systems will give their users a plastic card with a number, others exist only online.

Most payments made with these cards are instant. There may be fees from the processor. You may not be able to receive funds into accounts with these cards.

Paysafecard, part of the Paysafe Group, is one of the most popular examples and has a good reputation for ubiquity and for security and safety. The card was formerly also branded as UKash.

EntroPay is another popular prepaid card. Astropay is a virtual prepaid card.

Mobile Phone Payments

More and more players use mobile phones to play online. Payment processors and website designers are doing their best to make using smaller screens and buttons easy, but there are also specialist mobile phone payment methods that may be accepted by your pay by phone UK casino site.

Apple Pay, from the Enormo tech corp, Apple, is the best known of these. This uses your bank details to turn your phone into a payment processor, and some casino sites accept payments this way. You will not be able to receive payments to Apple Pay.

BOKU is an example of the most common type of mobile phone payment. BOKU uses your phone bill as a source of funds.

Bitcoin and Crypto Currencies

Cryptocurrencies are online-only means of exchange. There is quite a lot of complex tech, mathematics, and financial theory involved in cryptocurrencies, and they are often used as speculative investments, which means that their value can change wildly.

Many UK casinos now accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

A word of caution here. If a site offers ONLY Bitcoin or crypto payments you should think twice about using it. As well as being investment vehicles, cryptocurrencies are also sometimes used to launder or hide illegitimate money. If you see a site that only offers crypto payments then make a good set of privacy and security checks to be sure it’s a safe site.

There are specialist Bitcoin payment processors, for example, Skrill Bitcoin, but you may also be able to transfer cash directly from your Bitcoin – or other cryptocurrencies – wallet.

What To Expect at a UK Online Casino Site

We’ve spent a good deal of time with warnings and safety information. We’ve done that deliberately because it’s important.

Do these checks and follow these rules, but you should also look for UK online casino sites that are fun to use and have the games you want to play.

Here’s what we think a good online casino site should offer you:

Lots of Games

Games are why you go to an online casino site. So any good casino site should offer you a large amount of them.

These games will usually be classified in a number of ways to make finding the titles you want easy and to introduce you to new games that you might like.

These categories might not be used at every site you see, but this set is a good example. Some titles may appear in more than one category.

Slot games may be filed under a broader “casino” category, but slots might well be listed as:

Top UK Online Casino Slots

The most popular games will always be at the top. Casino sites want you to play for as long as possible so they will offer you the most popular titles first.

For example, a site we looked at in June 2020 listed these as its top titles: Rich Wilde and the Book of Dead, Millionaire Genie, Wolf Gold, Doctor Jackpot and Mister Wild, Mega Fortune, and Starburst.

New Releases

New games are popular, so they will be offered to you at the top of any good site too.

Here are some examples of new releases in 2020 that we saw.

Jinns Moon, Shields of Rome, Pantry Plunder, Stallion Strike Power Zones, and Tiger Stacks.

Exclusive Titles

Having something no-one else has is a pretty good offer, so exclusive titles are highly visible. Only big casino sites, like Mr Green and 888 for example, get exclusive titles.


Big prizes are another very obvious attraction, so you are likely to see games with big prizes listed together, and particularly progressive jackpots.

Progressive jackpot games are unique in the slots world. They offer a prize that is dependent on players. Each bet contributes a tiny amount to a prize fund that is awarded usually in a separate bonus game. The award of these prizes is usually time-limited in some way, so they are just about the only slot games you can use a strategy to play: the longer since the prize has been paid the more likely it is to pay out. This means that online casino sites can categorise these games by when they are due to pay out. It is increasingly popular to feature a “must-drop jackpots tab”. We’re happy to take these at their word, and if you see this category you might want to consider playing.

Genre Sections

There are so many genres of slot games now that it isn’t possible to separate them all out and list them here.

However, it is likely that you will see a “classic slots” tab. These games are simpler and may use sets of symbols – fruits, gems, bells – from classic games.

It’s also likely that you’ll see scratch card games, which are sort of a variant on slots, being listed separately.

Casino Games

Casino games are traditional casino games delivered as an electronic simulation.

The most popular by far are roulette and blackjack.

You will almost certainly see baccarat and variations of poker. Video poker is a game like a slot game that works very much like a slot game.

Live Casino Games

The live casino is the most exciting area of the online casino scene at the moment.

Live casino games are what they say they are: games played by real people with real dealers and croupiers over-seeing the action via a video link.

Again, roulette and blackjack are far and away the most popular games, but you are also likely to see baccarat, poker, keno, and TV game-show-style games.

Most live casinos offer the chance to play at exclusive or high stakes table in return for loyalty to the site.

UK Online Casino Bonuses

Almost without exception UK casino sites offer a reward for signing up. These rewards are generally triggered not just by signing up but by signing up and depositing money in your account. If you don’t have to deposit money to trigger a bonus you will have to give over your bank details or a means of funding your account.

Casino bonuses come with sets of restrictions and are almost always not quite what they appear. The most common is a wagering requirement or “play through” amount that you must deposit and play at the site before you can withdraw money won with any bonus funds you are given. These wagering requirements are generally above 20-times the original deposit, so you will have to play £200 in order to release money from a £10 deposit.

There are now thousands of online casino sites in the UK. Each of them is licensed, and if they are and you can check that licence, then you can trust them. After that, each will have its good and bad points, and your best way to explore the scene is to read review sites, visit forums, and play at the sites.

Have fun and stay safe.