Although bingo is ubiquitous in the UK, both online and in bingo halls and clubs, many still wonder whether playing bingo is legal in the UK and whether organising bingo games is allowed under English jurisdiction.
Online bingo is a fun pastime that is free, fast, and easy to learn. However, you might be wondering if online bingo is legal in the UK. This article will discuss how online bingo became legal in the UK and the types of bingo licenses. We’ll also talk about the other rules and regulations concerning online bingo and gambling in general. Let’s start.
We are not lawyers or legal experts. The information provided in this article is simply the fruit of our research and does not represent legal advice whatsoever. Always seek legal advice from an expert attorney before taking any action(s).
Is Bingo Legal In The UK?
Playing bingo, whether online or in a land-based establishment, is legal in the United Kingdom as long as it is done on a UKGC-licensed platform. If you play in unlicensed bingo sites installed in dodgy jurisdictions, you expose yourself to a high risk of scam or the, with no real recourse to recover your funds.
Bingo is a popular game of chance in the UK, and this means it is big business with massive amounts of money flowing in and out of online operators. The UK Gambling Commission regulates all UK bingo halls, and the rules regarding gambling are very strict to protect players from fraud and rogue traders.
The UK Gambling Commission is in full control of all regulations and legislation concerning land-based and remote gambling licenses, which includes:
- Sports betting
- Casino Games
Responsibilities of the UK Gambling Commission include issuing licenses and codes of practice for the licensing types, regulating the licensed gambling sites, and investigating gambling offenses. The gambling commission regulates bingo products, software, and machines concerning online gambling. It defines online gambling as any form of gambling done through mobile devices, televisions, and other types of gadgets designed for communication.
Types of UK Bingo Licenses
Licenses are issued to gambling and betting companies to operate in the UK legally. Let’s dive deeper into the different types of online and live bingo licenses.
Remote bingo operating license (UKGC)
The remote bingo operating license is issued to people who provide bingo games to online players through a website, mobile, interactive television or radio, and other applications that need the internet.
You need to get a remote bingo operating license if you:
- Are providing online gambling facilities to players living in Great Britain.
- Have a piece of remote gambling equipment in Great Britain.
You will also need it if you make an agreement or contract with any consumer using your gambling facilities.
Additionally, your first annual fee is reduced by 25% and should be paid thirty days after issuing your license. For the succeeding years, the fees are due every year; you should pay them before the day when your license was issued.
Non-remote bingo operating license (UKGC)
A non-remote bingo operating license allows you to provide gambling facilities for bingo games at licensed venues, clubs, and premises with an alcohol license. You will need to get this license when your turnover bingo prizes exceed £2,000.
When you have a non-remote bingo operating license, you can offer Category B3, B4, C, or D gaming machines. Moreover, you can apply for linked licenses if you want to take control of the maintenance of your gaming machines and gambling software.
Just like a remote bingo operating license, you have to pay the first annual fee deducted by 25% 30 days after your license was issued.
Remote Bingo Game Host Operating License (UKGC)
A remote bingo game host operating license is issued to owners of gambling software businesses that provide bingo playing facilities hosted through the operator’s platform.
With this license, you are allowed to provide bingo playing facilities through remote communication with the following criteria:
- You have a gambling software operating license
- You don’t have any current contract or agreement with the consumers playing the bingo games you provide
An operating license from the gambling commission is issued to individuals providing gambling facilities to players living in Great Britain. When applying for this license, you must be 18 years old.
The types of gambling needing an operating license are the following:
- Gaming machine providers
- Gambling software providers
- Remote gambling
Personal Management License (UKGC)
A personal management license is required for people with significant management positions. You need a PML when you are responsible for the following tasks at a licensed gambling operator:
- Strategy and delivery of gambling operations
- Regulatory compliance
- Financial, control, and budget planning
- Provision and security concerning gambling-related IT
- Commercial and marketing development
- Own five or more bingo premises and manage a licensed activity anywhere in Great Britain
- Managing a single set of casino or bingo licensed premises
Remember that regardless of how many tasks listed above are your responsibility, you only need one personal management license. The license fee is £370 and is non-refundable. You can only perform the listed tasks above when the license is already with you.
If you wish to apply for this license, here are the following requirements:
- Proof of identity.
- Gambling licenses issued outside of the UK.
- A UK residential address.
- A Disclosure and Barring Service Form if you’re from England or Wales.
- A Disclosure Scotland Form if you’re from Scotland.
- A copy of your police report, credit report, or a letter of good standing.
Personal Functional License (UKGC)
A personal functional license is issued to individuals handling cash during gambling at a casino. It takes 8 weeks for this license to be issued, assuming there are no mistakes during your application.
To be more specific, you need this license if you are a:
- Pit boss or a gaming supervisor
- An inspector
- A security personnel monitoring surveillance of gambling activities
The application fee for a personal functional license is £185 and is non-refundable. If you wish to apply for one, here are the requirements you will need:
- An email address and a mobile number.
- Your address for the last five years.
- A debit or credit card to pay the fee.
- Proof of identity and certified copies.
- A copy of your police report, credit report, or a letter of good standing issued by the bank.
Premises License (Local Council)
Under the Gambling Act of 2005, different premise licenses regulate commercial gambling and license issuance of all gambling premises, personnel, and operators.
The primary objectives of this act are:
- Prevent gambling from getting involved with any source of crime and disorder.
- Ensure that gambling is done in an orderly and fair manner.
- Protect children and the vulnerable community from being exploited by gambling.
There are different types of premise licenses under the Gambling Act of 2005.
Casino Premise License
New casino premise licenses are not granted as of the moment, but any existing casino premise license can be upgraded to increase or decrease the area permitted for gambling. This is one of the few premise licenses that can be varied to transfer from one premise to another.
Bingo Premise License
A bingo premise license grants an issued individual to offer all forms of bingo.
Betting Premises License
The betting premise license is issued to individuals facilitating bingo betting in a shop. You can operate most gaming machines ranging from B2, B3, B4, C, and D if you own this license.
Adult Gaming Center Premise License
An adult gaming center premise license allows individuals to provide available gaming machines on the site. However, you must own a gaming machine general operating license issued from the Commission while seeking a premise license from the licensing authority.
Common Gambling License Requirements
Regardless of the type of gambling license you wish to apply for your gambling facilities, all licenses have common requirements you must prepare. Having complete requirements can ensure that there will be no hindrance or delay in your application process.
Anti-Money Laundering and KYC
As an iGaming operator applying for a gambling license, you must comply with the anti-money laundering legislation. Under this legislation, all gambling operators with operating licenses should comply with the following:
- The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
- The Gambling Act of 2005
- The Terrorism Act 2000
- Money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessment issued by the Gambling Commission
The Gambling Commission developed the money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessment with sector specialists and the National Crime Agency. To identify particular sector risks and threats to gambling operators, the Gambling Commission utilized the Financial Action Task Force Framework.
Operators who fail to comply with the legislation can have their licenses reviewed by the Gambling Commission.
Non-remote operators with premise licenses in arcades, bingo, betting, and casino sectors should participate in multi-operator self-exclusion schemes. With a multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, an individual can request to self-exclude from one kind of gambling within his area. You need to participate in all self-exclusion schemes relevant to the types of gambling you offer from different premises.
Bingo self-exclusion is an important tool for customers who have developed an addiction to bingo, or gambling, and wish to stop.
Marketing Regulations for Gambling Content
If you advertise gambling products and services, it must be socially responsible and must comply with the UK Advertising Codes. The UK Advertising Codes are issued by the Committees of Advertising Practice and administered by the Advertising Standards Authority.
When advertising gambling services and products, remember not to mislead consumers. All terms and conditions should be included in all marketing promotions. They should be displayed in the advertisement to see and read.
Additionally, the terms and conditions should be placed close to the headline on all landing and sign-up webpages; they must be available for the entire promotion duration.
Fair and Transparent Terms and Practices
Under this agreement, all gambling operators must adhere to consumer protection laws and treat all consumers fairly, openly, and transparently. Operators must also comply with the Competitions and Markets Authority. The CMA’s principles are designed to ensure fair and open gambling.
The Fair and Transparent Terms and Practices ensure that all gambling information is transparent even before joining the game. If there are promotions, operators should ensure that all consumers are aware of the details of the said promotion even before they sign up.
All significant terms and conditions should be presented clearly and transparently to ensure all consumers understand them. They should not be hidden or be too complex. Moreover, under promotional play restrictions, all terms and conditions should enumerate and specify the prohibited play patterns.
According to the security requirements and testing strategy of remote gambling and software technical standards, remote gambling and certain remote lottery license holders should employ an annual security audit done by a qualified and independent auditor. Indeed, it does not need to be submitted to the Gambling Commission unless requested.
As stated earlier, gambling regulation is based on three main objectives:
- There should be no crime in any form of gambling
- Gambling should be conducted fairly and openly
- Children and any vulnerable individual should not be exploited by gambling
With these objectives, operators should be socially responsible for accounting for all their consumers. There should be a proactive interaction between them because it prevents customers from requesting self-exclusion.
The social responsibility of gambling operators ensures that their gambling businesses are sustainable and long-term.
Protection of Players’ Funds
All gambling operators must secure transparent protection for the players’ funds. Remember that the Gambling Commission does not protect any money deposited or staked with gambling. With this, you must ensure that all details regarding an individual’s money have secured protection and should be relayed properly before proceeding with any agreement or contract.
The Gambling Commission requires all gambling businesses to provide a reasonable explanation of what they will do if the consumers’ money goes bust. Gambling businesses should also display the rating for how the consumers’ money is treated and all significant terms and conditions. This should be done after a customer makes their first deposit.
Lastly, consumers must actively respond that they have understood your terms regarding protecting their funds before using their deposit in playing.
Segregation of Players’ Funds
Remote operators holding consumer funds must segregate them. The segregation requirement applies to gambling and telephone betting operators. This means that customer funds are kept in a separate bank account. For example, see Betfred’s page detailing their segregation of funds policy.
Rules and regulations regarding all forms of gambling are strict in the UK to ensure that all parties are secured and that no one will be exploited. Gambling operators and companies must comply with all the gambling license requirements to be allowed full operation by the UK Gambling Commission.