Many players, particularly those new to online gambling take it for granted that all online casinos are regulated and licensed. Sadly, this is not the case, no matter how much we wish it were. Often the unwitting player is duped into depositing and playing with an unworthy operator by a swish website design and a large Welcome Bonus offer. We receive hundreds of complaints annually about just such instances, a player has hastily deposited funds, won, and then is not allowed to make a withdrawal. Their money is held hostage by a rogue operator with no legal recourse for them to recover it. Without a regulator to impose rules, rogue operators run amuck, and players are seldom happy with the treatment they receive at their hands. So how can new initiates to online gambling be sure that they are playing with a fully regulated and licensed operator? Read on to discover how.
How to Tell if an Online Casino is Licensed and Regulated
Believe us when we tell you that spending a little time to check whether an online casino is licensed by a reputable license issuer before you signup will save you a world of pain later. There are a few fast checks that can be undertaken to safeguard your cash and your mental health. It is not difficult to check that an operator is trustworthy, licensed and customer focused, and we will walk you through how to do this.
It is really important that players, old and new, accept that just because an online casino claims to have a license, it is not necessarily the case. Never blindly trust that an online operator is what they claim to be without putting in the legwork to make sure that they are telling the truth. Our Blacklist of operators is full of online casinos that, on first sight, seem to be legitimate and player friendly; trust us: they are not!
In order to aid players on their journey to finding an online casino worthy of their trust, the most highly thought of regulators insist that license seals and functioning links to appropriate licensing pages are easily locatable on the operator’s website. It is remarkably easy to build these links and since online casinos tend to have their own programming teams, there is little cost associated with having them. Therefore – if there are no seals displayed, or a player cannot click through to the licensor’s site from a displayed seal or other hyperlink, there is another reason for not being able to do so. In our experience, that reason is because the operator is actually feigning a credible license and we urge players to avoid playing there at all costs.
So, where will players find these links? Most often they can be located in the footer of every single page of an operator’s website. Sometimes operators also build links to their license into their Terms and Conditions documents too – it is worth looking in both locations for extra surety. If a seal is to be found on the site but it does not act as a link to the licensing page, walk away. There is more likelihood of the operator being unlicensed and it is better to be overly cautious than not cautious enough. Over caution costs you nothing. The reality is, once a player has lost funds playing with an unlicensed operator, they are unrecoverable, we will always try to be of assistance, but in our experience such attempts are generally unsuccessful. If you find yourself in such a position and you would like our help, we have put together a detailed article on this very subject - How to Complain About an Online Casino. We cover the significant details relating to the multitude of regulators functioning today in the remainder of this article.
Another top tip is to look for ownership details – a least a contact address and company name – if these are provided this is a good sign of an authentic and secure operator. If an operator conceals their company name, we would suggest signing up at a more reliable alternative.
Casino Regulators and License Providers
Below we provide information on many of the more prominent regulators functioning within the industry. We are working to build a library of articles on each regulator, reviewing the standards that each regulator requires of its licensees highlighting the important licensing terms and how they impact players. These articles are time consuming to build - often requiring our team to sift through hundreds of pages of regulatory documentation. They are not all done yet. So please check back regularly to get further information on what your rights are as players when playing with operators using different licenses.
♠ United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC)
In October of 2005, as a direct result of the appearance of the Gambling Act 2005, the Gambling Commission (UKGC) was set up to guard the interests of players. If an operator is granted a license by the UKGC then it speaks of a standard of excellence that cannot be achieved or maintained by all online casinos. The demands placed on operators wishing to secure a UK license are stringent. Copious regulations relating to how the operator protects player’s money, how they conduct their business affairs, data security and the systems they have in place to protect vulnerable gamblers are set out and must be adhered to. Formal documentation has been drawn up by the Gambling Commission to aid operators, it lays out the expected standards relating to licensing conditions and codes of practice, anyone can access the License Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) to garner more information regarding the requirements. One of the major focuses of the UKGC is to protect the interests of minors and vulnerable players such as compulsive gamblers. The Gambling Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) together with the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), work tirelessly to improve standards and update conditions so that the interests of players are best represented.
We would like to make clear that simply having a UKGC license is not enough to be completely sure that an operator is everything they claim to be. UK licensed operators have had their licenses suspended or even been stripped of their licenses for questionable actions, that is why we go beyond simply focusing on licensing as the sole indicator of trustworthiness and safety in our Casino Reviews. That said, a UKGC license should be a strong indication of confidence.
♥ Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
The Maltese government has taken significant steps forward in terms of raising the standards that their licensees are required to meet in the last decade – turning their small island state into one of the most prominent gambling licensors in the industry. The founding of the MGA was as a result of regulation of this dynamic market and the organisation is 20 years old this year (2021). Under the provisions of the Gaming Act, 2018 – Chapter 583 of the Laws of Malta, the Malta Gaming Authority strive to give players clear pathways to reputable and fully regulated casino operators. The MGA are constantly updating and strengthening their regulatory standards so that players experience the best and safest treatment at the hands of their licensees. They are expected to be fully compliant with the stringent rules and regulations that are detailed in the multiple Directives they have published, players are most likely to find 2 of the Directives more appropriate for their needs than the others – they are: Directive 2 of 2018 – Player Protection Directive and Directive 3 of 2018 – Gaming Authorisations and Compliance Directive. The MGA also work collaboratively with the MCCAA - the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority - to ensure that the rules stipulated in the Consumer Affairs Act are enacted. Any enforcement judgments applied to licensees by the MGA can be found in the MGA Enforcement Register.
♣ Gibraltar Gambling Commission (GGC)
On Gibraltar, the Gambling Commissioner has been empowered to make sure that those granted a Gibraltarian gambling license comply with the high standards laid out for them. A central body responsible for enacting the provisions made in the Gambling Act (Gibraltar), 2005 became a necessity and so the Gibraltar Gambling Commission (GGC) came into being. The document drawn up by the Commission, containing the expected practices and regulations for casino operators is called the Generic Code and it can be a good source of information for players who suspect an operator of failing to abide by their license regulations for this jurisdiction. The GGC is focused on making provision for those wishing to gamble that places: “[…]fair, secure and transparent[…]” services for all. To this end the Gambling Commissioner has drawn up guide to aid complainants experiencing issues with operators licensed in Gibraltar which can be found here.
♦ Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC)
For Alderney, spring 2000 marked an important development in their gambling regulation journey. This is when the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) came into existence, its goal, to enact the provisions made under Gambling Law (Alderney), 1999. In the interests of completeness, additional regulations and guidelines were made available through the construction of 2 further legislative documents: The Alderney eGambling Ordinance, 2009 and the target="_blank">Alderney eGambling Regulations, 2009. The Alderney License is considered to be high quality as a result of the rigid framework these documents create for licensees – they are expected to adhere to exacting standards. Like many of the quality licensors, the AGCC are mindful of the need to focus on protecting those minors or problem gamblers who may be trying to access gambling services in their jurisdiction. In the main, it appears that those players electing to play with Alderney licensed properties receive fair treatment at their hands.
♠ Jersey Gambling Commission
On Jersey, the Jersey Gambling Commission (JGC) are at the helm when it comes to gambling related issues and they have been since autumn 2010. It became a necessity for Jersey to appoint a body to preside over the gambling sector with the passing of the Gambling Commission (Jersey) Law, 2010, hence the founding of the JGC. At the heart of the JGCs operation is the desire to provide high levels of protection for those susceptible to compulsive gambling habits and those below the legal age for gambling who may be tempted to try and access such services. They are very intent on encouraging operators to establish practices that eradicate the possibility of criminal activity associated with gambling, together with safe and secure access to igaming services for all. Multiple regulatory documents have been published setting out the expected standards and procedures that Jersey licensed operators must abide by. For players we believe the most likely to be of use is, The Code of Practice for Responsible Gambling for Remote Operators.
♥ Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC)
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), established under Section 35 (online gambling) of the Kahnawake Gaming Law has a good reputation for protecting the needs of players. Since the founding of the KGC in summer 1999, it has forged a reputation for high standards whilst enacting the Regulations Concerning Interactive Gaming which came into existence in the same year as the regulator was founded. Like many positively reputed licensors, the KGC have zeroed in on the most vulnerable player categories that may try to access gambling services in their jurisdiction. They have tried to afford the best possible protections to these groups which include juveniles and compulsive gamblers. Fundamentally, they wish to establish a gambling sector that is renowned for its safe and fair gaming services and one which employs the highest standards of data protection practices whilst stamping out criminal behaviour and money laundering. Operators are expected to make provision for players to set account limits and self-exclusions and if players feel that these provisions are absent, or not functioning as they should, the Commission encourages players to make them aware of this – they take a dim view of licensees who do not abide by their regulations.
♣ Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission
In its first incarnation, circa 1962, the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission was focused on protecting the interests of those gamblers visiting land based casinos only since they were the only gambling facilities available. As with all things, the march of time demands evolution, leading to the Supervision Commission turning its attention to the growing igaming industry and the need to protect players accessing this particular sector. The necessary legislation was drawn up in the form of the Online Gambling Regulation Act, 2001 allowing the extension of the regulatory powers of the Commission. The central concerns of the Commission focus on the absolute necessity for trustworthiness and integrity in all its licensees; the complete eradication of the risk of criminal enterprises benefiting from gambling online; the prohibition of money-laundering. Beyond this, they drive home the need for operators to have systems in place that give high levels of protection to those most at risk of developing unhealthy gambling habits, including children under the age of 18.
Curaçao as a jurisdiction has had an inconsistent approach to gambling legislation, chopping and changing which department and agency is responsible for what. Since 1999, the Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB) has had the powers necessary to govern gambling activities in the jurisdiction, land-based and remote. The regulatory system in Curaçao is based on a two-tier approach – four Master Licenses were awarded to some telecommunications firms existing in the jurisdiction, all with their own individual license number, these Master License holders then issue sub-licenses to igaming operators wishing to avail themselves of them. The four Master License distributors with their associated license numbers are:
- AntillePhone (apparently no provision of user facing website beyond license verification pages) (License No. 8048/JAZ)
- Curacao eGaming (License No. 1668/JAZ)
- Gaming Curacao (License No. 365/JAZ)
- Curaçao Interactive Licensing (CIL) (We could not locate a website associated with this Master Licensor, not even a license verification page, as such an operator can falsely claim a CIL license without consequence) (License No. 5536/JAZ).
In our experience, the Curaçao Master License holders are unwilling to be of much assistance to players when they find themselves having difficulties with one of their operators. We found it impossible to locate a website for the Curaçao Ministry of Justice, subsequently this means we have been unable to determine exactly what standards the governments have imposed on these Master License providers. Without clear regulatory standards that are accessible by all, how can any player have confidence that a Curaçao licensed operator is safe and honest? We would strongly caution players against playing with operators that only hold a Curacao based license.
♠ Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA)
There have been significant changes to Swedish gambling regulations in the past few years as they become more aware of the need to protect vulnerable players. The Gambling Act (2018:1138) made provision for new procedures to be introduced and the body given responsibility for the shake-up is the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) or Spelinspektionen which was established in 2018. The Swedish regulator is without a doubt enforcing strict standards for online casinos, but the relevant documentation is only available in the Swedish language. All regulatory stipulations are to be found in the document called Spellag, which details the standards necessary to remain in possession of a Swedish license. The SGA are very proactive when it comes to imposing regulations that offer protection to those players most at risk of social harms due to uncontrollable gambling urges. Recently they have introduced rules to prevent licensees from offering anything other than a single Welcome Bonus per customer. Slots games also have an imposed 3 second interval between spins for Swedish licensed properties.
♥ Antigua & Barbuda’s Directorate of Offshore Gaming
Established in 1994, the Directorate of Offshore Gaming (DOG), a subsidiary of the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC), is solely responsible for the creation and deployment of regulatory standards in this jurisdiction. All information relating to the expected standards of operation for online casinos is set out in the Interactive Gaming and Interactive Wagering Regulations 2007. The number of operators licensed in Antigua & Barbuda has diminished in recent years which may signpost the value online gaming providers assign to business deriving from this jurisdiction.
♣ Spain’s General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling
The General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling was appointed in 2015 to oversee gambling activities in Spain, enacting the provisions made clear in the Spanish Gambling Act of 2011. The main aim of the Act was to give a unified approach to gambling legislation and subsequently, player experiences in the jurisdiction. In this jurisdiction advertising, sponsorships and promotions connected to gambling also fall under the scope of the Act and they must give authorization on all such activities. The Spanish regulator helpfully outline the rights and obligations of those participating in online gambling in Spain in a concise document that can be located here. Above all the General Directorate wish to prevent harms to vulnerable players and they do offer a “self-prohibition” scheme for players wishing to stop themselves accessing gambling sites. They state that players who elect to use the scheme will be prohibited permanently, but provision is made to reverse the action after 6 months if so desired. They wish to preside over a safe and reliable online gambling industry.
♦ Italy’s Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato (AAMS)
Gambling licenses in Italy can only be distributed by the government appointed, Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato (AAMS), which translates as the Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies. The total number of operators in possession of an AAMS license is small and as a result players will not come across the licensor with any regularity. Unfortunately for players, the possession of an AAMS license does not really indicate any gold standard in terms of operating practices – the conditions of having a license are not so much to do with player security or operator integrity so much as paying the associated licensing fees and maintain a high level company turnover – presumably to benefit the government’s tax coffers.
♠ Belgian Gaming Commission
In Belgium, the Gaming and Betting Act of 7 May 1999 gave rise to the creation of the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC). As it stands, the Belgian licensor is very player focused, and places extreme priority on protecting the most at risk players likely to reside in their jurisdiction. The addictive nature of some game types is of grave concern to the BGC and they have been proactive in trying to manage the risk these games pose to vulnerable players. The BGC consider “games of chance” to be a threat to some and they are committed to negating the financial harms such games can bring about. The BGC take their duty of care to players most seriously and they have taken protective steps far above those other licensors have. At the start of 2020, the State Council took the decision to prevent all Belgian licensed operators from offering bonuses to residents in their jurisdiction. Beyond this, they also instituted a cap on the maximum amount any player could deposit per week per gambling property – the amount being €500. Indications have been given that this limit is only a first step and that it could be swiftly followed by a weekly limit of €500 across all licensed properties. The BGC await the construction of a centrally held data storage system that will allow them to enact this successfully.
♥ Nevada Gaming Control Board>
Nevada is synonymous with gambling and so it is no surprise that The Nevada Gaming Control Board has been in existence since 1955; now they work in conjunction with the Nevada Gaming Commission to preside over all gambling activities that take place within state boundaries. The Nevada licensor is well aware of the economic importance of gambling to its state economy, but at the same time recognises the need for the industry to have a reputation for honest and reliability if players are to continue gambling there. Over their long history the twin organisations have managed to strike a balance that satisfies the needs of all.
♣ New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is a sub-division of the Department of Law and Public Safety, founded in 1977 to enact the provisions of the New Jersey Casino Control Act, also drawn up in 1977. At the heart of the aims of the Division is the abiding desire to eradicate any connection between criminal activities and gambling – on or offline. Of course they also recognise the fact that gambling fuels their economy to a great degree and so maintaining the contribution it can make to the financial good standing of the state is also key. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement have instituted a self-exclusion scheme which, though basic, shows recognition of the fact that some provision must be made to allow those who cannot control gambling compulsions, to try and regain control over them. Uniquely, New Jersey have also founded a telephone helpline just for those requiring support with problem gambling habits called, 800Gambler. This is laudable.
Other regulatory agencies of note are as follows:
Being in possession of a high-quality license is not the only thing that points to an operator being reputable, but it is a great place to start as you will have seen from the variety of player protection levels afforded by the different licensors outlined above.
Legality of Online Gambling in Other Jurisdictions
While not every jurisdiction has established a regulatory authority at this point, most are moving in that direction. We have compiled detailed reviews of the current state of regulation in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.
Additional Checks to Ensure Online Casinos are Legitimate and Reputable
We always advocate for putting in the effort to carry out as many checks as possible before making it to the playing stage with any potential operator. Only by undertaking extensive research can a player really feel that an operator is providing the safe service they deserve. Drilling down beneath the surface is the best thing players can do to safeguard their funds and have their expectations met. Being licensed by a high-quality licensor and freely offering ownership and contact details on site are the initial steps to making sure an operator is all that you hope they will be – there is more that you can do to feel secure in your decision to play with an online casino.
- Locate the potential operator’s Terms and Conditions documents – this includes Bonus Terms and Conditions which may or may not be a separate document. Look specifically for terms that are not in the interests of players – normally these relate to win caps, withdrawal limits or seizure of balances under certain circumstances. If you lack confidence in your ability to tell if you have missed something that might be player unfriendly then be sure to visit our Casino Reviews where you will find that we have done all of the hard work for you. Remember – casino’s update their terms frequently – particularly those relating to bonuses, so it is your responsibility to make sure that the terms we have highlighted still apply and that nothing new and nasty has been added. Every effort is made to keep our reviews up to date, but we add hundreds of new reviews every year to give you honest appraisals of the newest operators on the market.
- If you intend to accept the Welcome Bonus or Welcome Bonus Package that an operator is offering, then always read through the specific Bonus Terms relating to the promotion and General Bonus Terms if they have them. There may well be terms that you find less than appealing and that may mean you do not wish to play with this operator. It is better to discover that before you go through the signup process. Look specifically for the wagering requirements associated with the bonus you intend on accepting – remember not all games contribute equally to wagering – table games and live games have notoriously lower weightings than slots. Check that the win cap sometimes applied to bonuses is one you are happy to abide by. There may well be a maximum bet term – this is nearly universal – you may have playing preferences that cannot be accommodated by a low maximum bonus. Players must keep up to date with any changes before accepting a bonus – it is their sole responsibility to do so. Remember to check our Bonus Reports for the true cash value of the bonus you are looking at.
Casino Licensing FAQs
♠Are all online casinos licensed?
Definitely not! In fact, there are hundreds of online casinos operating without any license at all. There are even some that claim to be licensed but in actual fact they are not. You must go through the steps outlined in this article if you are to be sure you are playing with a legitimate and high-quality operator. All of our Best Casinos are licensed by high quality and player friendly regulators.
♥How do I check if an online casino is licensed?
All of the best regulators make provisions for players to check an operator’s status on their website. All operators are expected to display the relevant licensing seals in the footers of their websites and these should function as hyperlinks to a license verification page on the regulator’s site. If there is no link to a reputable regulator, or the seal is in place but doesn’t act as a link, we recommend leaving the website and selecting another operator. If you need help with the signup process you can access supplementary advice on that here - A Beginner's Guide to Joining an Online Casino.
♣ Are all gambling licenses the same?
Absolutely not! The quality of license varies as much as the quality of online casinos operating today. An online casino is only as reputable as their licensor requires them to be through the application of stringent regulatory standards and immaculate business practices. Some licensors are more focused on encouraging licensees to make money than in safeguarding the money deposited by players. If you are worried that an online casino is not meeting its licensing obligations in the fairness of the games it offers, put your mind at ease by making use of resources to determine whether it is likely to be rigged.
♦ Other than checking for a license is there anything else I can do to keep my cash safe?
There is! Check for ownership details – that is a company name and a postal address – the best operators have nothing to hide because they give the best service. Check for unfair Terms and Conditions and unfair Bonus Terms and Conditions – seizure of balance terms or slow paying large wins are things to look out for. Check that there are no unresolved complaints logged with our complaints service. Use our Bonus Reports to make sure the bonus is actually worth claiming in terms of its actual cash value for players. Oh and finally, never play with any of the casinos that are Not Recommended or Blacklisted by ThePOGG. These statuses have not been obtained by accident.
♠ What can I do if I have played at an unlicensed operator and experienced problems?
The honest answer is that most of the time there is nothing we can do to recover funds lost with an unlicensed operator because they are beholden to nobody – there is no regulator to apply standards to their practices and they no there will be no legal repercussions for them because they operate from jurisdictions that cannot be accessed legally – generally they are wise enough not to accept players from the jurisdiction they operate out of to safeguard themselves from intervention by their own government. We will of course try to help if we receive a complaint from a player via our complaints service which can be accessed here - Submit a Complaint
♥ How can I help prevent others from ripped off by an unlicensed operator?
One of the best things you can do if you have lost funds with an unlicensed operator is protect players more vulnerable than you. Often players exhibiting compulsive gambling tendencies end up being the ones most badly affected by these rogue operators. ThePOGG founded the registered charity BetBlocker to try and help players in this category. Please do visit the BetBlocker website and contact BetBlocker Support to let them know about the rogue operator and have the operator added to the list of blocked IP addresses. By doing this you help innumerable players in desperate situations, and you increase the likelihood of the operator in question losing custom.