How to Play at Real Money Online Casinos from UK
Compared to many countries, the UK is very relaxed when it comes to gambling. There are very few countries where you will find ‘high street bookmakers’ (sportsbooks), casino adverts on the TV and slots in the majority of bars. Many of the biggest and best known online gambling brands were created in the UK. This includes giants like 888 Holdings and William Hill.
Online casino gambling in the UK has recently undergone some big changes. On the 1st December 2014, the government brought in a licensing regime and started to tax the offshore operators. From the player’s perspective not too much has changed, with the bigger brands all going through the licensing process.
This page shows you what to look for when choosing a UK online casino to play at. The legal situation is explained first below, followed by the relationship between the big brand name casinos and the software houses which supply their games. After that you will find some recommendations for licensed UK casinos – and some advice on what to look out for if you choose different ones instead.
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UK Casinos and the Law
Prior to 2014, the UK did not license online gambling. Instead casinos (and sportsbooks / poker sites) which were licensed in certain overseas territories were allowed to take wagers from the UK and to advertise their services too. Territories which were whitelisted included Malta, Gibraltar and Alderney. It is no coincidence that those are the locations of the HQs of many of the biggest gambling brands worldwide.
While the 2014 act made big declarations about ‘player safety’ and ‘protecting the vulnerable’, most people acknowledge that it was more about tax than anything else. With the UK online casino industry taking billions in wagers, there was a big opportunity for taxation. A 15% point-of-consumption tax for offshore gambling sites was introduced, which forced the operators to become licensed. In addition, casino operators which did not become licensed were not allowed to advertise on TV or in the press.
Most casinos did acquire licenses – with only a handful of operators withdrawing from the UK. There are still unlicensed operators that will accept wagers from the UK. With the huge choice of regulated and trusted brands available, there is little need for UK-based players to consider those options.
How UK Casinos Work
Many of the world’s biggest gambling brands come from the UK. Many started out with sports betting (with betting on horse racing the most popular format for many years). These casinos do not generally produce their own games. Instead they license software from the big software houses such as MicroGaming, PlayTech or Net Entertainment.
While US Casinos usually run on a single form of software (or have 2), UK Casinos are more likely to host games from several of the leading software houses. The move from the old download to a no-download casino model has helped this diversity. You can find the best games and slot jackpots from 4 or 5 different software houses at many casinos – often segregated into ‘Vegas’ or ‘Arcade’ sections.
With a government backed body available to deal with any disputes, you’ll find that UK licensed casinos are very strong on service and payments. Deposit methods such as PayPal and Debit Cards make depositing and withdrawing quick and easy too.
Payment Options for UK Casinos
Having licensed and regulated casinos makes depositing and withdrawing a lot easier (and a lot safer) than for many countries. The most common payment option is Debit Card, which is a Visa or MasterCard linked directly to your bank account.
Many players choose to use the big-name eWallet systems. These include PayPal, Skrill and Neteller. These 3rd party systems keep your bank account and the casino sites separated. This is useful for players who prefer not to have casino transactions showing on their bank statement – and also adds an extra layer of security in-between your bank and the casinos. A lesser known advantage of keeping some of your casino balance in an eWallet system is that you will always have cash on hand to quickly take advantage of short term bonuses and promotions.
UK Casinos – What to Look Out For
With so much choice available, it can be difficult to differentiate the real quality UK Casinos from the merely ok ones. Here are some of the key factors I look out for when deciding which online casinos are worth playing at.
The first thing to check is the game selection. Some casinos will only have the games from a single software house. This naturally limits your choices, especially when it comes to the variety and range of slots. Some casinos license the TV and movie tie-in games from US giants like IGT and WMS, as well as the online specialists including MicroGaming and PlayTech.
Live dealer casino options are another thing to check for before you sign-up. These stream a real dealer to your computer – allowing you to bet using your mouse. Most of the big brands now offer these games, and if you find a casino that does not it may be worth moving on.
Bonuses can all look the same when you see the headlines on the homepage of the casinos. I can assure you there are big differences – even between similar looking UK licensed casino brands. The important factors to look out for are the play-through (wager-through) requirements and any weighting or restrictions on certain games.
Even more important than the initial welcome bonuses are the ongoing rewards and promotions. These will make a bigger difference to your bankroll over time than the short-term welcome offers. Good UK casinos should offer a loyalty (comp) scheme, regular promotions and specials like reload bonuses or free-play on some of their best slots. If your casino does not offer these, it could well be time to shop around.