Gambling first became regulated in the UK back in 1960 with the passing of the Betting and Gaming Act, which allowed for large scale expansion of land-based gambling in the country. In turn, this led to a huge number of betting shops being set up, with 10,000 ALONE being opened in the first 6 months of the law passing. These betting shops included bingo halls and even smaller casinos, although they were kept very limited to just 20 gaming machines at maximum during that time. It would be decades later before there was any semblance of UK poker sites existing in the region.
The Gaming Act of 1968 permitted even larger scale casinos to be built. Gambling flourished in the country for decades to come, but the passing of Gambling Act of 2005 allowed for even more expansion of land-based casinos and it also legalized online gaming for its citizens. In essence, the new law cast off the last bastions of its reservations and opened up the market for gambling completely, provided that it was properly tested, licensed and regulated.
The coming of online gambling certainly complicated things a bit from a regulatory standpoint, and the 2005 law did seek to offer some protection to UK gamblers, but it relied to a large degree on other regulatory bodies to do so. This changed with the passing of the latest gambling laws, in 2014, which take complete control of regulating UK players, as we will see.
Best UK Poker Sites Online
Changes in UK iGaming Regulations
Back in the days before iGaming, the location of the gambling enterprise was normally a non-issue. Since it was all land-based, the law simply stated that the gambling itself had to take place at a physical location and of course that the location was located somewhere in the UK.
With internet gambling, often the providers were located in other countries, and subject to the laws and regulations of the other countries. This created some concerns, particularly the fact that these companies located outside the UK were not required to pay tax or licensing fees to UK authorities, but could still offer casino play to UK residents.
Among other things, this put gambling companies who were located in the UK at a disadvantage. William Hill, the largest gambling company in the UK, fled to other jurisdictions to benefit from the friendlier taxation structure.
In addition, this also created a lack of transparency and control over gambling that UK residents partook in that were regulated not by them, but in other locations, such as Gibraltar. It wasn’t that Gibraltar and other regulatory bodies weren’t doing a good job, but UK regulators wanted more control and access to more information than the current scheme allowed.
So the new gambling laws require that anyone offering gambling to UK residents, whether land-based or online, obtain a license from the UK Gambling Commission. There was at least some doubt as to how willing foreign sites would be to comply with this, as this was to some degree voluntary, but the reception has been very good, and many poker sites were most eager to apply for and be granted a license.
This is all a wonderful scheme for players, and the government actually seeks to assist players in playing online, rather than looking to impair them or even prevent them from playing, as is the case in a great many other places, such as the United States for instance. The government exercises control over things without limiting play to just a few sites; things are wide open here with all of the best choices still available.
How Does The UK Gambling Commission Help Poker Players?
While online gambling regulators are generally quite reputable, the new UK regulations are the most protective in the world, which makes putting players at the forefront a no-brainer. And while a lot of the things it does address isn’t something that poker players generally have issues with, such as more stringent rules on communicating about bonuses and such, more transparency certainly does not hurt.
One of the goals of this new law is to help manage problem gambling more effectively, although this is more of a social problem than one that affects the majority of players, but problem gambling is one of the cons that people see with gambling.
Therefore if this is managed better, this makes the industry itself look better. Poker players in the UK have benefited from a very friendly climate towards poker and gambling in general, and surely want to keep it that way, so anything that helps this is certainly beneficial.
A real benefit to players though is that, given that these regulations are more stringent, this will better ensure that the sites that are licensed by the UK Gambling Commission are highly reputable, and players can therefore play on a licensed site with an extreme level of confidence.
Should there be any issues that arise, it’s also more comforting to know that, instead of looking to appeal to a foreign regulatory body for help, one need only apply to UK authorities, who jealously guard and protect the interests of UK online players.
So these new laws are certainly welcomed by players, and in fact the appeal of the new law to players was probably the main reason why so many online poker sites have sought and obtained a UK license, in spite of still being able to offer play in the UK without one, it was seen as valuable enough to obtain though to make their poker sites more appealing to UK players.
Do UK Poker Players Have To Pay Taxes On Winnings?
Winnings from gambling have never been taxed in the UK, and the new laws do not change that. They require only the operators to pay taxes and licensing fees to the UK government. This has increased their cost of doing business there , but the impact hasn’t been substantial enough to dissuade these companies from being willing participants in the new regulatory scheme.
The new law did end up culling the land-based betting shops though, not only placing more limitations on them, but increasing the rate of tax that they pay. The UK is now seeing a shrinkage of these types of establishments in the market, as many cannot afford to pay the higher tax. Once again, this doesn’t affect players, as they do not pay any tax here [or online] regardless.
Most Popular Poker Networks For UK Poker Players
The question of what online poker sites will have a UK gambling license has been answered, and the answer is, just about all of the major ones. The UK market is a large one and is too lucrative for these major sites to lose market share to other licensed iGaming rooms. Each poker room on ANY network must apply for their license separately and be approved before they can start sharing player traffic and run their operation.
As far as poker networks go, the iPoker Network is the world’s largest by traffic, and the third most popular place to play poker overall. The iPoker Network sits only behind independently-operated sites like PokerStars and 888 Poker, who are both licensed in the UK as well.
The second largest poker network, Microgaming, or MPN as it’s called now, has many UK-friendly poker sites currently operating here. Poker rooms like BetSafe and Bettson see a fair amount of traffic derived from the UK and all parts of Europe, both of which are shared by similar operations on Microgaming.
Best Online Poker eWallets and Other Deposit Methods for UK Players
Credit cards are a very popular way to deposit money at online poker sites, and UK credit cards are easy to use, unlike credit cards in some countries where they may be more restricted. Third-party sites like EntroPay also allow users to get virtual Visa cards, which act like normal credit cards – just without the ACTUAL physical card itself.
Internet eWallets are also very popular as they allow both easy deposits and easy withdrawals and are superior to credit cards for this reason. You can associate your credit card with your eWallet though and get the best of both worlds. UK poker players can use all of the major ones, including PayPal, Neteller, Skrill and standard bank wires/transfers.
Not all sites may accept all payment methods, and they also differ as far as minimum deposit requirements for each and also can be declined based on your location. Please make sure to check the official websites for each room you sign up to confirm you can use specific banking options.
Most Popular Poker Games for UK Customers
UK poker players enjoy the full assortment of the most popular poker games around. No Limit Texas Hold’em is the king of poker, which is of course available in a variety of different stakes, table sizes, and tournament buy ins.
6-max games have been the most popular form of cash No Limit Hold’em for quite some time now, although tournaments and sit and go’s have always been very popular as well.
Omaha is another popular game among UK players, with many of top pros playing PLO in ultra high stakes clubs and casinos around the country and across Europe. It is not spread as often as it probably should at most UK rooms, but players can normally find 6-max and full ring games around the clock at most major sites.
World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE)
In 2004, after Harrah’s purchased the rights to the WSOP, they also bought London based casino operator LCI, which provided them a launching pad for the birth of the World Series of Poker Europe, or WSOPE.
Starting in 2007, the WSOPE was set up in the same format as the WSOP in Las Vegas. This included multiple bracelet events and of course a big buy-in Main Event that still attracts the biggest names in poker, including Phil Ivey, John Juanda and Phil Hellmuth.
The first WSOPE Main Event winner was Annette Obrestad, who was barely 18 years at the time. The more relaxed minimum gambling age of 18 is another benefit that the WSOPE enjoys – and one that definitely helped Obrestrad during her championship run.
The first 4 WSOPE events were held in the UK, but since then it has moved around, with the next 3 being hosted in France. In 2014, it was decided that this would be held every 2 years, alternating years with its sister event in Asia, and therefore there was no championship that year, and in 2015 it was held in Berlin, Germany.