The United Kingdom is arguably the best country in the world for gamblers. Not only does it have a thriving online betting industry, but it has some of the most gambling-friendly laws you’ll find anywhere. UK casino sites are legal, government-licensed businesses that operate under a strict regulatory framework.
It’s a competitive industry and there are many sites that would love to have your business. Sorting through the many options is a task in itself when you consider that there are over 200 licensed online casinos in the UK in addition to a plethora of international sites with questionable licensing statuses. When you consider everything that goes into making a great, trustworthy casino, the following names earn the top spots in my list of the best places to play:
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About the only thing that you really need to look out for are gambling sites that claim to be licensed in the UK but aren’t. The UK is an attractive market and it doesn’t require any amazing technical know-how for someone in some random country to throw up a website that looks legit. My general rule of thumb is to stick with sites that you see advertised on television or at major sporting events.
The UK’s Gambling Advertising Monitoring Unit (GAMU) works with the media and operators to ensure that only licensed operators advertise to the public. This is alone is a pretty effective method for you to sort the good from the bad. If a site isn’t licensed by the Gambling Commission, it cannot advertise in major media.
If you recognize any of the names on this page, it’s because I only recommend major UK casino sites. These are some of the biggest real money gambling sites in Europe and most of them boast large advertising budgets. You’ve probably seen their adverts at some point by now. If not, you can run a search on Google and you’ll see that these are indeed the big names in the industry.
One of the nice things about going with one of these big name sites is you’ll get to try numerous forms of gambling. The UK’s biggest brands provide a healthy variety of traditional casino games, sports betting, poker, horse racing and other games all under one roof. All you need is one account and you can try it all.
If you’d like to try a site that isn’t named on this page, I urge you to check the Gambling Commission’s list of licensed gaming companies that hold licenses in Great Britain. Run a search by name or to sort the list of licensees by gambling sector (casino, sports betting, etc). You should only play at sites that appear on this list. If your site isn’t listed anywhere on the commission’s website, it would be best to choose a different casino site.
Ranking the Best UK Online Casinos
Simply having a license from the Gambling Commission is a great way to start the search. But even then, you still have a list of several hundred options. There are 225 licensed casino sites for example, and that doesn’t even include betting sites that operate in other sectors such as sports betting. Even when we narrow down the list to only licensed brands, there are a lot of options to sort through.
We’re going to have to dig a little deeper to figure out which sites are truly the best in the United Kingdom. One thing I like to consider is each site’s variety of games. Just because a site is licensed doesn’t mean it has a big selection of games. More options is always better, so I’ve narrowed down the list even further to include only sites that offer 100 or more unique casino games plus sports betting and poker.
It’s always nice to have options at a site because that means you don’t have to change casinos as often for the sake of trying something new. That’s less time spent moving your money around and paying transaction fees for various deposit and withdrawal methods.
Software and graphics also play an important role in the quality of your experience. Some casino sites in the UK simply have better technical knowledge in that regard. It’s always nice when the graphics look good and the games run without bugs. I have played at sites with poor software in the past and it is a major pain when you have to deal with things like button clicks that don’t respond and clunky software that moves slowly.
Welcome bonuses always work as a nice tiebreaker. Every UK casino site offers some sort of deposit bonus, but not all bonuses are equal. I like to see big maximum bonuses that have limited terms and conditions, easy clearing requirements and minimum restrictions on which games they work with.
Last but not least, I always consider the deposit and withdrawal situation. Does the site offer free deposits via numerous methods? Does it process withdrawals quickly? Is there a minimum withdrawal amount? These are important questions to ask before you deposit.
Real Money Deposits and Withdrawals
One of the best things about playing in the UK is that you have deposit options galore. Most of the largest and most respected deposit methods in the world are open to customers from the UK. These deposit methods are cheap, fast and easy to use.
Credit cards and debit cards are two of the most popular deposit methods for UK online casino sites. All you need is a working credit card with a little money on it and you are good to go. Making a real money deposit with a debit or credit card is as easy as typing in your number and telling the casino how much money to deposit into your account.
Many players also swear by e-wallet services. An e-wallet is a service that works sort of like an online bank account. All you do is create an account with your e-wallet company and then you can fund that account with real money any time. Some of the most popular e-wallets include the likes of PayPal, Neteller and Skrill (formerly Moneybookers).
Another popular type of deposit option is the prepaid gift card or prepaid voucher. These cards and vouchers can be purchased with cash at any one of many vendors around the country. In return for your money, you get a card or voucher that can be redeemed at the online casino of your choice. Ukash is a prime example of an effective cash-based deposit option.
Wire transfers, e-checks and bank transfers can also be used at many online casino sites. Each of these deposit methods works a little differently, but the basic idea is that you send money directly from your bank account to your casino account. You do not have to deal with any services in the middle.
If you log in to your account at any UK casino site and visit the cashier, you’ll see a long list of deposit methods. Just choose any deposit method and then follow the instructions on the screen. These companies design the deposit process to be as simple as possible.
Legality of Online Gambling in the UK
The UK passed sweeping legislation in 2005 that completely legalized and regulated the online gambling industry in that country. Casino sites that want to do business in the UK are allowed to apply for licenses to provide gaming to UK residents. In return, these casinos agree to follow a stringent set of rules and meet certain standards for quality.
The licensing process is expensive and time consuming though, so some offshore casinos choose to skip the licensing process. These casino sites are technically in breach of UK law, but nobody really seems to care. Players are free to play at any gambling site they want. However, there is word that the UK plans to crack down on unlicensed operators in coming months.
Today’s gaming laws in the UK are found in the Gambling Act 2005. The Act was passed with three key objectives:
- Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder or being used to support crime
- Ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
- Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling
Any site licensed by the Gambling Commission under the Gambling Act must submit to a thorough background check and meet a long list of requirements such as independent audits, meeting certain financial standards and much more. I can confidently tell you that the UK is home to the most stringent licensing process in the world.
And before you go, I have one last piece of good news. Gambling winnings are considered tax free in the UK. So if you hit a big jackpot, you don’t have to worry about handing half of it over to the government. (Disclaimer: Remember that it’s always best to get tax advice from qualified experts).
Mike Murphy founded OnlineCasinoSites.com and brings 15 years of experience in the regulated online gambling industry to the team, with a mission statement of helping gamblers navigate the rules and laws of playing at legal online casinos world wide.