If you play online gambling games whether slots or bingo, betting or poker, then you should be playing at a properly licensed casino. If in the UK your, site should be regulated by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) and if in the EU or Canada by your respective licensing jurisdiction. As a player you should always check the bottom of the casino’s site and usually they will even provide a link in their license number to take you straight through to the ‘check licensees’ tool of the UKGC for example, where they will be listed. Alas there are many criminal casinos who will take your money without a license meaning you have no rights at all and will likely never see your cash again, so again always check!
The gambling commissions have various roles to protect you the player and ensure the integrity of both the gaming product and advertising thereof. They are responsible too for granting operator licenses and ensuring taxes are paid and player funds protected in the event of insolvency. Providers of the slots games have to have their products audited and certified fair too which means displaying the expected Return To Player (RTP) pay out in the rules and ensuring game results are random. They will along with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ensure gambling adverts are not misleading or attractive to children which also includes the placing of adverts on affiliate sites.
The gambling industry has seen much negative publicity in the last couple of years with newspapers such as the Guardian making gambling their cause celebre with extreme cases of players who’ve become addicted and spent fortunes, but it’s worth pointing out that this is in spite of there being online protection tools rather than the lack of them. You may recall the furore about the £100 maximum stakes possible on Fixed Odds betting Terminals (FOBTs) which the government subsequently cut to £2 despite huge opposition from the bookmakers who have come to rely on the huge profits they make. Well now the UKGC have acted against excessively high stakes for online slots that have feature-purchase options costing anything from 50 to 337x the base stake.
Bonuses and Terms
The main effect though you will notice as a player is in how a casino can behave in relation to your account online. Bonuses must not now be tied to real money which should always be unrestricted and withdrawable when you choose. There must be tools to limit play and money spent such as deposit limits and account breaks from 1 day to 3 months, as well as self-exclusion from 6 months to 5 years. They must also check the affordability of your expenditure after a certain amount of deposits and verify your identity before you play for both anti-money laundering and responsible gambling reasons. The licensees can be subject to huge fines if they are deemed to have failed in their checks, so although it can be frustrating as a player there are good reasons for them.
The regulatory situation is always fluid and each quarter the UKGC reports on various areas of concern. One old chestnut is the reversal of pending withdrawals and the time they take to process, although the UKGC have recently prevented the drip-feeding of large wins with comparatively low withdrawal limits of say 5,000 per week or month. It’s likely that soon reversals will be prevented and once players are verified a time limit will be put on how long the casino has to process them.
So regulation is quite heavy in the UK and some would argue too heavy, with many online casinos having left the UK market this year due to high taxes and what they see as a continual battle to satisfy the regulator. So it’s safe to play, but how much choice will you have eventually?