“Safety first” is an old cliché. Like most clichés, it has become a tired old saying because it’s got something useful and true in it. In the online gambling world, it is still very useful and very true.
In fact, in this case, it’s a cliché that’s well-worn because it needs to be. Print it out and put it over the screen you use to gamble or write it on your hand.
Remember it is the message here.
There’s been a lot of coverage in the UK media about the dangers of online gambling. Now it’s also a cliché that the UK media is among the worst and least trusted in the world. However, there is something to what they’re saying.
Let’s establish a few facts before we start on telling you how you can gamble safely in the UK:
It is possible to gamble online safely. There are horror stories, and most of them are true, but the millions of people who do gamble online without any problems don’t make the news.
It’s also possible to get into an awful lot of trouble – financially, emotionally, and legally – with online gambling.
You can put yourself on the right side of that line, and keep yourself there, but you might have to put some effort in.
Don’t treat gambling like just another activity. The fact that it is heavily regulated isn’t an accident. Like alcohol and drugs, gambling is regulated because it has a proven potential to do harm. Whatever your views on gambling law, you should recognise what those laws signal.
There are tools out there to help you. We’re hoping to add another one to your armoury here. But all these tools rely on you spotting them, rely on your spotting that you have a problem, and using them.
Addiction isn’t a sign of weakness or failure. Recovery is perfectly possible. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
So let’s take a look at how to gamble safely in the UK. The laws and regulations that we discuss here should be assumed to be those that relate to safe online casino sites.
List of Safe Online Casinos in the UK
The UK’s laws on gambling
Whatever your views on regulation, we think that the UK’s gambling laws have some positives for players. You might think they do too much, or too little. We think you should use the tools they give you to stay safe.
Here is how the law stands at the start of 2020. Laws are fluid things, and there is a lot of pressure on politicians to introduce even stricter gambling regulations in the UK.
This is the picture as it stands.
The UK Gambling Commission
Gambling in the UK is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission. You should think of these guys as your friends.
They consult on new regulations. They license casino sites. And they enforce the rules of those licences.
UK Gambling Licences for players
A licence is the first weapon you have in your fight to stay safe online.
In the UK it is not legal to play at a site that is not licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. Never ever play at a site without this licence.
You should expect to see it at the bottom of the front page.
When we do reviews we always check these licences. There’s nothing to stop you from doing so yourself. Sites should provide a link to their actual licence.
What you’ll see when you click or tap that link is pretty easy to understand.
There will be a number.
Then the name of the company that is being licensed, and that company’s address. This is sometimes an eye-opener as many gambling companies are owned by bigger parent companies that operate large collections of sites.
Under the address will be the licence type: usually for the category we’re interested in these will be for “remote” gambling and for “casino”. It’s not unusual to see other categories though, like “bingo” for example.
Then there will be a section called “Sanctions”. In the ideal world, this section will be blank, as this is where misdeeds are recorded.
Sanctions will be dated and there will be a record of any actions taken against a site. These sanctions have made big news in recent years. Most often they are breaches of the Gambling Commissions “social responsibility code”.
These codes regulate how casino sites take care of their customers and help them to use casino sites safely.
Safe Online Casino Example
For example, 888 Casino was sanctioned because its self-exclusion policies weren’t running properly.
This is the sort of offence you are most likely to see.
UK Gambling Commission licensed casinos do offer fair games and will not rip you off. However, there have been issues with the way some sites manage customer relations – things like sending promotional emails to excluded customers. We’ve also seen problems with money laundering protocols.
888 Casino had to pay a financial penalty of £4,250,000 to the UK Gambling Commission for its breaches, as well as refunding a lot of money to players whose self-exclusion had not worked properly, and paying costs.
That’s a serious penalty and shows that the UK Gambling Commission takes its duties seriously and that gambling companies need to take them seriously too. As part of the settlement of its sanctions, 888 Casino had to reform a number of procedures.
Next on the licence record, you’ll see a list of names and URLs that the licensed company operates. This includes inactive sites.
UK Gambling Laws for Players
Gambling laws in the UK work by protecting players from potential misconduct by gambling sites. However, they will not work if players try to get around the restrictions put in place to protect them.
It may be frustrating, but if you’re not entitled to play on a site by law: please don’t. If you break the rules then you will not get any of the protections they put in place.
So always follow the basic restrictions:
You must not gamble if you’re under 18. You must not gamble at sites not licensed by the UK Gambling Commission.
Read the site rules as you sign up. And follow the identification procedures: these are put in place to protect us all from money laundering. So don’t start to use gambling sites if you can’t prove your identity with a proper photo ID.
New UK Gambling Laws for 2020
We’ve mentioned that these laws change.
There are two new changes for UK gamblers in 2020. Two so far that is. There is a lot of pressure on politicians to do more about online gambling regulation and safety.
At the moment the most recent change is this:
From April 2020 it will be illegal to use credit cards to gamble in Great Britain.
There is also a major programme of consultation going on. This is looking at the way games are designed, how they are advertised, and particularly the way VIP programmes are used to incentivise players.
More changes may be in the pipeline.
Safe Casino Gambling for UK Players: a beginner’s guide
Gambling safely might be about more than following the law for you.
We think there are two aspects to gambling safely online. They are your online safety and security, and your health.
The first is something you should take seriously.
As ever, a licence from the UK Gambling Commission is the first check that a site is following good data protection and cybersecurity procedures.
You also have a responsibility. Please take it seriously.
Take care with passwords. Use unique, complex passwords at every site. Consider using a password manager or safe if you have a lot of passwords.
Protect your bank details and any online payment processor accounts you use. Be extra careful with the passwords here and follow ALL the cybersecurity advice you find. Such accounts often rely on personal information to identify you, so be careful about how widely you share things like your birth date, mother’s maiden name, birthplace etc. Use two-factor authentication if you can.
The second part of this equation is your health.
Primarily, when people are talking about safe gambling, they are talking about gambling addiction.
Gambling addiction is a serious problem. You owe it to yourself to take it seriously, and we urge you to do so.
This means acknowledging that while, for most people, gambling is a harmless bit of fun, it is a potential problem for all gamblers.
Carry this knowledge with you from the moment you start gambling and monitor yourself and your gambling behaviour to keep yourself safe.
Addiction is not simple. It is a personal, mental health problem, so it is as complex as we are.
However, there are some good, general rules you can use to help keep you safe.
The first is to acknowledge that gambling is a massively successful and profitable industry. Those profits are your stakes – or the stakes of people like you. This doesn’t mean that people do not win when they gamble. It doesn’t mean that you won’t win too. It does mean that the whole industry is built on the premise that the majority of money bet will be lost.
The industry is also hugely sophisticated and up to date. So, new games come with this built-in. In truth, ever since someone put a zero on a roulette wheel, gambling games have had a “house edge”. This house edge is what stops games being a risk for the people who run them.
These are just the realities of the industry and it is probably the best thing you can do for your financial health to acknowledge this.
Basically: don’t expect to win. Certainly don’t expect to get rich. In fact, expect to lose. Play because you enjoy the games. Accept that the games are a form of entertainment. Accept that you pay for entertainment.
And there you go.
Beyond that, there are a lot of things you can do to help keep yourself safe online.
These nine points are raised by the UK Gambling Commission and they’re a very good start.
1 – Ask for help
Later we’ll list a number of organisations that can offer you help if you have problems with gambling. One of the tragedies of addictions of all sorts is that sufferers often suffer in silence. The best thing you can do, even if you just think you may be gambling too much, is to talk to someone. Even talking to a friend is a good start. Addiction thrives in darkness and secrecy. It could be that you need to talk to a professional too, but any sharing is a good start.
2 – Question your reasons for gambling
We’ve covered the realities of the gambling industry above – it makes money for the people who run it. With this in mind, you should try to be aware of why you’re gambling. If you’re gambling in order to make money, you are making a bad mistake. Gamble for fun.
3 – Monitor your gambling
To have a realistic view of whether or not you have a problem with gambling you need to know what your gambling history is. Keep an eye on the money you spend and the time you spend online. All gambling sites will let you keep an eye on your history at the site. Use this facility as a starting point.
4 – Time
Where sites have time monitoring software, turn it on. Reality checks tell you how long you’ve been playing for. Use this useful feature.
5 – Money
Most harms from problem gambling start with money. As with your time, you can only know if you’re spending too much for you if you know how much you are actually spending. Addicts aren’t truthful with themselves (or with others) about the harms of their behaviours. Knowing the truth about how much you’re spending is a good start to knowing if it’s a problem.
6 – Take a break
If you have any problems at all try this. If you really do have a problem with gambling addiction then it may be difficult for you. Start with a six-week break.
7 – Take a longer break
If that relatively short break is difficult for you that might be a signal to take an even longer break. You can use self-exclusion and time-out facilities at sites to block yourself from using them. Self-exclusion lasts for a minimum of six months. You can use GameStop to exclude yourself from a number of sites at once.
8 – Be informed
This is just good general advice. Gambling sites often have extremely long and complex looking terms and conditions. We do our best to explain these in reviews and guides, but the best and simplest way for you to understand what, for example, a welcome offer means for you, is to read all the details yourself.
9 – Licensed gambling
Licensing is always your first, best protection. Don’t ever gamble at unlicensed sites.
We’ll add a few more personal precautions we think that you should take.
Don’t gamble as a means to deal with difficult feelings or emotions – or as an alternative to dealing with them. Gambling to make yourself “feel better” is not healthy and could be at the root of gambling addiction.
Don’t gamble if you’re upset or distressed. Chasing this feeling is potentially as dangerous as chasing money.
We’re not doctors here. We can’t, sadly, help you with depression or anxiety or any number of other problems. However, we are well enough informed to know that gambling will not help you deal with depression, anxiety, relationship problems, anger, losing your job, bereavement or anything else.
Don’t gamble when you’re intoxicated. This is harder, we know, and there are sensible limits to be found for you. However, you’ll notice that a lot of safe gambling advice relies on knowing what your behaviour actually is. This is made more difficult if you are intoxicated.
Organisations to Help You
All gambling websites feature a list of safe gambling organisations. These organisations can help you if you get in trouble with your gambling.
They cannot help you if you don’t get in touch with them.
Please make use of these organisations, and it’s a good practice to be open about your gambling behaviour all the time. Once you start denying the truth you are heading down a bad road.
Here are some examples of safe gambling organisations in the UK.
GamCare is the UK’s best-known gambling charity.
At their website, you will find a lot of good quality information about safe gambling. You can call GamCare on 0808 8020 133 24/7, 365-days a year. There are also live chat, chat rooms, forums, and email contacts on the charity’s website.
The UK Gambling Commission recommends the National Gambling Helpline on Freephone 0808 8020 133.
GamStop is an exclusion service. Signing up with GamStop will exclude you from a number of UK gambling websites. It does not yet include all UK gambling sites. It is intended to include a full list of all UK licensed gambling sites at the service in time.
You should also look for responsible gambling advice and help at the sites you are using. All gambling sites have some sort of information of this sort. It is of varying quality, but should at the very least include lists of safe gambling organisations and good advice on how to conduct yourself online.
Safe UK Online Casinos
Most of what we’ve covered above will see you only using safe UK casinos.
In addition to these personal protocols, you should be following this advice too.
1 – Licensed is safe
Always check licenses at sites you use. Never use an unlicensed site.
2 – Is this the real thing?
One way of getting around licensing laws is to be completely fake! This sort of scam is getting rarer because more and more people are getting more aware of them. However, follow basic security procedures all the time, and make sure you’re playing at a site with a verified secure connection; that the URL matches the site’s name and branding (to a licensed brand); and so on. Out and out scam sites are usually poor quality, so look for a good quality site that looks like the best in the business and allows you to look around and judge for yourself.
3 – Payment processing
Payments are the biggest vulnerability in the gambling business. It’s money that scammers are after. Paying in cryptocurrencies is a legitimate option for a gambling website. However, there are many features of cryptocurrencies that make them, while potentially completely legitimate, perfect for illegitimate or illegal activities. A site that offers cryptocurrency payments is a site offering you a good option. A site that offers you ONLY crypto payment options is one that should raise your suspicions.
4 – Data protection and privacy
Always check that any online gambling site you use has the requisite data protection and privacy policies in place. At the moment that means the EU’s GDPR regulations.
5 – Emails
Treat a casino site like your bank. If you receive emails from them (or claiming to be from them) be very careful about clicking links. Make sure you trust the sender, make sure you are at sites you trust, do not give your password to anyone.
Safe Online Casino Gambling is simple but not easy
Nothing is more important than your safety when gambling online. Staying safe is relatively simple. A few good practices will start to see you having a good time and not getting into any problems.
It’s not always easy to do the right thing though.
That’s why we urge you to read guides like this seriously. To know and carry out a few good online security practices as a matter of course.
And to always treat gambling as a serious matter. It’s a way of having fun, of course, but getting things wrong will quickly stop that fun.
Safe Online Casinos FAQ
You’ve probably heard a lot about safe casino use lately.
There are a lot of aspects to this, the most important area of internet gambling in our view, and in this question and answer session we’ll help you get your head around it.
What is a safe online casino?
A safe casino site is one you can use with complete confidence. It is one that is legal for you to use, with safe, licensed, audited games, and good quality customer service and safe gambling support.
What is the one most important thing for a safe online casino?
It’s a licence. Any site that you use in the UK must legally be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. That’s it. If any site you look at is not licensed then you must leave. Along with that licensing come a number of other support and safety structures that will also help to keep you safe.
How do I use safe online casinos?
To safely use safe online casinos you’ll need an account. Because these are licensed sites – remember, no licence, you leave – you will need to prove that you are of legal age and that you have a UK address and funds to play with. This usually means sending or uploading ID documents, a bill that proves your address, and possibly the details of a payment card. These are documents you need to keep safe. They are usually sent to the casino site via a special document uploader or via email. Make sure that you’re using a secure site and that the site has a good set of its own precautions and a good data protection policy.
I’ve found a safe online casino, but am I safe?
Once you’re happy that a site is safe you can start playing… Except, no. You also need to keep your device safe and you need to keep yourself safe. Let’s have a look at what that means.
How do I use safe online casinos on my device?
Keeping your computer or phone safe online is another complex area that is well worth spending some time to understand. To go over some of the more obvious points, you need to:
- Know how to check if your device is updated with all the latest software,
- Know how to keep your antivirus, spyware and malware protection in order,
- Know the basics of online security, including using password services or otherwise setting strong passwords.
How do I fund my account at safe online casinos?
Money is what we’re protecting here – though your identity details are almost as valuable – so you should also be very sure that you know how to keep your cash safe online. Follow those basic cybersecurity rules, and use all the tools available to you, including things like 2-factor authentication on your bank accounts and touch IDs if you use a smartphone. Some people like to use e-wallets or pre-paid vouchers to fund online casino play because it puts a buffer between the internet and their main bank account. That is something that is worth considering.
How do I stay safe at safe online casinos?
Your own personal safety is perhaps the most important detail. Gambling is, for most people, a safe, legal, and fun way to spend a bit of time playing games. For some people, it can become a very big problem. Changes are afoot in the gambling industry, but a lot of the onus on keeping you safe falls on you. Please take some time to understand how to monitor your gambling behaviour, how to understand that it might be becoming a problem, and how to use tools (like advice services, time and money limits, or self-exclusion) to help you stop that from happening.
What should I avoid in a safe online casino?
Sites must be licensed. This is the one starting point for all your safety checks. But please go beyond that and check that the licence is genuine and up to date by visiting the UK GC website. Make sure that you are looking at a site with the right name in the address bar, and a padlock so you know you’re securely encrypted. Never ever play at a site with credit card gambling. That is now illegal in the UK and no gambling site can offer credit card gambling legally.
Can I accept safe online casino bonuses?
Yes, you can. Bonuses are a legitimate part of the casino industry. We have our issues with how they work and how that is communicated with players, but welcome bonuses and all sorts of promotions should definitely be a part of a safe online casino site. However, when offers start to look too good to be true then you need to start doing double checks. The promise of money for nothing is a potent weapon for scammers, who often pick on vulnerable people who are desperate for money.
What’s the best way to think of safe online casinos?
Gambling is an industry. It makes a profit. It makes that profit from lost bets. Gambling is part of the entertainment industry. IN return for being entertained you will be asked to pay. Understanding those two facts – and adding in the enormous size of those profits at the moment – is a good place to start to understand how to find safe online casinos and to use them safely. Never gamble expecting to win money, and make sure that you never play with money that you cannot afford to lose.
How do I find safe online casinos?
A good search engine is a decent start but the gambling industry has a whole infrastructure of publications, websites, forums and social media operations that discuss the industry. Look for positive reviews and a good history of positive feedback before you consider a site too closely. Shopping around all the time isn’t the best way to find safe online casinos. In our view, it is better to find a good quality site that you really trust and spend some time with them rather than switching sites every time a new offer comes along.
Safe Gambling Specialist
Harvey Dickenson is our safe gambling specialist. Harvey is a recreational poker player and an expert in online casino safety, cons, and scams.