In the United Kingdom, all forms of gambling – including bingo halls, lotteries, internet bets, and casinos – are regulated by the state’s Gambling Commission. The government branch in charge of gambling is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The laws regarding gambling have changed significantly over the years, most recently culminating in the Gambling Act 2005. This set of parliamentary decrees was put in place to address the evolving face of gambling in the U.K. – especially in terms of internet gambling. It also included new structures and regulations to protect minors and vulnerable adults.
Bingo halls were first legalized in Britain following their rise in popularity in the aftermath of the Second World War. Their status was fully legitimized by the Betting and Gaming Act 1960, which officially allowed for the opening of bingo halls. At first, law had it that such establishments had to charge players a membership fee, but that rule has since been abolished.
Like bingo halls, in order to obtain licensing, casinos originally needed to function as a club and charge a membership fee. They were also limited to a maximum of 10 gaming machines.
As casinos became more popular, the laws began to relax, starting with the Gaming Act of 1968, which lightened restrictions significantly in terms of membership dues and game offering.
The ability to build resort-style casinos – like those found in Las Vegas – only came much later, with the Gambling Act 2005. This Act stipulates how many of these super-casinos can be built (usually one every few years), and exactly where – with cities and towns bidding on the opportunity to host. The super casinos, however, have remained a point of contention, hotly debated in government.
Strict regulations have lightened over the years, with the 1960 Act legalising off-course bookmakers.
In the U.K. gambling on competitive sports is mostly done through betting shops (bookmakers), or licensed websites – with greyhound racing, horses, and football being the top choices. Pool betting is also popular for football and horses, the latter of which is exclusively licenced by The Tote, making it the only organisation that is permitted to run pool bets on horseracing.
Online gambling is legal in the U.K. with licensing provided by the Gambling Commission.
Many local bookmakers, however, choose to host operations offshore, to better serve overseas customers.
In the past, a 10% tax was charged for off-course bets, but the government has since abolished this levy.