Many players in the UK are interested in online casinos not on Gamstop, but may be unsure of the legal situation and whether they would be actually allowed to sign up and play.
It’s not hard to see why confusion could arise. After all, these sites generally have names that most UK players are unfamiliar with, especially when compared to those well-known high street brands we know so well from advertising, sponsorships and, of course, bricks-and-mortar bookmakers.
But there’s a simple reason for this: non Gamstop casinos that are not licensed by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) are not actually permitted to market or advertise to UK players. This explains why these newer brands are not household names in the UK.
But as to whether UK players are actually able to use these casinos not on Gamstop? The bottom line is yes – it is not illegal for individuals in the UK to sign up or play with a non Gamstop online casino.
Casinos not on Gamstop explained
So what actually is Gamstop, and how does it affect online gaming in the UK? As a country with a highly regulated gambling sector, Great Britain’s UKGC holds online gambling operators to an extremely high standard. This includes hard rules surrounding areas such as advertising and marketing, but also bonuses, limits and responsible gaming. And one of those responsible gaming requirements is an adherence to the Gamstop scheme.
When a player registers with Gamstop for a self-exclusion, their details are shared with all UKGC-licensed operators in order for that exclusion to be enforced. This helps many problem gamblers to control their activity, but some may feel Gamstop’s powers are too far-reaching.
Due to the existence of online casinos not on Gamstop, UK players may legally use these sites even if they have an active Gamstop exclusion. The sites themselves are not illegal – although marketing the sites to players in the UK is – and while they are not licensed by the UKGC, most are licensed and regulated by international bodies based across the world in jurisdictions such as Curacao, Costa Rica and Panama.
It’s important to note that many players with Gamstop exclusions are likely to have good reasons for requesting one (Gamstop bans are exclusively voluntary), and that non Gamstop casino sites should not be sought out or used by those vulnerable to problem gaming. In addition to offering services to those serving Gamstop bans, casinos not on Gamstop are also likely to provide fewer responsible gaming tools to help players manage their activity.
Are sites not on Gamstop legal?
All online casinos which hold a UKGC-issued licence must be signed up to the Gamstop scheme, and pay tax in the UK on gross gaming revenue. As part of their licence they are then permitted to promote their services to UK players and, as anyone can see, the promotion of these gambling websites has grown and grown in recent years.
Other online gaming operators, based in international locales, may be licensed by regulators in their country of origin, understandably paying the relevant taxes in their own countries. While these offshore casino sites do not possess a UKGC licence they may not promote themselves to UK players, but crucially they remain available to players across the world.
It may be illegal for these sites to advertise in the UK – which is why you may not be familiar with many of the brands – but it is 100% legal for UK players to play at these non Gamstop casino websites.
Casinos not registered on Gamstop – the moral debate
It is the issue of gambling addiction which brings a moral dimension to this debate: should it be possible to play online casino at all if a player has self-excluded via Gamstop? There is obviously a risk that some players will make their problems worse, especially as most non Gamstop sites offer less-stringent responsible gaming tools than those of their UKGC-licensed alternatives.
Bringing these sites under the Gamstop scheme is obviously impossible given that they are not UK-based or licensed. But does this mean these sites should be off-limits for all UK residents?
UKGC regulations have impacted the player experience in certain ways, leaving many players seeking alternatives to UK sites for reasons other than circumventing a Gamstop ban. Restrictions on deposits, stakes and bonuses, as well as other measures such as a 3-second delay on slots spins, are also reasons these non Gamstop online casinos are attracting players from the UK. Others point to greater options in terms of payments (such as cryptocurrencies) and customer anonymity as further evidence that offshore casino sites have something to offer UK players that UKGC casinos may not.
On the other hand, casino sites licensed by the UKGC are bound by law to meet the high requirements set by the regulator, so players can enjoy greater confidence in the levels of player protection available. This extends both to protection of player funds, as well as the range of effective responsible gaming tools available.
The future: Will casinos without Gamstop be eliminated?
As you can see, there are more dimensions to this issue than may first be apparent. To effectively eliminate casinos not on Gamstop for UK customers would require a fundamental change in our approach to online freedoms. The UK is not a totalitarian state and is not in the habit of banning its citizens from accessing entire swathes of the internet!
On the other hand, it is not feasible for the UKGC to claim taxes from, and impose rules on, operators located in countries thousands of miles away in order for these sites to join the Gamstop scheme.
Most players in the UK are perfectly well served by those sites licensed by the UKGC, and do not need a site offering higher stakes. But the most important thing is that players become educated in terms of what is available, both in terms of online casino options and the tools some may require to help manage their play. This article is not meant to encourage anyone to make any one choice over another, but to underline the differences between the choices available to UK players so they can better make up their own minds.