The guide to gambling regulators
The guide to gambling regulators
Online gambling is slowly being accepted by scratchcard players as a safe and legitimate option for placing real money wagers on scratch offs and, potentially, withdrawing winnings without any problems. Due to the remote nature of plating online, there’s a concern of giving identifying details and payment methods, and of not receiving winnings won. The online gambling industry take extra security measures and follow the different gaming regulators guidelines for one big reason – to alleviate any concern raised by players.
There are rogue operators online that operate under no regulations, and playing with them is a risk, one that a player might needlessly take. Players can get a great scratch experience and stay safe by knowing who regulates their playing platform and what measures are taken for meeting its guidelines.
For an online betting website to be licensed with a gambling regulator, it needs to follow some steps and regulations:
- Setting up an online casino starts with acquiring an operating license. The casino must apply for a license in the jurisdiction it chooses and must meet a certain criteria imposed by the licensor. This includes having a security deposit big enough to cover all winning players and a website which is technically safe and secure from outside attacks. The funds which the player deposits and the funds reserved for payouts to the players are kept in separate accounts. Once the casino site is set up it will make an agreement with one of the software providers and offer their games on the casino website. But when you play at an online casino you are in fact playing on the server of the provider. This way it’s impossible for the casino itself to tamper in any way with the outcome of the games.
- The software company on the other hand must also have a valid operating license and their casino games must prove that they are fair and random. Also the promoted RTP value of the game must be within the promoted values. This is confirmed by independent testing agencies which test the games and publicly post the results. Some of the most prominent testing agencies in the world are eCOGRA, iTech Labs and TST. When you combine all of this together you get a reputable online casino which offers fair games and will pay the winnings without any problems to all lucky players. So the first step to seeing whether an online casino has a valid operating license is by looking up their logo on the casino website and checking the license number on the licensors website. Here are some of the most popular online casino licensors in the world with a short description about their work and credibility.
United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC)
In recent years the United Kingdom Gambling Commission has become the most reputable licensor in the online gaming world. It was founded in 2004 and in 2005 the first act of the commission was passed which imposed a license and taxes to all online casinos which were operating on the territory of the United Kingdom, Scotland and Wales. At that time the online gambling industry didn’t enjoy a pristine reputation as it does today, with many operators taking advantage of players, not paying their winnings or offering false advertising in their promotions.
But the 2005 act by itself didn’t do much to change things in the industry. This law was imposed only on operators who were registered and had offices in the UK. Operators could still offer their services to players coming from the UK even if they were registered and licensed in other countries. This went on for years until 2014 when the UKGC decided to expand its jurisdiction and pass on a new gambling act. This time they meant business and they managed to change the face of the online gambling industry forever. The new gambling act basically forced all online operators which offered their services to UK players to acquire the UKGC operating license and to pay taxes to the UK government. In return this allowed the commission to take steps against any dishonest operator and protect all UK players.
Needles to say, this act wasn’t received with excitement among online operators. Many big names in the online gambling business decided to ban UK players from playing at their casinos or pull out completely from the UK gambling market. But this didn’t last long. The reason was very simple. The UK is the biggest online gambling market in the world so the casinos were actually losing more in revenue then they would by paying taxes and for obtaining the UKGC license. Soon after most of the operators who initially left took on the UKGC license and continued to allow UK players to join their operations.
This act had a positive impact on the gambling industry for UK players and as a whole. The UKGC is quite rigorous in upholding their standards and many operators faced severe fines after they were reported by players who were wronged in any way. The UKGC continues to operate to this day and will continue to be the leader when it comes to online casino regulation.
Malta Gaming Authority (MGA)
As a regulatory body the Malta Gaming Authority dates back to 2001 under the name Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA). In 2004 the name was rebranded and today the MGA is one of the most reputable regulatory bodies in the world. When it was first founded the MGA was responsible for regulating land based gambling, but it soon opened its doors to online casinos as well and was one of the first regulators to work with the online gambling sector. Their mission statement best describes their work and efforts stating “To regulate competently the various sectors of the gaming industry that fall under the Authority by ensuring gaming is fair and transparent to the players, preventing crime, corruption and money laundering and by protecting minor and vulnerable players.”
So far the MGA has been doing a great job at enforcing their statement. Online players have a great deal of confidence in the online casinos which carry the MGA seal of approval. They know that if some problems arise with a certain casino the MGA will conduct an unbiased investigation and rule in favor of the side which is right. The aims of the MGA are to protect minors and vulnerable players, enable gaming in a safe and responsible environment, ensure that all casino games are fair and random and that online gaming is free of all criminal activities.
Since online gaming is a vital part of Malta as a country, generating around 12% of the national BDP, the MGA is focused on expanding their operations and do the best they can when it comes to disputes among the player and the online casino. This is why they have increased their staff and now allow players to directly communicate with them via a live chat service. This significantly speeds up the complaints process and makes it more transparent. This is why the MGA is bound to stay as one of the top regulators in the online gaming world.
Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA)
The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association has been operating since 2005 and thanks to them a big number of online operators have made Gibraltar their home. This was mainly due to the geographical proximity to Europe allowing operators easy access to the European market and the favorable tax rates which are imposed to operators. All of the online casinos which operate under their license are required to protect their players, prove the fairness of their casino games and operate in a fair and professional manner.
When the UKGC gambling act of 2014 was passed the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association came in clash with the UKGC. They sent out proposals to the UK government that all operators who were already licensed in Gibraltar didn’t need to acquire the additional UK license. Needless to say that these proposals weren’t even taken into consideration and were swiftly rejected.
Curacao eGaming is one of the oldest licensors in the world, providing their services to operators since 1996. But compared to other licensors in the industry, casinos which wear their seal of approval are not looked upon too favorable by online players. The reason for this is simple. This licensor is the slowest when it comes to solving disputes among the player and the casino and they rarely seem to do anything when it comes to intervening about a rogue operator. This is why many experienced players tend to avoid online casinos regulated in the jurisdiction of Curacao.
But there’s also another side to this story. Just because an online casino is licensed in the jurisdiction of Curacao doesn’t mean that it’s a rogue operator. Many online casinos choose this licensor simply because they offer the best terms to acquire a license. Compared to other jurisdictions, getting a license in Curacao costs only around $40,000. You can also get a master license and share that license with other sub-licensees for a smaller fee. The terms to getting a license in Curacao are also simpler than in other jurisdictions. For example if you want to obtain a gambling license from the UKGC you will surely need to hire an experienced lawyer to help guide you through the process. In Curacao it’s as simple as putting your signature on a piece of paper. But again the casinos licensed in the jurisdiction of Curacao are not favorable among online players and that’s why this license is considered to be one of the weakest in the world.
New Jersey The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE)
Ever since the UIGEA act was passed down in 2006 online gambling was made illegal on the territory of the United States. The UIGEA act “prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.” For a long time it seemed that online gambling would never come to life again on US soil. But all of this changed in 2013 under the guidance of The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).
The road to getting online gambling going again in a US state wasn’t easy. It all started back in 2011 when the first bill to legalize online gambling was rejected by the Governor of New Jersey Chris Christy. But after two years of going back and forward a new bill was finally passed which allowed for a land based casino to apply for an online casino license and to operate in the jurisdiction of New Jersey. The terms to acquire an operating license are anything but easy. Each applicant must deposit 1 million dollars which is non refundable. If their license is approved, that deposit will also cover the cost of the license which is set at $400.000. Once the casino license is approved the casino will need to pay $250.000 as a renewal fee and another $250.000 annual fee, on top of their 15% tax of the gaming revenue.
When the entire process is finalized the casino will first launch a soft opening. During this time their services are only offered to a limited number of players and their operations are closely monitored by the licensor. Only once all criteria are met and the licensor is happy with the way the casino is operating will they be allowed to operate in full. But even with these strict terms 16 casinos applied for a license the day it was made available and over 100,000 people created accounts across those casinos.
Kahnawake Gaming Commission
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is a regulatory body which is responsible for licensing a big number of online casinos, as well as 3 large land based casinos on the Mohawk territory in Kahnawake. The commission was first established in 1996 and was only limited to land based operators but in 1999 they brought regulations which concerned interactive gaming. Since then a big number of online casinos have made Kahnawake their home. The reason why so many online casinos have decided to go with this license is mainly because of the low taxes and fees associated with the license. But compared to other licensors in the industry the Kahnawake Gaming Commission takes their job seriously and is pretty fast in resolving disputes among the player and the casino.
The biggest test for the commission was probably in 2009 when they were conducting an investigation on Tokwiro Enterprises who were the owners of the Ultimate Bet Poker site. During their investigation the commission concluded that players were in fact cheated on the site and decided to rigorously fine the operator. Over 22 million dollars were returned to cheated players and the site was fined with 1.5 million dollars. In addition the site was forced to modify their operations ensuring that no more players would be cheated. Since then the Kahnawake Gaming Commission has a solid reputation in the online gambling world and is recognized by their fairness and quality of service.
Compared to other licensors in the industry Costa Rica is considered as the weakest. The reasons are very simple. Costa Rica has very little or no regulations and laws what so ever which apply to online gambling. This way every online casino can easily set up shop and start operating from the jurisdiction of Costa Rica. There are several companies there which will help you to easily establish your operations and you can legally work from their jurisdiction in no time. But this is a double bladed sword when it comes to player protection. Since there is no legislation available there are no limits to what an online casino can or cannot do. This is why most experience players tend to avoid online casinos which are located in Costa Rica.
Financial Services Regulatory Commission’s Division of Gaming (FSRC) of Antigua and Barbuda
The jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda is a favorable licensor for a number of online casinos. The cost for setting up shop in this jurisdiction is much higher than compared to other less known licensors in the world, but it does come with its own advantages. The main being that there is no limitations from which jurisdiction the casino can accept wagers. This means that basically all players are welcome at casinos located in Antigua and Barbuda. The reason for this is that the government here opened a dispute against the United States and actually won. The government claimed that the US was in breach of the act on General Agreement on Trade Services (GATS) and in 2004 they won the dispute. Since no resolution was achieved in 2007 the Antiguan government won a claim of $3.4 million. But the situation remained unresolved resulting in the no limit of jurisdictions for online casinos situated in Antigua and Barbuda.
As you can see having a valid operating license is an absolute must for every online casino in the industry. This guarantees that the player is fully protected at all times, that the casino games offered are fair and random and in the case of an eventual dispute among the casino and the player the licensor will conduct a non biased investigation and bring a fair ruling. But when we talk about an operating license it doesn’t mean that a casino with a Curacao eGaming or a Costa Rica license is a rogue casino. Obtaining a weaker license can simply be due to lower taxes and lower fees while the casino can easily be a reputable operator.
The best way to see whether an online casino is safe to play at for real money is by reading through operators reviews, our list of most legit websites, and understanding the terms and conditions. Other than us, there are many aggregators of gaming brand reviews and platforms for players to inform other players of malicious behavior. This is actually a ranking factor we consider in our review – real players opinion of a brand and its reply rate and promptness to complaints. Scratchcards are a lot of fun and excitement, but picking the platform to play at should be a serious decision.