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What is the gambling act in the UK?

The Gambling Act 2005 is the primary piece of legislation that regulates gambling in Great Britain. It came into force in 2007 and replaced the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, the Gaming Act 1968 and the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976.

The Act covers most forms of gambling, including betting shops, bingo halls, casinos, gambling machines and remote gambling. Its stated aims are to:

  • Prevent gambling from being a source of crime and disorder
  • Ensure that gambling is conducted fairly and openly
  • Protect children and vulnerable people from the harms of gambling

The Gambling Act also created the Gambling Commission, which is the body responsible for regulating commercial gambling in Great Britain.

What types of gambling are regulated under the Gambling Act?

The Gambling Act regulates the following forms of gambling in Great Britain:


This includes betting shops, racetracks and online betting sites. Both fixed odds betting (e.g. on sports events) and betting exchanges (where customers can bet against each other) are regulated.


All commercial bingo halls require a license from the Gambling Commission. This includes traditional paper-based games and online bingo sites.


Both land-based and online casinos need to be licensed. This includes games like roulette, blackjack and poker.

Gambling machines

This covers things like slot machines, fruit machines and fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). There are limits on the stakes and prizes allowed on different categories of machine.


Any lottery that is promoted in Great Britain needs a license, although things like small workplace raffles and private draws are exempt. The National Lottery is regulated under separate legislation.

Remote gambling

Any gambling services provided remotely (e.g. online, phone, TV etc) must be licensed. This includes things like casino sites, online bingo, poker and sports betting.

Prize gaming

This covers things like prize competitions and free prize draws used to promote goods and services. These may have an element of skill, chance or both.

Who regulates gambling under the Gambling Act?

The main regulatory body set up under the Gambling Act is the Gambling Commission. Its roles include:

  • Issuing operating licenses to gambling companies
  • Setting standards that operators must meet
  • Investigating complaints and taking action against rule breaches
  • Advising local and national government on gambling policy

The Commission has a range of powers to oversee gambling, including the ability to:

  • Conduct inspections of gambling premises
  • Investigate license holders to ensure they are suitable to operate
  • Bring prosecutions for unlicensed gambling
  • Impose financial penalties for licence breaches
  • Revoke or suspend licences when rules are broken

As well as the Gambling Commission, local authorities also have a role in licensing certain gambling facilities and activities. For example, councils issue licences for bingo halls, amusement arcades, betting shops and tracks.

The police and other agencies like HMRC are also responsible for investigating any criminal activity linked to gambling.

What are the main licence conditions under the Gambling Act?

All gambling operators must comply with licence conditions set out in the Gambling Act and by the Gambling Commission. Some of the main requirements are:

Preventing gambling by children and young people

There are strict rules about preventing under 18s from taking part in most types of gambling. Operators must have effective age verification checks in place.

Identifying and supporting problem gamblers

Operators must interact with customers to spot problem gambling patterns. They must offer self-exclusion options and contribute to problem gambling funds.

Ensuring gambling is fair and open

Companies must show games and betting are fair. Rules and odds/payouts must be clear. Results must not be manipulated.

Protecting customer funds

Operators must keep customer deposits and winnings in separate accounts. This prevents funds being lost if the company becomes insolvent.

Advertising responsibly

Advertising must not appeal specifically to under 18s. It should not mislead or place undue pressure on people to gamble.

Reporting suspicion of illegal activity

Operators must report any suspicious betting patterns or activity that may indicate crime or money laundering.

Cooperating with the Commission

Companies must be open and honest with the regulator. They must submit to inspections and information requests.

What are the penalties for breaching gambling licence conditions?

The Gambling Commission has a range of penalties it can impose if operators break licence conditions, including:

Financial penalties

Fines of up to £1 million can be imposed for major licence breaches. Fines of up to £100,000 can be imposed for other failures.

Suspension of licence

Licences can be suspended for up to 12 months if operators are found to have breached conditions.

Revocation of licence

Serious or repeated breaches can result in an operator having its licence revoked altogether. This prevents it from providing gambling facilities.

Criminal prosecution

Providing gambling facilities without a licence is a criminal offence under the Act. Illegal operators can face unlimited fines and up to 51 weeks in prison.

Individual members of staff can also be prosecuted personally if they commit offences under the Act.

Review of licence

Less serious breaches may result in a formal review of the operator’s licence and new conditions being imposed.

How are children and young people protected under the Act?

The Gambling Act has several measures aimed at protecting under 18s from the risks of gambling:

Age limits

The minimum age to take part in most gambling is 18. The exceptions are lotteries (16), football pools (16), and low stake/prize gaming machines (no age limit).

ID verification

Gambling operators must verify customers’ ages before allowing them to gamble, both in person and online.

Advertising restrictions

Adverts for gambling must not appeal directly to under 18s or be shown around programmes with particular youth appeal.

Location restrictions

Gambling machines and betting shops cannot be located close to schools. Advertising is restricted on school premises.


Arcades and bingo halls cannot admit under 18s during school hours on weekdays.


Young problem gamblers can have ‘cool off’ periods or ban themselves completely from gambling outlets.

Gambling education

Schools are encouraged to teach young people about the risks and responsibilities of gambling.

How does the Act aim to prevent problem gambling?

The Gambling Act has measures to identify, monitor and support problem gamblers:


Gamblers can voluntarily ban themselves from gambling outlets for set time periods. Operators must enforce these self-exclusions.

Operator interaction

Staff must interact with customers to spot problematic play patterns and offer advice accordingly.

Spending limits and timeouts

Online gambling sites must allow customers to set deposit limits and take enforced breaks if desired.

Advertising restrictions

Adverts cannot encourage repetitive or excessive play. Terms like ‘risk-free’ are banned.

Contributions to problem gambling funds

Operators contribute around £10 million each year to the GambleAware charity that funds treatment and education.

Gambling blocking software

Operators must promote blocking software to help problem gamblers restrict their access to betting sites.

Gambling research

The Gambling Commission funds research into problem gambling prevention and treatment.

How has the Gambling Act been amended since 2005?

There have been some significant amendments to the Gambling Act since its introduction:

Year Amendment
2007 Casinos permitted to use up to 80 gaming machines
2009 Creation of National Lottery Commission
2014 Requirements for players to register and verify ID with betting sites
2019 £2 maximum stake introduced for fixed odds betting terminals
2020 Credit card gambling banned
2021 Review of online slot game features announced

The most significant changes have related to gambling machines and consumer protection measures for online gambling. More amendments are likely in future to address emerging issues.

What reviews have there been of the Gambling Act since 2005?

There have been two major independent reviews of gambling legislation since the Gambling Act was passed:

The Budd Report (2020)

This examined the online gambling sector and recommended:

  • Strengthening customer verification procedures
  • Banning gambling on credit cards
  • New codes of practice for video game-style slots
  • Better monitoring of VIP loyalty schemes

Many of its recommendations have been implemented.

The Gambling Act Review (2020-21)

This wide-ranging review has recommended:

  • Classifying loot boxes in video games as gambling
  • Banning sports shirt sponsorship by betting firms
  • Increasing protections around VIP schemes and online slots
  • More powers and funding for the Gambling Commission

The government is considering which recommendations to implement.

What are the main criticisms and challenges facing gambling regulation?

While the Gambling Act has increased oversight of the industry, some common criticisms include:

Rise in problem gambling

Problem gambling rates have not declined since the Act came into force. There are calls for more prevention measures.

Online gambling concerns

There are concerns about young people’s exposure to online gambling and extra protections have been proposed.

Industry influence

Critics argue the gambling industry has too much sway over policy making. Stricter regulation is demanded.

Gambling advertising

There are complaints about the volume of gambling adverts, particularly during live sports broadcasts.

Illegal unlicensed operators

Regulators continue to face issues with unlicensed gambling sites and enforcement gaps around offshore operators.

Overall the Act is seen as a significant step forward in regulating gambling. But technological advances and the growth of online gambling means there are demands for the legislation and enforcement to keep evolving.


The Gambling Act 2005 provides the framework for regulating most commercial gambling in Great Britain. It aimed to overhaul dated legislation and create a more comprehensive regulatory system.

The Act merged multiple sets of regulations into a single piece of legislation covering everything from betting shops to online casinos. It also established the Gambling Commission to license operators, set standards and enforce the rules.

Licensing and standards have increased consumer protections. There are dedicated measures to protect children and the vulnerable. But critics argue more progress is still needed to prevent problem gambling and minimize harm.

Amendments over the years have addressed issues around gambling machines and improved player safety online. Further changes are likely as technology transforms how people gamble and new challenges emerge. But overall the Act has brought greater structure and oversight to modern gambling regulation.