If you have ever spent any amount of time looking at different online casinos, sports betting sites, poker sites, bingo sites and so forth, you’ve probably notices various badges and emblems displayed on these sites. These are usually found at the bottom of the homepage, and often include acronyms such as MGA, GLA or UKGC. But what do these really mean and why should you know more about them?
What are Online Gambling Regulators and Licensing Bodies?
Online gambling regulator and licensing bodies play a vital role within the overall online gambling industry. In fact, many of the larger online gambling regulators are also responsible for regulating and overseeing the so-called brick and mortar gambling industry, which includes land-based casinos and betting shops.
In their online capacity, regulators thoroughly review the services and operations of online gambling sites before issuing them with operating licenses. These reviews are based on local and international gambling laws, and are designed to ensure that gambling sites:
- Operate within the parameters of applicable gambling laws.
- Are managed and run in an ethical manner.
- Ensure that their customers are treated fairly.
- Follow safe online gaming practices and protocols.
Since the online gambling industry is an international one, with sites that operate in various jurisdictions, there is not one single regulatory body that takes care of the entire industry. Many of today’s top online gambling sites are owned by umbrella groups and will either focus on a certain market or jurisdiction, for example: the UK, while others operate in multiple jurisdictions at the same time. For this reason, you will often see an online gambling site with multiple licensing and regulatory accreditation.
Did You Know?
When choosing an online gambling site, whether that is an online casino, a sportsbook, poker or bingo site, you should always ensure that the site displays the correct and relevant licenses for your jurisdiction.
A handy tip: Trustworthy gambling sites will feature what is known as a dynamic seal of approval. This means that the seal contains a link to the official website of the regulator. If you can’t click on the seal, there’s a good chance it is a fake seal and you should probably avoid that site.
Regulators and Licensing Bodies in Europe, UK and Surrounds
UKGC – United Kingdom
The UK Gambling Commission, also known as the UKGC, was established by the Gambling Act of 2005, replacing the responsibilities and jurisdictional scope of the Gaming Board for Great Britain in 2007. The UKGC’s primary role is in regulating the casino and betting industries within the United Kingdom. However, the UKGC does not regulate sports betting, which falls under a different regulatory body. One of the roles that the UKGC is most well-known for is remote gambling (online gambling) licensing and regulation.
The UKGC seal is one of the most sought after for any online gambling site since it is held in very high regard. In fact, any international company that wishes to offer gambling products to UK citizens will need to first obtain a UK Gambling Commission license.
MGA – Malta
The Malta Gambling Authority, better known by the acronym MGA, is one of the most recognisable of all online gambling regulators in the industry. Malta is considered by many to be the home of online gambling, as most top online casinos are actually based on the island. There are many reasons for this, and one of the most important is the fact that Malta features relatively relaxed tax laws. Malta is also home to many financial institutions and, together with an MGA license, allows online sites to facilitate online gambling opportunities from all corners of the globe.
The Malta Gambling Authority was born out of the old Lotteries and Gaming Authority of Malta, better known as the LGA. However, after a complete overhaul of practices and structures in 2015, the name changed to the MGA or Malta Gambling Authority. Today, any online gambling site that bears the MGA seal of approval is virtually guaranteed to be a trustworthy and reliable site, as customers are presented with solid recourse should anything go wrong or in the event of a dispute with the casino.
GLA – Gibraltar
The Gibraltar Licensing Authority (GLA), regulates the online gambling industry and licenses online casinos and poker sites from the island of Gibraltar. The island is one of the oldest hubs for online gambling and was right there at the very beginning of the industry in the early 90’s. Today, the GLA is still one of the leaders in online gambling regulation and licensing and you will find many top online casinos and other gambling sites bearing the GLA seal of approval.
There are many similarities between Gibraltar and Malta as far as the online gambling industry is concerned. Both offer highly favourable tax rates and both facilitate licensed online gambling operators to offer legal virtual gambling facilities to players from around the world. In fact, you will find at least two dozen of the world’s most reputable online gambling sites are based on this tiny island off the coast of southern Spain.
AGCC – Alderney
The island of Alderney lies within the British Channel Islands and, like other islands within this group, is a self-governing region of the British Crown. However, it is important to note that Alderney and other islands such as Jersey, are not part of the United Kingdom, nor do they form part of the European Union. Established in 2000, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, or AGCC, is perhaps not quite as well-known as some of the other European gambling regulators that we’ve covered so far. However, the AGCC is on the fast track to becoming one of the most attractive regulators in Europe for a number of reasons.
For starters, the AGCC offer all online gambling companies that set up shop on the island, a zero percent tax rate and set a single annual membership fee. In addition, like the MGA and GLA, an AGCC license allows operators to offer their products to a world-wide audience. Interestingly, the AGCC played a major role in the world-wide shutdown of Full Tilt Poker in 2011, after numerous complaints regarding non-payments from the site to players.
GSC – Isle of Man
The Isle of Man lies between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and its Gambling Supervision Commission has been regulating gambling on the island since 1962. The commission deals with all gambling operations on the island, including casino gambling and betting. After the start of the online gambling industry, the GSC began to offer regulation and licensing to online betting sites.
The administrative and regulatory systems that the GSC employs are very similar to those of Gibraltar’s GLA, and include very low taxation rates and long term licenses for operators. GSC license holders are also able to offer their products to an international market as the GSC does not restrict where operators may offer their products. Players also find that online gambling sites with GSC licensing and regulation is a sound option, since the GSC insists that operators keep their players funds in an entirely separate account from that of their operating funds.
JGC – Jersey
Not to be confused with the New Jersey Gambling Commission in the US, the Jersey Gambling Commission or JGC, is located on the island of Jersey in the English Channel. Jersey forms part of the Channel Islands and, along with Alderney, is recognised as a world leader in offshore finance. The Jersey Gambling Commission was created in 2010 to regulate and license online gambling ventures. As with Alderney, the JGC offers licensing and regulatory oversight to a host of digital gambling industries including online casinos and sportsbooks, online software providers, and independent auditors and testing labs.
Other European Online Gambling Regulators and Licensing Bodies
ARJEL – France
The Autorite de regulation des jeux en ligne, or ARJEL for short, was established by the French government in 2010 to closely monitor and regulate online gambling in that country. ARJEL is exclusively the agent for issuing new gambling licenses to companies that wish to offer online gambling to French citizens. However, France is still what is known as a legal grey area when it comes to online gambling and the government moves very slowly when it comes to legal real money online gambling in the country.
DGA – Denmark
Established in 2000, the Danish Gambling Authority or DGA, falls under the Danish Ministry of Taxation and was initially tasked with regulating gaming machines in local arcades, kiosks and restaurants throughout Denmark. The DGA, through DanskeSpil, also controlled what was essentially a monopoly in Danish lottery gaming and betting. In addition to this monopoly, DanskeSpil issued licenses to various charities that sought to hold their own lotteries and bingo games.
In 2012, the new gambling act came into effect in Denmark, significantly altering the course of the Danish Gambling Authority. While DanskeLotteriSpil still holds the monopoly on lotteries, the DGA became an independent authority in 2013. Today any online gambling operator can apply for a DGA license and offer gambling products in Denmark.