iGaming Licensing Authorities
Players have various preferences when it comes to choosing an online casino. Some prefer slots, others go for live dealer tables. Likewise, most claim bonuses, but you will find players that steer clear of wagering requirements altogether, and the list can go on. However, despite all these preferences, all gamblers agree that a reputable license is a must for them to consider a particular operator. But is it enough for a casino to display a permit? Or is there a difference between the multiple regulatory authorities around the globe? These are the questions we’re going to answer in this article. And to do so, we’re exploring the various entities around the world in charge of regulating and safeguarding the online casino industry.
International Licensing Authorities
If this is your first contact with online casino licensing authorities, you should know that they’re split into two big categories. The ones that give operators access to several jurisdictions and local authorities that function in certain countries or territories. As the title indicates, we’re going to first deal with the international or multi-jurisdictional ones.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission
While most casino players think the UKGC, the abbreviated and most-used form, only handles online gambling in England, its area of activity includes Scotland and Wales as well. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is one of the most prestigious and reputable licensing authorities in the world. Many of the other international or local authorities look to the UKGC as an example of how to organize and oversee the iGaming industry.
It was established in 2007 and it brought some important changes in the UK’s online gambling environment. With its establishment, it became mandatory for any gaming operator addressing UK players to obtain a license from the UKGC. However, doing so is not as easy as it sounds. They are one of the most exigent and thorough licensing authorities around. With a special focus on detailed KYC procedures, anti-money laundering, and responsible gambling, any operator that wants to get a license from the UKGC needs to follow some strict rules and have everything in order.
Also, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission is the issuer of some record-breaking fines towards operators. Land-based Caesars received a £13m fine for allowing a VIP customer to lose over £1.3m in three months. Going back to the online gambling environment, Betway was also in UKGC’s crosshairs and received a £11.6m fine for failing to implement anti-money laundering processes. iGaming giant 888 was also targeted with a £7.8 levy for not protecting vulnerable customers and not respecting social responsibility. Overall, over 300 online casinos and bookmakers are licensed by the UKGC while the total number of licenses issued ( bingo, lotteries, machines, etc) rises to over 3,000.
Malta Gaming Authority
One of the first countries to issue an iGaming license, Malta is seen by most industry professionals as the Mecca of online gambling. This small Mediterranean country hosts some of the biggest names in the industry, also thanks to its EU member status. Being a pioneer when it comes to online gambling licenses is one of the main reasons why the MGA enjoys such popularity. However, the low fees for operators is another important aspect for sure.
Initially, the name for the authority was LGA, Lotteries and Gaming Authority and the name change came in 2015 in an effort to revamp the licensing authority and its practices. In terms of strictness, the MGA is considered to be more relaxed compared to the UKGC. However, they also have clear KYC, anti-money laundering, and responsible gambling procedures in place.
A casino equipped with an MGA license can operate in almost all European states that don’t have a licensing authority of its own. While more and more countries are passing gambling laws and establishing government agencies to oversee online gambling, an MGA license still gives casinos access to markets such as Finland, Canada, or Norway, to name a few. Also, in terms of trustworthiness, the MGA license is seen as the second most-trusted after UKGC so a casino displaying such a license is considered safe by most players. The MGA issued a total of 348 iGaming licenses to operators or software providers at the moment of writing.
Gibraltar Licensing Authority
After witnessing the success story of Malta and its licensing authority, Gibraltar followed its footsteps. Starting in 2005, they implemented legislation that’s very similar to the Maltese one. Slowly, they managed to gain prominence in the industry and the Gambling Acts had a major influence, making online gaming responsible for a record-breaking level of 40% of Gibraltar’s GDP. For a while, obtaining a Gibraltar license meant that operators can also offer their services in the United Kingdom as well. However, the Licencing and Advertising Act was altered in 2014 and it required operators with a Gibraltar license to pay a 15% tax on profits obtained within the UK. However, with over 150 licenses issued, this licensing authority is surely going to have an impact in the years to come. Most feared that Brexit will affect Gibraltar’s authority as an online gaming licensing authority. However, it looks like it’s still business as usual for the rocky nation.
Curacao is another jurisdiction that issues online gambling licenses allowing the owners to operate in several states. However, there’s a big difference in reputation and popularity compared to the MGA or UKGC. The main reason for this situation lies in the way the Curacao licensing authority is organized. They first issued what is known as Master Licenses to four operators that were verified and had to comply with a list of regulations. However, the owner of a master license can issue the so-called “sub-licenses” or simply authorize other operators to function based on their master license. This lead to a series of less-reputable casinos using the Curacao license.
It doesn’t mean that all Curacao-licensed casinos are not to be trusted or will deliver low-quality services. However, the lack of regulations and thorough checks from the licensing authority makes it a lot easier for shady operators to exist and multiply. After pressure from the Netherlands, it looks like Curacao will review its online gambling laws and could introduce stricter regulations for licensees. That could lead to significant changes for its around 450 licensees.
PAGCOR / FCLRC
Established in the Philippines, PAGCOR is the only notable gambling regulator in Asia that offers gambling licenses to operators. Actually, PAGCOR is the entity dealing with land-based licenses. FCLRC, the First Cagayan Leisure and Resort Corporation is the authority handling e-gaming licenses. No matter if we’re talking about online or landbased gambling, the two entities made the Philipines very appealing to all casinos and bookmakers wanting to get some traction in the area. Operators that establish their headquarters here benefit from extensive tax credits but are not allowed to offer their services to locals.
Panama Gaming Control Board
Also known as Junta de Control de Juegos, the Panama Gaming Control Board has been active since 2002. Right from the start, this regulatory authority offered licenses to operators activating inside the country and the rest of the world as well. Thanks to its good relations with the USA and the rest of the American continent the Panamese license was targeted by operators willing to penetrate the USA market. The Panama Gaming Control Board has clear requirements for software testing, money-laundering policies, and responsible gambling, making them trustworthy.
Alrderney Gambling Control Commission
Established in 200, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, or AGCC, is located in the British Isles and puts a lot of effort into attracting operators that are looking for an online gambling license. By eliminating percentual fees and agreeing to a fixed annual rate collected from each licensee and few restrictions when it comes to targeting various markets around the world, the AGCC became rather appealing. Its reputation is rather good, despite a few complaints every now and then. Suspending the license issued to Full Tilt Poker is a move that remains in the memory of all gambling enthusiasts.
Isle of Man
The Gambling Supervision Commission located in Isle of Man is one of the oldest around. It has operated ever since 1962 and quickly adapted to online licenses as soon as the trend hit. It offers long-term licenses and a low taxation system, making its services very appealing to operators. An Isle of Man license is advantageous for operators because it doesn’t come with any restrictions as to where they can offer services.
Antigua Division of Gaming
Last but definitely not least, there’s the Antigua Division of Gaming. Even though it’s not as popular as the UKGC, MGA, or Curacao, this entity earned its spot in iGaming history by being part of a significant dispute with the US. The licensing authority in Antigua and Barbuda argued that the US is violating the General Agreement on Trade Services through its anti-online gambling stance. The World Trade Organization stepped in and ruled in Antigua’s favor. The Us had to pay $3.4 million to Antigua back in 2007. The licenses issued here are quite trustworthy, but there are no real restrictions on where companies offer tier services.
Local European Licensing Authorities
After checking out the entities issuing licenses that allow operators to function in multiple states, it’s time to focus on the European states that established their own gambling authorities. When it became clear to everyone that online gambling can generate serious revenue through taxation, multiple states hurried to pass specialized legislation and regulate iGaming internally. Therefore, the international licenses mentioned above are no longer enough for operators to access the markets. Here are the most notable local licensing authorities.
The Swedish Gambling Authority (Spelinspektionen)
Even though it’s not the oldest local licensing authority, we open the list with Spelinspektionenl because they revolutionized the way countries regulate online gambling. It gained the present powers in January 2019 when Sweden passed new gambling laws that opened up the market for private operators. It’s considered one of the strictest licensing authorities in Europe, with a special focus on player protection. Actually, many voices claim that the restrictions in place are too much and make Sweden an unappealing market for operators.
Spanish Gaming Commission
Ever since 2014, Spain regulated online gambling and appointed the Comision Nacional del Juego as regulator and overseer. Like many other European jurisdictions, Spain chose to go with a very cautious and restrictive approach. The iGaming market became self-contained, with players unable to properly interact with international competitors. Despite high taxation rates, a long list of operators applied for a license issued by the Spanish Gaming Commission and things seem to be improving year after year.
AAMS in Italy
Short for the Amministratzione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato, the AAMs is the online gaming regulator in Italy. It represents the Italian authorities’ efforts to modernize their gambling laws to comply with European Commission directives. It offers licenses to all sorts of operators that want to address the Italian market and it includes casino games, sports betting, poker, horse racing, and many other markets. The 20% tax on Gross Gaming Revenue means only the top operators could successfully function on the Italian market.
ARJEL – France
France regulated online gambling in 2010 and established the Autorite de Regulation des Jeux en Ligne as the overseer of this new industry. The entity issues licenses to operators that want to deliver their gambling services in the country. France is one of the largest betting markets in Europe, so it needed a proper set of rules and a solid framework. However, the way ARJEL handles online gambling was heavily criticized mainly due to the high tax rates. Many operators claim the high fees leave them unable to run competitive promotions and services.
KSA in the Netherlands
After an extended period without proper gambling legislation, Netherlands finally put everything together for a “fresh start”. After asking all operators to withdraw from the market until the appropriate framework for licensing is put into place, the KSA (short for Kansspelautoriteit ) is ready to start handling online gambling licenses. Twenty-eight license applications were received on the 19th of April, and sources claim the likes of Betsson, Kindred, 888, or Entain are among the applicants. The 1st of October 2021 is the start date for the new licenses, and the fees are quite steep. A Gross Gambling Revenue tax of 29% and a problem betting levy of 1.75% are included in the gambling laws.
The Hellenic Gaming Commission
After adopting new gambling laws in October 2019, Greece started handing out new online gambling licenses starting last year. There are two types of licenses: online betting and another one for all other online games of chance. The price for an online betting license is set at €3m while the other one costs “only” €2m. License holders need to pay a 35% Gross gaming revenue tax and only players aged 21 or above can play. Betsson is one of the industry giants that applied and received a Greek online gambling license.
The list of European countries that established individual online gambling authorities can go on with the likes of Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Cyprus, or Romania, to name just a few. However, the regulations in place are similar as the nations seem to get inspiration from the same sources. The online gambling environment is an ever-changing one and many jurisdictions are still trying to find the best way to regulate this industry.