Gambling Licences

Gambling Licences: Everything You Need to Know

page thumbnail
Updated on: 6 Jun 2024
Dean McHugh

Online gambling is here to stay, with more players than ever enjoying everything from sports betting to roulette, bingo, and casino games.

This is great news for players because there are lots of online casinos in the market, providing great bonus offers and a wide selection of games.

However, before you sign up to play, check to see if the casino is licensed. A gambling licence means that an online casino operates to a higher standard and offers protection for players.

But with multiple types of gambling licences available and many casinos operating without one, how important is it really?

We take a look at what an online casino licence means for players and how to choose the right platform for play.

What is an Online Casino Licence?

Theoretically, any company can set up an online casino and start offering its services to players. However, if it wants to ensure it’s doing everything legally, an online casino licence is necessary.

A casino licence is a legal document issued by a regulatory body. There is no single regulatory body that operates globally; different bodies operate in each country. In many countries, it is illegal to operate without a casino licence.

A licence is necessary because online casinos process payments, handle money, and receive large amounts of personal data. Any company that completes these types of transactions or handles this type of data has a legal obligation to comply with certain standards - and that’s what a licence does.

It’s not easy to obtain an online casino licence. The operator must demonstrate to the regulator that it meets certain standards and is able to uphold them consistently. This requires many safeguards to be in place, and for the casino to be able to show how it’s meeting its obligations for responsible gambling.

Once approved, a casino licence allows a company to legally operate an online casino. If only limited categories have been applied for, the licence may specify what types of games the website can offer.

The regulator will continue to monitor the operations of the online casino, and any breaches could result in a fine or removal of the licence.

The legislation for casino licences typically addresses any operator offering services in the country, even if they are based overseas. This means that to be able to legally operate, casinos may often be required to hold multiple different licences.

Why is a Licence Important?

There are many online casinos which operate on an unlicensed basis. This means that the games and services on offer are not backed by any regulatory body.

Some countries try to block unlicensed casinos, but in practice, this is very hard to do. It’s not illegal to play at an unlicensed casino, but in most countries, operating an online casino without a licence is.

However, although players won’t be committing a crime by playing at an unlicensed casino, it’s not advisable. This is for several reasons.

Firstly, there are no guarantees that a casino without a licence is reputable. Rogue traders do, unfortunately, exist, but they won’t be able to obtain a licence. Without a licence, there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever receive any winnings or that your data will be safe. Online casinos are trusted with your personal data, and handing this over to an unlicensed operator means this information could end up in the wrong hands, leaving you exposed to identity theft and fraud.

While you are still protected by the law, pursuing an unlicensed casino that’s based overseas is extremely complicated.

Even if an unlicensed casino isn’t an outright scammer, its standards may be questionable. To obtain a casino licence, an operator must commit to best practice standards and agree to a code of conduct. Without a licence, there may be unfair and complicated terms and conditions, which mean you aren’t treated fairly.

Unlicensed casinos will also not be required to ensure transparency in their games. Many players fear “rigged” casino games where big wins are never actually possible. Licensed casinos are required to use sophisticated technology, such as Random Number Generators, that treats players fairly and means there is a genuine chance of winning.

This means that when you play at an unlicensed casino, you may be wasting your money. Those prizes that look so enticing may never actually be possible. Unlicensed casinos have no one to stop them from rigging their games, unlike licensed casinos, which have strict checks in place to ensure continued compliance and fairness.

Finally, with a licence, there is a safety net if you encounter any problems. This might be because you haven’t received your winnings as expected or because you don’t think you’re being treated fairly. The regulator takes any allegations of misconduct seriously, with licensed casinos expected to act carefully at all times.

Different Online Casino Licences

online casino licenses accross the world

As mentioned previously, there are many different licences available, and online casinos may be required to hold multiple licences. This depends on where they are based and where they want to offer their services.

Any type of online casino licence should be viewed positively. This is because the operator will have to pay a fee to receive a licence and will always be subject to checks to ensure the proper standards are being upheld.

However, there is no question that some licensing bodies carry out more strenuous checks than others. This is why some licences are considered to be a “gold standard” when searching for a trustworthy online casino site.

Below, we take a look at some of the most common gambling licences available globally.


The United Kingdom Gambling Commission, usually referred to as the UKGC, is one of the toughest gambling regulators in the world. It is a government organisation responsible for regulating all types of gambling in the UK, including online casinos.

The UKGC issues licences for gambling and it is illegal to operate in the UK without one. Any casino wishing to obtain a UKGC licence will have to prove it is financially secure, have responsible gambling policies in place, and have a detailed business plan.

It is difficult to obtain and maintain a gambling licence from the UKGC as they’re renowned globally for having very high standards. They take a robust approach to regulation and have very stringent checks in place for both the initial application and ongoing operation. Due to this tough approach to licensing, a UKGC licence is often accepted in other countries.

Smaller casinos may be deterred from obtaining a UKGC licence because the fees are relatively high compared to other jurisdictions. However, this approach ensures that any licensed casino is financially secure and has the proper mechanisms to protect players.


First established in 2001, the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) is the regulator for any gambling company based in Malta.

Like the UKGC, the MGA has a phenomenal reputation worldwide for taking a detailed and strict approach to regulation. It can take up to six months to receive a gambling licence from the MGA, and hefty fees must be paid to complete the registration.

The MGA offers four different licence classes. Each class includes a different range of gambling and casino games, so the operator can pick the category which best suits their needs.

An MGA licence is often accepted in many countries, particularly the EU, as it’s considered tough to obtain. Any online casino that holds an MGA licence will have passed many detailed checks and will be subject to ongoing monitoring and audits.


Despite only being 40 miles long, the small island of Curacao has a big reputation in the gambling world. The government is responsible for all gambling activity in Curacao and for licensing any online casino registered in the country.

A Dutch Caribbean island may sound like an unusual place to register an online casino, but Curacao has several features that make it attractive to operators. With low set-up costs and a quick application process, getting a licence in Curacao is much easier than elsewhere.

As this implies, the checks required for a Curacao licence aren’t as robust as some other regulators, such as the UKGC or the MGA. This means that online casinos, particularly new operators, often prefer to start with a Curacao licence rather than plunge right in with a tougher regulator.

Although Curacao isn’t as strict as other regulators, any gambling firm must still be able to demonstrate that it meets the required standard. This includes proving financial stability, implementing responsible gambling policies, and consenting to regular audits.

Therefore, while the Curacao eGaming Licensing Authority may not hold the same prestige as some other gambling licences, it’s still a symbol of a trustworthy and reputable casino.


The Gibraltar Gambling Commission requires all its licensed operators to comply with the UK Gambling Act 2005. The Gibraltar gambling licence has existed since 1998, and it has a proven track record of delivering tough but fair regulation. It is attractive to operators because there are cheap taxes and no VAT fees, offering a cost-effective licence that adheres to high standards.

There are six different types of gambling licences in Gibraltar, giving applicants the ability to pick and choose the categories that apply to their services.

Historically, it’s not been very easy for new casino start-ups to get licensed by the GGC as the body looks for a successful track record in other countries. However, more recently the GGC has been willing to consider newer casinos, providing they can demonstrate adequate funding and financial integrity.


Spelinspektionen, also known as the Swedish Gambling Authority, underwent a relaunch in 2019, replacing the previous Swedish licensing system. This new, rebranded version of the Swedish gambling licence has quickly gained a strong reputation within the industry, due to the strength of the checks in place.

Any casino wanting to apply for a Swedish casino licence must be able to demonstrate that it adheres to Swedish gambling laws, has fair gambling policies in place, and is financially secure.

In addition to the application checks, the Swedish Gambling Authority will also continue to carry out monitoring and audits on any operator holding a licence.

It is illegal to offer gambling activities in Sweden without a Swedish licence, but the licence is also recognised in other countries, especially within the EU. There are three different classes of licence, with each one specifying different types of permitted activity.

The Swedish licence is another one that is expensive to obtain. Despite having very high standards, it’s not seen as widely as the MGA or UKGC licences. This is because the Swedish licence has some requirements that are very specific to the Swedish market, which limits its application elsewhere.


Alderney is the northernmost island in the Channel Islands, and a hotbed for gambling action. The Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) is responsible for all licensing activity on the island, including the issuing of any gambling licences.

The Channel Islands have their own governance and legislations, which has long made them attractive as an offshore financial base. The AGCC was established in 2000 to regulate gambling activities on Alderney, with its licence also recognised internationally.

A single licence covers the various types of casino games and activities that an operator may want to offer. The AGCC adopts a “risk-based approach” to licensing. This means that rather than a blanket list of rules and regulations, only those specific to the market will apply.

Unlike other licensing bodies, such as the MGA, the AGCC does not require the operator to be based in Alderney to issue a licence. It’s possible to apply for a licence from the AGCC even if operations are entirely based elsewhere.

The AGCC takes a strict approach to regulation and tightly controls the ongoing operation of all gambling operators. Despite the casinos' wide physical distribution, every licensed operator must comply with ongoing checks and audits by the AGCC.

With a focus on financial resilience, security, responsible gambling, and customer satisfaction, the AGCC licence is widely held as a mark of high quality.

Additional Licences

In addition to the licences issued by each respective licensing authority, there are other compliance marks that may be in place. Casinos and gambling operators understand the importance of reassurance and regularly submit for independent testing.

Sometimes, this may be done to satisfy the terms of the licence they hold, but it may also be over and above their obligations. Any additional licences held are typically displayed on the homepage of the casino site.

Some of the names to look out for include:

  • eCOGRA: Established in 2003, the eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance agency has received international acclaim for its independent testing of online gaming. The company issues in-depth reports detailing each game's performance, including the payouts.
  • GLI: Gaming Labs International provides worldwide testing and certification for casino games.
  • BMM TestLabs: One of the very first independent gaming laboratories offering certification, BMM offers worldwide services, including Europe, Australia, and Africa.
  • iTech Labs: Working with large poker rooms and industry big guns, iTech Labs provides independent testing to ensure integrity in gaming.
  • QALabs: An independent tester, QALabs provides detailed reports on casino game metrics, including payouts and game mathematics.

How to Check for a Casino Licence

The presence of a casino licence is reassuring, and is a marker that every casino player should look out for. While a licence doesn’t offer an absolute guarantee that you’ll never have any problems, the casino will be obliged to uphold certain standards and to act in a reasonable way. Should they fail to do so, the player will always have the safety net of the regulator to provide support.

Of course, any operator could claim to have a licence, so how can you tell if a casino really is properly licensed?

The good news is that it’s very easy to find out whether a casino holds the licence that they claim. Legitimate casinos ensure that it’s quick and convenient to view their licensed status because they understand these are checks that every player should be able to perform.

If you scroll to the bottom of the home page, the casino should display its licensing information. This should include the body that issued the licence and its licensing number. In many cases, there may also be a hyperlink that allows you to simply click to view the licence.

Licensing registers are visible to the public for free. This means that you can easily look up any operator to check their licensed status. The licence will show the date it was issued, the status, and whether any restrictions apply. For example, in some countries, the licence may be limited to certain types of e-gaming.

Licensing authorities will remove or suspend a licence if a casino fails to uphold the agreed standards. These suspensions may be temporary or permanent, but you will always be able to view full details on the public registers.

If the casino site doesn’t provide a hyperlink to the licensing body and/or register, it’s easy to find them via a search engine. Below are some of the most popular international licensing bodies:

  • UK Gambling Commission
  • Malta Gaming Authority
  • Curacao eGaming Licensing Authority
  • Gibraltar Gambling Commission
  • Swedish Gambling Authority
  • Alderney Gambling Control Commission

protection for players

The remit of a gambling licence is wide-ranging and covers everything from financial security to data protection, fair play, and transparency.

However, an area which has grown over recent years is the commitment to responsible gambling.

Every respected licensing authority includes a section on responsible gambling, setting out the measures that casinos are expected to take to ensure the protection of vulnerable players and the identification and prevention of harmful behaviour.

The specific requirements are set out in the terms of each licence, but many of them will be broadly similar.

Casinos must be able to identify players under the legal age for gambling and ensure that they have steps in place to check their identity. This has the dual effect of protecting vulnerable players and preventing money laundering.

Tools to limit the amount of money players can gamble must be made available. This could include self-exclusion and offering a cap on deposit limits. These measures must be difficult or impossible to change, and there must be time delays in place to prevent spontaneous gambling that may be harmful.

The very best online casinos are able to offer a balance of entertaining and fun casino games while also protecting players. This might include on-screen timers and reminders and the ability to opt out of special offers and marketing.

Protection for Players

A lot of players have accounts at many casinos. This can be a smart move as it provides more opportunities to claim special offers and lucrative bonuses. New casinos appear regularly with attractive welcome offers, it can be tempting to snap them up without a second thought.

However, casino licensing offers protection that can’t be overstated. Whether it’s the guarantee that you’ll receive your winnings, fairness of play, data protection, or good customer service, there’s a lot to lose by playing at an unlicensed casino.

With so many licensed casinos available online, and more appearing all of the time, an unlicensed casino presents a risk that’s simply not worth taking.