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U.K. Internet gambling law

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Overview Edit

The U.K. has several different laws and regulatory schemes that apply to gaming, betting and lotteries, but there are no specific laws governing Internet gambling operations or making it illegal for private citizens to gamble online. Some types of gambling can be carried out legally by operators online and others cannot. For example, betting operations can operate via the Internet because bookmakers have long been permitted to accept telephone bets subject to licensing requirements and Internet betting operations fall within the same legislative provisions. Other forms of gambling, such as casino gaming, bingo, and most lotteries, are illegal on the Internet due to specific legal requirements for conducting these types of gambling. The laws applicable to casino gaming and bingo require that the persons taking part in the gaming be present on the gaming premises. The laws applicable to lotteries have been interpreted to prevent most Internet sale of tickets because they cannot be sold by machine.

Gaming Board study Edit

The Gaming Board for Great Britain (the Gaming Board) is the body that regulates casinos, bingo clubs, gaming machines, and charity lotteries. As part of its mandate to advise the Home Secretary on developments in gaming, the Gaming Board did a study on Internet gambling that raised public policy issues based on the Internet’s potential to offer unregulated, unlicensed, and low- or no-tax gambling.[1] According to the Budd Report, Internet gambling sites fall into two primary categories: sites that offer an entry to land-based gambling, and interactive gaming sites. Sites that serve as a means of facilitating land-based gambling are often just alternatives to other means of entry such as the post or telephone—that is, they use the Internet simply as a communications tool. Examples of this type of site are football pools and betting on horse racing and other sports. Interactive gaming, however, is run exclusively on the Internet and includes sites offering virtual casinos, slot machine gaming, and interactive lotteries. The Report summarized the legal status of using the Internet for each type of gaming as follows:

  • Betting. Bookmakers can accept telephone bets from clients with credit accounts, and football pools can accept entries by post. Neither is prevented from accepting bets by e-mail. Bookmakers have chosen offshore locations for their telephone and Internet betting operations because taxes are lower in those jurisdictions.
  • Casinos, bingo, and gaming machines. These types of gaming are only permitted on licensed and registered premises, and the persons taking part in the gaming must be on the premises at the time the gaming takes place. These stipulations effectively prevent an operator from obtaining a license for Internet gaming in the U.K. The Gaming Board stated that it would take action to enforce this prohibition.
  • Lotteries. Tickets for lotteries can be sold in almost any location, other than in the street, including at people’s homes and over the telephone, but they cannot be sold by machine. The Gaming Board has taken the position that running a lottery entirely by computer over the Internet amounts to selling tickets by machine and has refused to authorize such lotteries. However, some companies that manage lotteries have presented proposals to the Gaming Board for lotteries that would use the Internet as a means of communication, much like a telephone. The Gaming Board has approved some of those proposals.

Finally, the Report outlined what it saw as the three main policy options for Internet gambling regulation in the U.K.: retaining the status quo, encouraging measures to prevent offshore Internet gambling, and creating legislation to permit regulated and taxed Internet gambling.

Budd Report Edit

Another report, “Gambling Review Report of 2001” (“the Budd Report”), commissioned by the Home Office, recommended that online gambling be regulated and that the activity “be seen as just another way of delivering a service.”[2] According to the Budd Report, the key objectives of gambling laws and regulations are that gambling should be free of crime, honest, and conducted in accordance with regulation; that players should know what to expect and be confident that they will get it without being exploited; and that children and other vulnerable persons should be adequately protected. The Budd Report recommendations would potentially permit the following in the U.K.: online gaming and betting (including in football pools), remote gaming on live games, and betting on the National Lottery.

References Edit

  1. Internet Gambling: Report to the Home Secretary by the Gaming Board for Great Britain (full-text) (hereinafter "Report").
  2. In 2000, Great Britain commissioned an independent review body to analyze all gambling regulations throughout the realm, including on-line gambling. Sir Alan Budd chaired the review body, and the report is frequently referred to as the “Budd Report.

See also Edit

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