Every country takes a unique legislative approach to online gambling, and gambling in general, and it can sometimes be confusing to the layperson. This page seeks to untangle the various rules and regulations, and hopefully answer any questions users may have about gambling legality in their country.
Since the iGaming revolution took the world by storm just over a decade ago, the legislative landscape has changed dramatically. Where the land was once singular and smooth, it's now contoured to suit different regions.
Arguably the major catalyst for legislative change was the 2006 US Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Attached to the SAFE Port Act, this legislation essentially outlawed payment processing between US residents and online betting sites.
Following the advent of UIGEA, a number of iGaming operators left the US. Some, however, stayed and that prompted the FBI and DOJ to get involved on April 15, 2011. Colloquially known as Black Friday, this day saw the US iGaming economy shut down overnight; a move which, subsequently, forced other countries to examine their own iGaming laws.
Today, online gambling is largely regulated by individual countries. While there are still exceptions to this rule, there has been an epistemic shift over the last few years and that has resulted in more and more regions writing their own iGaming laws. To ensure you're gambling legally, always stay up to date on the country's laws from which you are gambling.
Before the iGaming world fractured into regulatory regions, the industry's operators were required to obtain a general licence from one of the following organisations:
Although these licensing bodies still exist, they now have less influence than they once did. The organisations based in Malta, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar and Alderney are still used to licence operators in markets without national regulations.
However, in countries where there are rules governing iGaming, each operator must now hold a specific licence for that market. If you're anteing up online in the following countries, you need to look out for licensing marks from these organisations:
In general, there are three main types of iGaming licence: universal, regional and segregated. As you'd expect, universal iGaming licences are valid around the world, except for regions where national laws take precedence.
The remaining licence types are reserved for the countries listed above. Depending on a government's stance, iGaming operators can be forced to segregate national players or simply filter them through a specific portal.
To illustrate this point, let's consider the online poker market in France and the UK: As it stands, both countries have national regulations that require operators to hold national licences.
However, for UK residents, it's still possible to compete against international players (i.e. countries without law preventing cross-border competition). In contrast, residents of France may only play against other residents.
In both countries an operator must hold a valid licence; however, the freedom players have within each country is different.
When it comes to licensing and regulating online gaming, major legislative bodies, like the familiar eCOGRA, are there to ensure players are protected at all times. To achieve this goal, these organisations assess all operators using the following credentials:
Once an operator has met these standards, it is then required to pay a licensing fee to each relevant body as well as an annual levy.
At present the flow of iGaming regulation has seen a number of markets segregated. From Italy and France to the United States, local players have been cut off from larger, more lucrative markets. Although this has allowed certain regions to exercise tighter controls, it's come at the cost of liquidity.
As the industry continues to grow and evolve, it's likely we'll see various regions agreeing pacts that will allow operators to serve more players. Indeed, in the US, where only three states have legalised online gambling, two of those (Nevada and Delaware) now share playerpools.
This trend is likely to continue over the next few years as operators and governments look for ways to increase revenue. Moreover, as players demand greater freedom to play, it's likely that governments will have to respond by removing some of the fences that currently subdue millions of players.