UK online casinos are generally regarded as being amongst the very best in the business. They are heavily regulated, support excellent, responsible gambling tools, and carry a top array of games from all manner of providers. Of course, there are two types of UK casinos – those licensed by the UKGC and those licensed outside the country, but which still cater to UK players. What’s the difference?
There are several critical differences between UK-licensed online casinos and UK-facing sites, which are often based offshore. If you want to play at an online casino which accepts players from Britain but are still determining which type of UK casino will benefit you the most, allow me to help. Here’s what you need to know.
Mandatory Affiliation with GamStop
GamStop is a problem gambling program which can seriously save players from addictive gambling. I’ve got no issue with that. However, unless you are genuinely suffering the ills of problem gambling, GamStop can be a notable pain. Once activated, this feature is impossible to revoke until a predetermined period has expired. If you only want to take a brief breather, GamStop is not for you.
The UK Gambling Commission has made it practically mandatory for all UKGC-licensed sites to be affiliated with this program. There’s no legal way out of it. Meanwhile, offshore casinos don’t have this trouble. They aren’t without their own protections, either – most support in-house self-exclusion tools. While these are more relaxed, they work just as well for your average bettor. Personally, I find non-GamStop casinos better suited for my needs, and you’ll need non-UKGC licensed sites to enjoy those options. I’ll explain this further in my guide on how to get around GamStop.
Different Bonus Requirements
UKGC-licensed casinos are far more heavily regulated than UK-facing sites based abroad. Another area where this is very notable is when it comes to bonuses and promotions. For instance, while most offshore casinos can typically offer UK players any promo under the sun, you won’t get that flexibility with UKGC sites. There are two key things to look out for here:
Limitations on Bonuses
UK-licensed online casinos are not permitted to have too many VIP deals, monthly specials, or deposit-based promotions for their players. The rules regarding no-deposit bonuses are also stricter. It isn’t just choices which are fewer when it comes to UKGC-licensed casino sites – you’ll also find that the terms and conditions are different but in a good way.
Non-UKGC sites have the freedom to hit you with whatever wagering requirements they want. However, many UKGC casinos are not allowed to do that. Many are forced to offer wager-free deals. This has naturally seen many casinos refrain from offering high-quality bonuses, and as a result, UK-licensed casinos tend to have fewer promos for you to choose from.
Free Spins or Bonus Spins?
Another issue I often see popping up when comparing UKGC and non-UK licensed casinos concerns free spins and bonus spins. Technically, according to the UK Gambling Commission’s rules, online casinos cannot call their bonuses free spins unless they are indeed “free” – in short, without wagering requirements. If they do have a playthrough rate, they are technically supposed to be referred to as “bonus spins”.
While this rule certainly applies to UK-licensed casinos, it is all but ignored at most mainstream online casinos licensed out of the country. It is certainly not uncommon to see online casinos refer to their promotions as “free spins”, even though they are tied down with wagering requirements. I’m actually in favour of the way that the UKGC runs the rule over sites when it comes to this.
No Buy-a-Bonus Features
Not everything about UK-licensed casinos is rosy, though. For instance, the rules concerning buy-a-bonus modes aren’t great at all. If you happen to sign up and play at a UKGC online casino, you won’t be able to make use of buy-a-bonus modes in games. These are prohibited. You’ll still be able to trigger special features the usual way, but you can’t take shortcuts.
Again, this is not something you’ll have to worry about if you pop over to an internationally licensed independent casino. At those sites, any games which support buy-a-bonus options will typically be permitted to offer them to you. The UKGC considers these features “play to win”, and whether you’re in favour of bonus buy features or not is definitely something that is open to interpretation.
Tightly Regulated Payment Options
Lastly, there is one other area I want to highlight about UK-licensed casinos compared to non-UKGC licensed sites. This concerns payment options.
At UKGC online casinos, you can all but forget about depositing with the following options:
- Credit Cards
They simply aren’t permitted. The UKGC thinks that allowing credit card deposits encourages you to wager large chunks of cash, potentially increasing the prospect of problem gambling occurring. Similarly, Skrill and Neteller haven’t been available to use at UKGC-licensed casinos for years. There were issues surrounding fraudsters using them for money laundering services. If you want to use these payment options, you’ll need to look to offshore casinos.
On the upside, though, there are a few payment methods that tend to appear at UKGC-licensed sites and may not necessarily show up elsewhere. These include:
Of course, this doesn’t mean to say that these options don’t appear anywhere else. You can find non-GamStop PayPal online casinos if you know where to look. It simply means that they are less common. PayPal is respected by the UKGC and has strong anti-money laundering policies, so it gets the nod. By contrast, pay-by<mobile options only permit minuscule deposits (and no withdrawals), so they aren’t typically deemed a money laundering tool by the UKGC.
Should I Play at UK-Licensed Casinos or Look Elsewhere?
As you can see, there are undoubtedly key differences between UKGC-licensed online casino sites and offshore casinos. There’s a bit of give and take involved, with both having pros and cons. While it is up to you to determine which features you want to see, it is certainly possible to find top reputable casinos not on GamStop that can offer you precisely the types of features that are desirable in casino sites. You aren’t tied to UKGC online casinos by any stretch.