Gambling licensing might not be the most exciting of topics, but licensing bodies perform an essential role. If you’re a gambler rather than a gambling operator your knowledge of licensing bodies probably extends to little more than having given a cursory glance at the information displayed in the footer of the online casino you’re visiting. Here you should find that the site in question is licensed in Curacao, Malta, Great Britain or any one of the hundreds of other countries where gambling is legal.
Some licensing bodies feature more than others on the web due to the lax licensing laws in that country or territory that make it an attractive option for operators. You might never have heard of Curacao in real life for example but the odds are you’ve heard of it on the web. It’s a similar story with Malta and with some of the British islands such as Gibraltar and the Isle of Man, where many gambling operators are headquartered. The name of these boards will vary from country to country; they might be known as a casino control board, gambling control board or gaming commission. Whatever their name, these are government agencies tasked with regulating gambling within a specific geographical area.
Although you may have never had cause to interact with a licensing body directly, these agencies perform an essential role, looking out for consumers and ensuring, as far as possible, that players aren’t cheated out of their winnings in any shape or form. Some licensing authorities apply closer scrutiny than others. Belgium, for instance, is a country that closely regulates its online and real world gambling industry. Curacao, on the other hand, is known for applying a softer touch.
Operators of sportsbooks, casinos and other gambling sites are required to pay a fee to the licensing authority in order to legally trade in that territory. The cost of this varies (a UK gambling license will cost considerably more than a Curacao license for instance), but its existence is just one way in which unreputable operators are deterred. A good licensing body will also perform due diligence to ensure that any company wishing to obtain a gaming license is scrupulous and that its directors, for instance, haven’t been bankrupted or barred from running a company in other territories.
There’s a reason why gaming licenses aren’t issued to just anyone. Casinos, by their nature, have vast sums of money passing through them and in the wrong hands could be ripe for money laundering, tax dodging and other forms of financial fraud. Before granting a license to an operator, a licensing board will perform criminal record checks and will also do their utmost to ascertain that the applicant is of good character and integrity.
As a consumer, a licensing authority is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re rushing to sign up at an online casino, claim your deposit bonus and start gaming. Nevertheless, it’s worth knowing your rights as a consumer and understanding the protections that are in place should the casino go bankrupt or refuse to pay. The laws that gaming commissions enforce are those passed at national level by the government. These might dictate the type of gambling that is legal within the country, the minimum age to gamble and the types of games and payment options that gambling operators are allowed to provide.
While some countries have a single national body in charge of regulating all forms of gambling in the country, others operate on a state by state basis, or territory by territory in the case of Australia. In the US for example, federal law applies certain gambling restrictions, but it’s up to each state’s gambling control commission to enforce this law as well as its own state-wide laws. These bodies include the California Gambling Control Commission and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
Another essential role that licensing bodies perform is ensuring that gambling operators are compliant with the law, and specifically are paying the taxes they’re due on revenue. Due to the lucrative nature of gambling, there’s the potential for vast sums to be raised, which can be reinvested in the local community. Thus, while gambling remains a contentious issue in many countries and states, there are undoubted benefits in terms of the millions that can be raked in from taxes. A good licensing board will seek to maximise revenue, whilst maintaining a climate that is favourable enough to attract gaming operators.
If you’re accustomed to gambling online, you’ll likely encounter gambling sites regulated by a number of different commissions. There’ll be the licensing body who hold jurisdiction in the country you’re based in, but you’ll probably be able to access offshore or overseas casinos too. As a result, there are various gambling other control commissions you will have knowingly or unknowingly have played under the jurisdiction of.
These might include the Alderney Gaming Control Commission, a respected body who license gaming operators based in the northernmost of the Channel Islands. Many UK focused casinos are based here. There are also numerous Pacific and Caribbean islands who have large gambling control boards that belie the islands’ small size. These include Antigua & Barbuda. Then there’s Kahnawake, situated in native territory in Quebec, Canada. Costa Rica is another popular destination for gambling operators; over 300 sites are registered here, due to the low licensing fees and lack of scrutiny.
While there are hundreds of sites you can gamble at overseen by dozens of licensing bodies, just bear in mind that not all gaming authorities are created equal. As a general guide, you will have far more protections and safeguards when playing at a site that is licensed in your own country rather than one overseas. That doesn’t mean you should avoid playing at offshore casinos, but you should certainly exercise prudence and not deposit more than you can afford to lose. Licensing bodies might be legitimate, but even the most vigilant can’t always weed out all of the unscrupulous operators out there. Before you place your next bet or join your next casino, take a moment to find out who’s in charge.