We are sure that you heard the term “casino licence” before, but have you really wondered what it means? When it comes to picking the most reputable (and legal) casino sites, these licences can act like lighthouses: If you know how to analyze them, you can easily find the most reliable online casinos out there. While there are hundreds of gambling guides online, there are almost none about casino licences. Well, we are going to correct this deficiency, and that’s why we prepared this guide.
Below, you can find everything you need to learn about online casino licences with practical examples. Once you are done reading it, you will understand what these licenses mean and why they are important for you. Let’s start: We have a lot to talk about.
What Is a Casino Licence and Why Is It Important?
Let’s say you are planning to open up a land-based casino. In order to do that, you need a permit from the authorities – some government agency should review your application and accept it. Only after that, you become a “legal and approved” gambling service, right? Well, it is the same with online casinos. In order to offer a legal service online, you still need a permit, which is called an “electronic gaming licence.” This licence allows you to:
- Be a legal service. Online casinos without a licence are illegal and rogue operations – they should never be trusted. Licensed casinos, on the other hand, are legal and reliable: Some official agency reviewed their application, checked the background of the operators and approved the process.
- Accept members from that country. If you want to accept members from a specific country, you must be licensed by the gambling authority of that country. Online casinos that operate with the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), for example, are authorized to accept UK members. And if you don’t have a UKGC licence, you cannot offer your services in this country. All countries that legalized gambling have a licensing agency of their own, and as the operator, you must be licensed by it to enter that regional market. This is why there are many online casino sites that use more than one licence.
- Pay taxes and get audited. And of course, being a legal service means that you, the operator, will pay taxes for your income and get audited on a regular basis, like any other company. This also means that you must comply with international laws too, such as AML (Anti-money Laundering) and KYC (Know Your Customer) practices.
In short, casino licences are important because they are what makes casino sites legitimate businesses.
Why Do Online Casino Licences Are Important for Players?
They can be the most important thing if you want to have a fair, secure, and fun online gambling experience. Let’s say you want to purchase meat, and there are two stores that sell it. One looks quite shady, the source of the meat is questionable, and there is a high risk of losing your kidneys after you go in – but the prices are low. The other one looks like a hygienic store with a big official permit hanging in it; the prices are not that low, but it is clearly professional. Which store would you pick?
The same thing applies to casinos. Sure, you can find hundreds of unlicensed gambling sites with “amazing” bonuses, but since no official authority checks them, you also have no idea who is running the show. If you experience a problem, and you will, there will be nobody to help you – you are on your own. In fact, the owner of such a casino site can decide to close up shop anytime he/she wants, and there is nothing you can do.
That’s why picking licensed casino sites is important. You know you’re going to play on a controlled, trusted, and well-known platform. The games will be fair because there will be an agency that audits them. If you experience a problem, you can apply to the courts or any other ADR (alternative dispute resolution) service. More importantly, if gambling becomes an addiction, licensed casino sites will be offering Responsible Gambling practices, which will let you put self-exclusions. Basically, you will be playing in a legal environment, and this is the most important thing.
How to Check the Licence of a Casino Site?
So, how can you understand whether an online casino is licensed or not? This is actually quite simple: Just look at the bottom of the main page. All licensed casino sites put their licensing information in this section. You will look for the logo of the licensor or the name of it. And once you find it, you need to verify the licence by clicking on this name or logo. Doing so will open a new web page, which will display the authenticity of that licence. In other words, you must also verify the existence of the legal permit. So, in short:
- Check the bottom of the main page and look for the logo/name of the licensing agency.
- Click on it and verify if the licence exists and still in effect.
The licence page will also contain lots of other information about the operator. You can see all other websites that use the same licence, the address and official name of the owner company, and what kind of licences it has.
The Most Common Casino Licences in the World
As mentioned above, all countries that legalized gambling has a licensing agency of their own. This means an online casino can be licensed from lots of places, each with a different reputation. Licensing agencies have a reputation too, and not all of them are reliable enough. In theory, you can even get a licence from an African country just by depositing a couple of thousands of Euros. As can be expected, such licences do not mean a thing and do not provide any kind of protection for players.
So, which casino licences are the best ones to get? Which are more reliable? Which ones should you avoid? Below, you can see a list of all the common licensing agencies in the world. Each one has different terms and conditions when it comes to issuing a licence, so we will talk about these differences too.
The United Kingdom
The official gambling authority in the United Kingdom is the Gambling Commission. Its full name is the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), and it was established in 2005. UKGC regulates everything about gambling in this country: Land-based casinos, arcade saloons, national lottery, and of course, online casinos. Bill Moyes is the current CEO in 2019, and more than 250 people are working in this agency.
At the moment, the UKGC is known as the most reputable licensing agency in the world. This is because it is the hardest one to get – in order to get a UKGC licence, you must truly have a perfect background. Even a single parking ticket will eliminate your chances: This agency is quite serious when it comes to background checks. Moreover, it is quite pricey too. At the moment, you need to spend 15.000 GBP just to make an application, and the annual cost of the licences starts from 50.000 GBP. There is more than one licence type to get, and you may need to spend literally millions of GBP if you are a big operator. The UKGC does not accept player complaints but works with lots of ADR agencies. If you see the logo of this licensor on an online casino site, you can be sure that you are protected.
The gambling authority of this offshore island is called “Malta Gaming Authority”, and it was established in 2001. Just like the UKGC, it deals with land-based and online casino licences. Heathcliff Farrugia is the current CEO of the agency, and there are more than a hundred casino sites that use an MGA licence.
Due to its liberal income tax laws, many operators prefer to get this one: It costs way less than a UKGC licence and offers almost the same level of reliability. There are four types of licences to get, and the application costs 5.000 EUR. The annual licence fee is in between 25.000 and 35.000 EUR, which is decided according to your income.
However, each applicant must also deposit as high as 600.000 EUR, as insurance. This means if the casino site goes bankrupt, the members can still get their money back from the MGA. All casino sites that are licensed from this agency must display the rules and RTP rates of games “one click away from the main page”. In terms of reliability and prevalence, the MGA is the second-best casino licence in the world.
Curaçao is a nice little island in the Caribbean Sea, which is the home of almost 150.000 people. It is also the home of the first licensing agency in the world: The government of Curaçao started to issue electronic gaming licenses in 1993, while it was still a part of the Netherlands Antilles. (A Netherlands Antilles license is actually the same as a Curaçao license, so don’t get confused if you see the logo of the first one.)
This was due to Microgaming’s efforts, the operator and creator of the first online casino in the world. In order to gain trust among players, Microgaming tried to find countries that will issue a legal permit to its website, and Curaçao was the only country to accept this offer. Simply put, we owe the existence of casino licences to Microgaming and Curaçao.
In 1998, this little island created its own licensing agency and started to work with a lot of gambling sites. Getting this licence is not that hard, but you need to work with a mediator agency. They will set up a company for you, apply to the government and even design the website. The cost of the licence will be around 20.000 EUR, and the whole process can be completed in 2 – 3 weeks. Moreover, the tax rate will be only 2% – Curaçao is a haven when it comes to income taxes.
The government of Gibraltar has been issuing electronic gaming licenses since 2005, and the Minister for Commerce is in charge of these operations. There are 35 operators licensed from this country, and the license fee is a fixed 100.000 GBP per year. Once issued, the license is effective for a period of 5 years, and the players can directly complain to the agency. Moreover, each casino site licensed from Gibraltar must work with an independent testing company (such as eCOGRA, iTechLabs, etc.) to ensure game fairness. And the best part is, the income tax rate is only 0.15% – this is probably the lowest rate in the world.
Spillemyndigheden is the gambling authority in Denmark, and it is a part of the government. The application fee in 2019 is DKK 391,300 (around 55.000 EUR), and it must be made in Danish. If issued, the licence is valid for up to 5 years. The annual fees of this licence start from DKK 55.900 and go as high as DKK 5.031.000, which are based on the annual gaming revenue. Oh, and since the Danish are nice people, they will refund half of your fee if the application is rejected. Just like Gibraltar, casino sites that are licensed from Spillemyndigheden must work with an independent fairness auditor. All of this sounds good, but there is a small problem: This licence is only good for the Danish citizens, which means only the operators interested in accepting players from Denmark are interested in it. Since it is limited to one country only, there are not many casino sites that are licensed from Denmark.
The gambling authority in Belgium is called “Gaming Commission,” and it is a part of the Federal Public Service for Justice. The commission meets every month to issue new licences, which are not many. All applications must be made in Dutch, and there are seven different types of licences to get.
The thing is, if you don’t already own a land-based casino in Belgium, you cannot get an online casino licence. By law, casinos are limited to 9 in this country, and they already exist – there cannot be the 10th casino in Belgium. And again, by law, only these establishments can launch online casinos – the market is closed for other parties. So, while Gaming Commission licences exist in theory, they are impossible to get if you do not own one of the brick-and-mortar casinos in Belgium.
Isle of Man
The Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC), established in 1962, is the gambling regulatory body of this small island. GSC started to issue online casino licences in 2001, and the application costs only 1.000 GBP. Moreover, the annual licence fee is 35.000 GBP, which is one of the lowest fees in the world. GSC is also very strict when it comes to responsible gaming. It requires all operators acting automatically and limiting the gambling balance of players when they lose a certain amount.
So, why don’t we see more casino sites with this licence if its fee is so low? Well, by law, the servers of such casino sites must be located on the island, and the internet infrastructure of Isle of Man is… very, very bad, due to its location.
The gambling authority in Italy is called “Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato” (AAMS), and in order to get one, you must already be a casino operator who managed to win more than 1.5 million EUR in the last 2 years. In addition, you must pay 350.000 EUR each year for administration and supervision. And by law, there can be only 200 electronic gambling licences issued, which are already gone.
At the moment, there is no way of getting a new licence from AAMS, as there are already 200 licensees. If one of them loses its licence, there will be a new spot open. Italy has a long and troubled history of issuing gaming licences – the country is literally forced by the European Union to privatize online gambling, and the government still does not feel good about it. The 200 limit was a way of saying “we will do it in our own way” to the EU.
Tax and Customs Board is in charge of casino licences in Estonia. Getting the licence is fairly easy, and the servers can be located in some other country. The RTP rates of games cannot be lower than 80%, which is a good thing. However, there is a small problem: By law, the maximum prize of “games of skill” cannot exceed 50 EUR. It is unclear what is meant by “games of skill” – card games such as poker and blackjack surely fall into this category, but what about slot machines? There is a lack of information in this regard. At the moment, there are only 21 casinos that use this licence, and almost all of them are local businesses (with the exception of Bet365, Pokerstars, and Unibet).
Costa Rica does not have any gambling authority. This means there is also no official gambling license in this country. It is like the “Wild West” when it comes to regulated gambling: Any company can set up shop in here. Obtaining a general business license is enough to offer gambling services too. This makes Costa Rica the cheapest country to set up an online casino. There are no application fees, no annual license costs, nothing. The only requirement is not accepting citizens of Costa Rica to the casino. In addition, local banks usually do not accept gambling-related payments, so the operator cannot open a bank account for deposits – it must prefer alternatives such as e-wallets and cryptocurrencies. As can be expected, the reputation of a Costa Rica “license” is very low, and there is almost no player protection.
Kahnawake is the name of a region in Quebec, Canada. This is an autonomous region controlled by the Indians (Mohawks, in particular) which are free to use their own laws. Basically, Kahnawake is like a different country in Canada, with its own rules and laws. Gambling is legal in this region, and Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) issues licenses for both land-based and online casinos since 1999.
At the moment, there are more than 50 online casino operators that use a KGC license. The application fee is 40.000 USD, and the license itself costs 20.000 USD per year. The KGC license is valid up to 5 years, and each renewal costs an additional 5.000 USD. In the past, casinos licensed from KGC were able to accept players from the United States, but in 2016, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement stopped that practice. At the moment, KGC-licensed casino sites cannot accept US players.
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) issues casino licences since 2000. The cost of the licence starts from 17.500 GBP and goes as high as 400.000 GBP, depending on the annual income. In addition, there is an annual licence renewal fee of 10.000 GBP. The whole process takes around 6 months to complete. Players can send their complaints directly to the commission. Alderney is a good alternative to MGA licences, and there are more than 50 casino sites that use it.
Checking for the Casino Licence Is Important
And now, you have learned everything about casino licences: Make sure to check this info when you visit an online casino next time. Checking for the licence of the casino is the most important thing to do, as it will give you fair, safe, and most importantly, legal online gambling experience. Check, verify, and play only at licensed online casinos. Good luck at the tables!