The British gambling industry is big business, generating over £7 billion in revenue a year. Online bingo is a big part of this and as such, falls under the remit of the Gambling Commission, an organisation that was set up under the Gambling Act of 2005 to regulate commercial gambling in the UK. The Gambling Commission is an independent Non-Departmental Public Body (otherwise known as an NDPB) that is sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and all of their funding actually comes from the fees paid by the organisations and individuals that they issue licenses too.
The Gambling Commission regulates multiple industries including arcades, betting, casinos, gaming machine suppliers and manufacturers, gambling software providers, lottery operators and external lottery managers and remote (online) gambling operators, but for the purpose of this article we will be focusing purely on bingo. It is the responsibility of the Gambling Commission to issue licenses and investigate any illegal gambling, which could in turn to lead to the licenses being revoked and fines levied.
Bingo With Friends
The good news is that if you are playing at home with friends or having a few games down the local to raise some funds, you might not need a license. It is worth checking the regulations though, as there are exceptions to the rule. For example, if you play at home and more than half of the people taking part live there and no costs are involved, then you won’t need a license. On the flip side though, if less than half of those taking part are residents of property and you are playing for cash, you could just find yourself being investigated!
Pubs and clubs too are allowed to run bingo based games without a license on condition that they are for adults only and are not linked to games placed elsewhere. There are however limits placed on the amount they are allowed to charge, and this differs from venue to venue, but as a general rule, they are not allowed to charge more than £5 per person, per game. Alcohol licensed premises and clubs are given a little more leeway and are allowed to give away up to £2,000 a week in prizes. If they wish to go over this limit however, they would need to apply for a bingo operating license.
The Online Bingo Industry
Their role is a bit more extensive when it comes to online bingo though, and it is their job to consider license applications, and decide whether they are suitable or not, so in effect they can stop site launches in their tracks. Whilst coming to a decision they consider a number of different areas and it is the responsibility of the applicant to evidence to back up their application. These include such things as ownership, finances, integrity, competence and criminality.
At the end of the day, the Gambling Commission is there to protect us as players. When registering for an account we hand over a lot of very personal information, so it’s good to know that it’s only going to end up in safe hands. The Gambling Commission do have the power to stop a company from trading, but limit your risk of losing any money deposited by ensuring that customers funds are held in a separate account. One of the conditions of the license they provide is that sites must clearly state in their terms and conditions whether funds are protected, so make sure you read them carefully before ticking that little box at the end of the registration page!