Evolution of UK gambling laws and their history

Gambling in the UK before 1960 was largely heavily restricted. This is because of the systematic amendments that were put in place after King Henry VIII’s ban in 1506. Following his daughter Elizabeth’s coronation in 1569, the first state lottery took place with £5,000 as the jackpot.

Following several amendments, an Act of Parliament came into force on 1 September 1960, legalising betting, a core element of gambling. Illegal for persons under 18 years of age, gambling faced restrictions to certain games like bridge, and wagers were to be kept to low amounts.

The Gambling Act 2005

With the necessity for a law that encompassed and accommodated more forms of gambling, 2005 saw the introduction of the modern UK Gambling Commission. It was given the mandate to licence, regulate and oversee gambling. The commission received authority over both land-based and online casinos either based or marketing themselves in the UK.

Larger casinos designed for large-scale operations were no longer prohibited, though only upon the Gambling Commission’s approval. The first of these “super-casinos” began construction in Manchester in January 2007, though the then Prime Minister halted progress. In its stead, 16 smaller casinos were to start operating from March 2007.

The UK Gambling Commission

The executive, non-departmental body of the British Government, formed in 2005, took over fully from the Gaming Board of Great Britain in 2007. It was mandated to oversee arcades, lotteries, slot machines, bingo, and betting among others though not overspread betting, governed by a different body. Being a public body, it is endorsed by the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport.

The Commission has the authority to give licences to casinos like PlatinCasino. These licences include:

  • Bingo operating licence
  • Gaming machine operating licence
  • Pool betting operating licence
  • Bingo operating licence
  • Casino operating licence.

Betting laws in the UK

Section 9 of the 2005 Act defines betting as making or accepting a wager on the outcomes of events or processes, likelihood of occurrences, or lack thereof. Bets made on events or occurrences that have already happened, or where one party knows the outcome of said event, may appear in the law.

This definition, however, does not cover spread bets which are activities regulated under section 22 under the Financial Services and Markets Act of 2000.

The earliest form of sports betting allowed was horse-racing, the first recorded occurrences of which were in Chester in 1539 between two horses.

Ban on the use of credit cards

According to the UK Gambling Commission, of the estimated millions of gamblers in the country, about 40% of them gamble online and of those, 10% of them used credit cards. 22% of those engaged in “problem gambling”. After public consultation and deliberation, the use of credit cards on both land-based and online casinos was banned in April 2020.


Gambling laws have come a long way from the days of King Henry VIII, accommodating areas around betting and casino game operation. Constant review of the law by the Gambling Commission ensures that both patrons and businesses can look forward to progress on the legislation of the industry.

Image cc-by Hloom Templates on Flickr.