UK: English Internet Casino Law

Last Updated: 1 April 2003
Article by Michael Reason


The principal law governing betting and gaming in England and Wales was the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, (the Act) covering games of chance, and lotteries as well as betting. The part of that law dealing with Gaming was repealed by the Gaming Act 1968. The parts dealing with lotteries, prize competitions and amusements with prizes were repealed by the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976. Part I of the Act still covers betting.


"Bet" is not defined but is said not to include a bet made or stake hazarded in the course of gaming.

The Royal Commission on Lotteries and Betting 1933 described a "bet" as ‘a promise to give money or monies worth upon the determination of an uncertain or unascertained event in a particular way. It may involve the exercise of skill or judgement.’

The law distinguishes bets which are and which are not ‘wagers’ The Gaming Act 1845, s18 provides that contracts by way of wagering are void and unenforceable (as are gaming contracts) whilst other betting transactions are binding legal agreements. In practice betting conducted by bookmakers usually on horse and dog races is usually wagering and pool betting by football pools and totalisators is not wagering.

Wagers are bilateral bets in which one side may win or lose. In law the difference between a wager and a bet is; for a bet to be classified as a wager it must be possible for each party to win or lose, for bets of other sorts, for instance if one party cannot win or cannot lose, this would not be a wager.

"Competitions" are events where promoters provide and run competitions offering prizes to secure entries in exchange for entry fees (which may be regarded as payments to the promoter as consideration for providing the competition. The promoter’s obligation to provide the prize to the winners results from his running the competition, not from the resolution of any contingency between him and any of the individual competitors.

"Pool Betting" may exist even when there is no pool of stakes as the Betting and Gaming Duties Act 1981, s10 provides that: -

‘(1)…bets shall be held to be made by way of pool betting wherever a number of persons make bets-

(b) on terms that the winnings of such of those persons as are winners shall be, or shall include, an amount (not determined by reference to the stake money paid or agreed to be paid by those persons) which is divisible in any proportions among such of those persons as are winners,..’

The effect if this provision is that certain types of competition, so called ‘Fantasy’ competitions, may fall within the definition of ‘pool betting’ and be liable to pool betting duty.

"Lottery" prior to 1960 there was no statutory definition of lottery and the concept is determined with reference to case law. The Gaming Act 1968 contains a definition of gaming broad enough to include some forms of lottery. Control of a lottery which is not gaming is to occur under the Lottery and Amusements Act 1976 (LLA). A lottery, which is also gaming, is, subject to exceptions, governed by the Gaming Act 1968. The Exceptions are the National Lottery, where the Lottery is permitted the LLA, lotteries where ‘amusements with prizes’ within LLA and lotteries played with gaming machines. Permitted lotteries include small lotteries, private lotteries, societies lotteries, and local lotteries. The more complex a game, where the result depends on more than three determining factors, the more active participation of the players, the more likely it is that it will be gaming rather than a lottery.

"Amusements with Prizes" There is no single piece of legislation dealing with amusements with prizes and commercial establishments where they are available to the public are treated in separate categories, thus in some circumstances a permit is required under the Gaming Act 1968, s34 in other circumstances a permit is required under the LLA 1976, s16, and in yet other circumstances, namely at a travelling showmen’s pleasure fair, no permit is required at all. A major distinction is made between whether the amusements with prizes are open to the public at non-commercial entertainment on one hand and on commercial premises on the other.

"Gaming" is defined in the Gaming Act 1968, s 52 to mean ‘the playing of a game of chance for winnings of money or money’s worth, whether any person playing is at risk of losing money or money’s worth or not’. Central to the concept of gaming is the playing of a game and whether a game is played in any particular circumstances is a question of fact. Gaming may take place when there is no bet and conversely, there may be gaming, which involves betting.

"A Game of Chance" has since the 1960 Act been an essential element of gaming. The definition in the 1968 Act provides that a game of chance is a game, which can include an element of skill but skill alone, will not bring a game within the definition.

The guiding principal of the 1968 Act was that people who wished to take part in gaming should be allowed to do so, provided the circumstances were such that the gaming could be carefully controlled and commercial exploitation prevented. Serious gaming is only permitted on licenced proprietary clubs or registered members clubs subject to significant and stringent control by the courts, the Gaming Board, the local licencing authorities, and the Secretary of State. In addition there are restrictions on the number of clubs, which may be licenced for gaming as casinos under the 1968 Act.

"Game" for a particular activity to fall within the definition of gaming in the Gaming Act 1968 it is essential that there are persons playing a ‘game of chance’ A ‘game of chance’ is defined above but it is necessary to consider the initial issue of whether a game is being played. ‘Game’ is not statutorily defined but assistance may be obtained from the cases and the commentaries. First it has been suggested that whether participants are playing a game or not is a question of fact. There is no conclusive test and it is necessary to look at the whole of the circumstances in determining the issue. Second, a contention that a game has been played must be supported by some evidence of active participation on the part of the persons said to be playing. The players must or exercise some degree of skill or make some choice, a ‘player’ cannot be passive. Third, it appears that the playing of a game will usually involve some degree of communication between the persons said to be playing it.

The issue is complicated by Section 26 of the Gaming Act 1968 which provides that a ‘game’ of chance may be played by a player by means of a machine. Whilst it is possible to imagine a player as playing against the proprietor of the machine, there is obviously no communication between the two participants. And Further s 52(6) of the same act recognises that not all games will involve playing against other players.

It has been suggested* that, each case should be decided on its own facts but that while the active participation of players will remain a key issue in deciding whether a game is being played, some degree of communication will attendant on that participation. Second, in view of the increasing importance of electronic communications and in particular the internet, is likely to diminish the significance of the lack of physical meeting of the players. Third, in respect of most activities it will be necessary to show come degree of communication between the participants of an activity in order to support a contention that a game has been played.

The Internet


In the event that a bookmaker is established in an offshore jurisdiction, s9 (1) of the Betting and Gaming Duties Act 1981 restricts the extent to which it is permissible to advertise or otherwise promote his services in Britain. **


An internet casino could not be licenced under the Gaming Act if the activity could be said to be ‘gaming’, as the activity could not be said to take place on the premises, nor should playing take place where the public would have access. There may be ways of operating genuine gaming from an internet operated from the UK if the charges for playing complied with the Gaming Act.

It has been suggested*** that it may be possible to structure ‘games’ played on the internet so that they do not involve ‘gaming’ as defined. Games for example roulette and craps, may be played on the internet in such a way that they are more akin to fixed odds betting than to gaming and so be provided by a bookmakers permit. On the internet there is no physical gathering of players and no necessary contemporaneous activity involving a number of players competing contemporaneously against a bank. It could be distinguished from the playing of a gaming machine in that the player does not forecast an event or series of events but activates the machine since Seary v Eastwood ****suggests that it is a characteristic of the playing of a gaming machine that the player does not forecast an event or series of events but activates the machine in the hope that some combination will come up.

In Internet Blackjack and Internet poker, in which cards are dealt to the computer and to the player, cards are discarded and the player ‘backs’ himself; such activity may well qualify as ‘gaming’ and less capable of being analysed as betting. They will be unlikely to be lotteries as there will be sufficient skill to avoid that.

Gaming Machines

It appears likely that a virtual gaming machine on an internet site would involve gaming rather than betting. The player is not forcasting an event, he is simply hoping that some combination may turn up.

It is possible that a virtual gaming machine might be held to be a lottery and not gaming. There is no lottery scheme involving a distribution of prizes. The participants might be said to be playing a game and so being gaming and a lottery it is not unlawful. The participation of the ‘player’ is, however, very slight in a virtual game.


Lottery tickets may not be sold via a machine and must be sold manually. Offshore lotteries that provide the ability to procure tickets online may have difficulty advertising and promoting such lotteries lawfully within the UK independently of such publicity as may be provided on the Internet itself.


The internet recognises no national frontiers. In the case of content called up by a person in the UK provided by an operator situated outside the UK utilising a server also located outside the UK, can it be said that there is anything done within the jurisdiction which is amenable to regulation in the UK? The restrictions and prohibitions imposed by British gambling legislation are enforceable ultimately through the criminal law. On one hand the criminal law is territorial in effect. On the other hand a foreign individual may be liable to the jurisdiction of the English courts if he does an act abroad which has effects in England. It seems reasonable that this would apply to a foreign corporation.

Overseas jurisdictions permit online gambling and issue licences to content providers. Australia and the Netherlands Antilles licence online casino games. Gibraltar, Malta and Alderney licence online betting. Liechtenstein has licenced an online lottery. There are other examples.

In the case of Britain, it will be necessary to analyse the activities of the offshore promoter of the gambling and the ISP who may be amenable to the jurisdiction of the English courts and the customer in the UK to see whether their activities could be said to fall within the jurisdiction of the English courts. It may be possible to distinguish between the mere passive provision of an internet site offshore (which could be said to involve insufficient positive conduct to fall within the terms of the British legislation) and the engaging in the provision of interactive services from an offshore site to a British participant which, it could be argued, would or might fall as being conduct which had effects within the jurisdiction.

The internet is not invasive or published in the same way as other media. Users have to actively seek out the site they are interested in viewing. There is no audience being subjected to a continuous stream of material. What one user is able to see on an internet page will be different from what another will see. It could be said that a page is viewed at the request of the viewer. It is one to one communication and the provider who is in effect being dialed up from abroad commits no act in the jurisdiction.

There are certain rules regarding the use of the phone, the place where the contract is made, who is accepting who’s ‘offer’ at the time of the making of the contract which may influence the place of the ‘business’ being done and the whereabouts of the operator of the online casino. It may be arguable that there is sufficient positive conduct by the offshore promoter to fall within British gaming legislation, but the practical difficulties of locating and identifying the relevant offshore site and securing evidence of its activities may prove an enormous obstacle in the way of enforcing the law in such a case.

* Smith & Monkcom, Law of Betting Gaming & Lotteries Second Edition, Butterworths, 2001, page 206

** Victor Chandler International Ltd v Customs & Excise Commissioners [2000] 1 WLR 1296 concerning advertising offshore bookmakers odds by way of teletext on television.

*** Smith & Monkcom, ibid p 869

****[1976] 1WLR 1117

Michael Reason LLM, September, 2001

The above is not intended as legal advice. In all cases, readers should not be rely upon the above and should seek specific legal advice from qualified legal practitioners admitted to practice in the jurisdiction in which they wish to operate.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.