The UK gambling laws were overhauled as a result of European Union (EU) directives and internal market pressures for standardization across the EU as well as a political response to the prohibition of online gambling by the United States.
Until the 2003 introduction of the gambling bill, the law in the UK was old and out of touch with the reality of modern gambling practice and in particular, the boom in internet or online gambling that has taken hold in the UK as well as elsewhere.
The new legislation introduced the concept of "remote gambling" which covers not just internet gaming but also using other devices such as mobile telephones, landlines, television, radio or "any other kind of electronic or other technology for facilitating communication". The law therefore envisages gambling as an activity by any multimedia delivery and with convergence of technology such as television and internet, this is a common sense and practical definition.
In short, any gambling outside of fixed premises will be caught by the remote gambling definition.
Remote gambling operators are required to hold a license separate from the one for non-remote gambling. A sports betting shop will be required to hold both a non-remote and remote gambling license if it is involved in taking bets on the premises and also by an internet site - you cannot have one license to cover both forms of gambling; if you fall within the definition of remote gambling this is the license you will need to have to lawfully carry on the activity.
Furthermore, a remote gambling license may be restricted to the form of communication media being used by the operator; so for instance, a telephone based operator may not be covered for gambling using the internet and vice versa. It is important that operators apply for all communication methods of gambling they anticipate using and there is scope for licensing based on the specific circumstances of the operator.
It is important for operators to get this right - the UK gambling laws now have considerable teeth in the shape of criminal as well as civil penalties for non-compliance. Aside from the general offences which cover gambling as a whole whether remote or not, there are specific offences pertaining to remote gambling as well and there are some issues you should note.
Firstly, the general offence of providing gambling facilities without permission requires that a piece of remote gambling equipment be physically situated within the UK for this law to apply. If there is a piece of equipment for taking payment, registration, demonstrating the result or allowing visualization of the game then this is considered to be remote gambling equipment for the purposes of the law and the operator is caught by it.
Another offence is the use of premises for gambling without appropriate permission; in the event that a remote gambling operator is housing an operation in the UK on premises which are supporting the remote activity but for which physical visitors will never use on the premises, then they are not caught by this law. The practical impact of this is that a remote gambling operator does not need to obtain a license to cover the premises as well as the remote gambling license.
Finally, there is an offence created for instances where gambling facilities are provided to persons in prohibited territories. Who the prohibited territories are is determined by the UK Government and this places an obligation on the operator to make sure they are not taking bets from residents of prohibited territories.
In our overview of Online Gambling Law in the United Kingdom, we explore the following six areas of the law: