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Understanding Online Gambling Licenses

Understanding Online Gambling Licenses

Published by Programme B

In Canada, the federal Criminal Code is what governs gambling activity throughout the country and Sections 201 to 206 make all types of gambling, betting and lotteries illegal. An exception to the rule are games of pure skill, which refers to games with no element of chance. If you immediately think of (Online) Poker is a game of pure skill, then you are mistaken. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that although the dominant factor in Poker might be a skill, there is still an element of chance, which is why the lawmakers consider it a game of chance and skill.

However, various markets are undoubtedly opening up towards online gambling with even our direct neighbor, the United States of America, starting to allow online gambling sites to partner with land-based casinos to offer their services remotely. Meanwhile, in Europe, many countries have fully regulated (online) gambling and issue official licenses to operators.

How Does a Gambling License Works

A gambling license is a certificate issued by a regulatory body that authorizes a casino operator to offer its games and gambling services to a specific jurisdiction. All European countries that allow online betting and casino games require operators to obtain a valid license of a regulatory body that ensures fair play and player safety, among other things.

Now, gambling licenses could be a straightforward process if it wasn’t for the strict rules imposed by each country of which license can be used within their territory. In Great Britain, for example, operators must have a license issued by the Gambling Commission. All other permits are invalid. In Sweden, one the other hand, online casinos, and bookmakers must have successfully applied with the Swedish Gambling Authority Spelinspektionen to offer casino games and sports betting online.

Although most permits are relatively similar in how they work, there are slight differences, so let’s have a look at a few examples.

UK Gambling Commission

The Gambling Commission operates solely in the United Kingdom, and any casino and betting operator that is looking to provide gambling services in Great Britain must possess a valid license from the organization. On this website, you can find an overview of accredited UK online casinos.

Established under the Gambling Act of 2005, the Commission is thought to be the prime example of a gambling regulator due to its focus on protecting customers and fairness. Misleading information, unfair bonuses, or advertisement targeting minors is strictly prohibited, and failures to comply with the rules lead to hefty fines in the millions.

Malta Gaming Authority

The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) was established back in 2001, becoming one of the first countries in the European Union to introduce the regulation of online gambling. Today, it’s one of the largest regulatory bodies and is white-listed by the UK Gambling Commission. Operators with an MGA license can advertise their services to people in other European countries as well with the exception of the United Kingdom and a few other countries.

When applying for a permit with the MGA, you can choose from four different licenses classes. The first license class authorizes the operating of casino and skill games as well as online lotteries, the second covers betting, the third class covers peer to peer gaming and betting exchanges, and the final class includes software providers. Operators can apply for more than one class license, but all licenses are issued for a five-year period separately.


The Alderney Gaming Control Commission (AGCC) is another well-respected regulatory body. Known for its strict rules and regulations, the AGCC was established in May 2000 and is similar to the UKGC in that most casino sites possess a license from it.

Casino operators looking to offer gambling services within Alderney will need to apply for one or both of the organization’s eGambling licenses which authorizes the operator to organize and prepare its services as well as the registration and verification of players. In addition, operators also need to acquire the A Core Services Associate Certificate to provide actual games to customers in the jurisdiction.


Curacao actually dates back to 1993, making it one of the older gambling regulatory authority. It’s one of the most well-known regulatory bodies but has developed a less-than-stellar reputation for itself over the last few years for its lack of restrictions and failing to protect customers.

The Curacao Gaming Control Board offers two licenses, the Master license which authorizes operators to run a gambling company and the Sub-License which authorizes operators to offer casino games and sports betting opportunities.

Today, the Curacao license is accepted by rarely any European country and players should be aware before signing up with an online casino that does not at least possess another permit.


The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority (GRA) is yet another regulatory body. Established in 1998, the GRA, like the MGA, used to be white-listed by the UK Gambling Commission, which allowed operators to offer their services within Great Britain. However, this has been revoked, which is why the license from Gibraltar lost a bit of its appeal.

What makes the GRA different from previous organizations is that it offers a total of seven different licenses including a bookmaker license, a gaming operator license, a gaming machine license, a remote gambling license, a lottery license and much more. Firms looking to offer gambling services in Gibraltar must possess one or more of the above licenses.

Europea Continues to Lead Online Gambling Regulation

Although there are plenty of gambling licenses to choose from already, European countries are seeking to control the regulation within their territory fully. Sweden re-regulated online casinos and bookmakers in January 2019, the Netherlands are about to follow, and Germany just ratified their third Gambling State Treaty, which will allow the states to issue bookmaker license starting January 2020.

Gambling in the Internet is hugely popular and making it illegal in a country will drive punters to unregulated operators that might not care as much about player safety, fairness, and responsible gambling. It’s time for every country, worldwide, to regulate this market. 

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