Online gambling jurisdictions and what their licenses mean to you.
Throughout the world, every law, every ordinance, every code, is managed by a jurisdiction. Whether it’s a city, municipality, county, province/state or country that is responsible depends on whether it deals with a local or federal law. There is no legal statute in the world that is jurisdictionally mandated on a global level.
In the case of online gambling, jurisdiction is left to the country in which an operator is licensed. In larger nation’s, like Canada and the United States, the federal government decides what can/can’t be legal, while jurisdictional regulation is left to each province/state.
Those are covered separately: US & Canadian Internet Gambling Jurisdictions
The responsibility of an online gambling licensing body is to ensure that all licensees are in compliance with the regulatory guidelines of that jurisdiction. In many cases, that means abiding by fair gaming standards, acting responsibly, and protecting players. But some jurisdictions are much more strict than others, as you’ll soon discover…
Overview of National Online Gambling Jurisdictions
The vast (and I do mean VAST!) majority of online gambling sites are licensed by a national jurisdiction (outside Canada and US). These are the regulatory bodies we’ll be focusing on.
Most jurisdictions that present remote (online) gambling licenses have a specific, government-authorized body that regulates the market. It is their job to monitor licensees and handle any issues that may arise. The following is a brief, descriptive tabulature of national online gambling regulators, alphabetized for your convenience.
The Alderney Gaming Control Commission (AGCC) is among the most respected iGaming regulatory bodies in the world. To receive and maintain a license from Alderney, an operator must comply with very strict guidelines and player safeguards.
Antigua & Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda was the first nation to establish online gambling regulations and licensure, forming the Antigua Directorate of Offshore Gambling in 1994. With minimal tax laws and restrictions, it’s a popular destination for offshore banking, and a primary licensing authority for gambling websites; particularly the respectable variety that accept players from regions where the legality of online gambling is questionable.
Another early adopter of iGaming regulation and licensing, Belize enacted the Computer Wagering Licensing Act in 1996. Their regulatory guidelines have changed a lot over the years, including a significant reduction in licensing fees to remain competitive. However, very few operators are licensed here anymore, as the regulations are lax, and the fees are higher than those of other lax regulators.
Costa Rica is considered the least reputable of all iGaming jurisdictions, despite its popularity among operators. There is no regulatory body to monitor activities. So long as the operator has an office and bank account in Costa Rica, and another bank account offshore—and the proper fees are paid—a license is granted. From there, the operator can do pretty much anything it wants, outside of accepting Costa Rican players. Take considerable caution when utilizing any Costa Rica-licensed gambling website.
The Curacao e-Gaming Licensing Authority was formed in 1996, and has become a more reputable jurisdiction since breaking away from the Netherlands Antilles in 2010. A fantastic tax haven for operators, regulatory compliance is mandatory to avoid higher tax rates, thus licensees are highly encouraged to sustain upright business practices.
Cyprus iGaming licenses are issued by the Ministry of Finance, which altered its laws in 2012 so that only lottery-style games and fixed-odds sports betting are legal. Since then, online bingo operators are the primary licensees of Cyprus.
The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA) has been issuing licenses to online gambling operators since 1998, and is regarded as one of the most respected iGaming jurisdictions in the world. Licensees must abide by strict regulations and employ stringent player protections to maintain their status.
Isle of Man
Another supremely reputable regulatory body, Isle of Man issues licenses via the Gambling Supervision Commission. Failure to comply with strict guidelines is grounds for hefty fines, if not immediate loss of license.
The Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Canada is governed by the First Nations. Formed in 1998, the Kahnawake Gambling Commission (KGC) has been issuing licenses to eligible online gambling operators since 1999. Licensees must house their servers on the Kahnawake reservation, giving them access to players in questionably-legal jurisdictions, without legal repercussion. Otherwise, the regulatory guidelines are quite strict.
Maltese licensees are issued and regulated by the Lotteries & Gaming Authority, the largest and most respected issuer of iGaming permits in the European Union (since Brexit). Any operator with a Maltese license is universally recognized as a safe option for players.
The Panama Gaming Control Board was established in 2002, and originally operated much the same as its Central American neighbor, Costa Rica. However, Panama has tightened up restrictions over the years so that its licensees must comply with certain regulatory and responsibility measures.
The UK Gambling Commission was formed in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2014—following the enactment of the Gambling Licensing and Advertising Act—that the UK set the new standard for iGaming regulation across the globe. No online gambling jurisdiction is more strict—no online gambling licenses more well-reputed—than those of the UK.