Online Casino Jurisdictions Guide
If you've ever fired up an online casino you may be wondering who governs and licenses it: the country where it originated, overseas or from some secret underwater base populated by an evil genius preparing to take over the world (OK, maybe not that last one).
Gambling jurisdictions exist across the world and are set up with legislation that lets them issue licences to online casino websites. Licensing authorities in each jurisdiction vary, but the top ones will have stringent application criteria in place for sites who want to apply for a gaming licence. There are many licensing jurisdictions around the world where the top online casinos call home. Let's take a look at some of the biggest:
'The Rock' is a mile-long strip to the south of Spain on the Mediterranean coast. A part of the EU and a British Crown Dependency, Gibraltar is self-governing and is home to many of the world's top Internet poker rooms and casinos - particular UK-facing ones.
Gibraltar has been issuing licences to online casinos and gaming sites since 1998, and importantly it appears on the UK Gambling Commission's 'white list' - a list of licensing jurisdictions that are able to provide legal online gambling to UK players.
The GRA - the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority - is the body in charge of issuing off-shore licences for gaming sites operating off the Rock. Obtaining a licence is difficult, however, with Gibraltar considered one of the toughest licensed jurisdictions in the world. Therefore, casino sites that operate out of Gibraltar are regarded among the most trustworthy.
The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority's own guidelines, as stated on its website, says: "A business wishing to conduct gambling activities from Gibraltar is required to undergo a rigorous application process to meet the necessary high standards of integrity and probity, as do the executive managers of the business. "
It may be a small Mediterranean island and a British Commonwealth member, but Malta is definitely one of the big players when it comes to online casino licensing. Malta began licensing them in 2000, with first the Lotteries and Gaming Authority (LGA) in charge of gaming operations, but from 2007 it made the UK's golden 'white list' of jurisdictions that met the United Kingdom's strict gaming criteria. As a result, many of the best safe casinos online call Malta home.
Operators have a choice of four licences they can apply for in Malta, with Class 1 covering casino games and lotteries. Once issued a licence to provide real-money casino games on the web, they have to conform to strict requirements, such as having the proper data protection security in place and good financial records. You can be sure, therefore, that playing at a casino licensed by Malta will be safe and secure.
Isle of Man
Found between Ireland and Great Britain (but part of the British Isles) the Isle of Man may measure just 33 miles by 13 miles, but it is - like Gibraltar - a major player in the online gaming market. Since 2001 - when the Online Gambling Regulation Act (OGRA) was passed - online gaming was made legal on the Isle of Man, making the island one of the first jurisdictions in the world to legislate for the benefit of gaming companies. By the following year five Internet gambling operators had been granted licences, but today over 40 online gaming firms operate with IoM licences.
The Gambling Supervision Commission, established in 1962, was originally set up to oversee land-based gambling licenses, but that responsibility has now expanded to include online gambling and casinos too. Online casinos have to gain approval from the Gambling Supervision Commission in order to operate. But it's not just in providing licences that the Isle of Man has revolutionised gaming in the British Isles. As of 2010, after a change in gaming regulations, Internet casino firms are allowed to base operations like marketing and customer support on the island.
One of the British Channel Islands, Alderney is - like Gibraltar - a British dependent and has followed the Rock in beginning to offer licences to online gambling sites and casinos. Alderney - as with the Isle of Man and Malta - is a proud member of the UK's 'White List' which means it can provide gambling online to British residents, but it also provides licences to gaming sites open around the world, including some US-facing websites.
Formed in 2000, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) regulates online casinos and gambling on the Channel Island, issuing licences and overseeing activities. In 2006, the AGCC expanded its Internet gambling licence to include casinos, sportsbooks, lottery or poker rooms, and it currently offers two types of licence: a Category 1 which caters for Business to Consumer and another - Category 2 - for B2B operations.
Any casino site wishing to apply for a licence must comply with a strict set of standards. Independent testing and software audits are taken by bodies appointed by the Commission so real-money players can be sure that their Alderney-licensed sites are 100% above-board. AGCC-approved bodies also carry out security audits, game payout calculations and check that any player disputes are resolved efficiently.
Located just outside Montreal in Canada, but comprising an Indian Reserve, the 48 square mile Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake boasts a record for being one of the first jurisdictions in the world to issue online gaming licences.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission was set up in 1996, established as part of the new Kahnawake Gaming Law. Since then, many of the world's top Internet poker rooms and casinos are licensed by the KGC, and casinos that operate out of the territory enjoy 0% gaming tax. Online gaming sites that are licensed by the KGC must be hosted at Mohawk Internet Technologies, a data center located in Kahnawake.
Kahnawake found itself at the center of a furore following the Ultimate Bet poker scandal - when players' funds were found not to be segregated from prizepools - but despite concerns over the KGC's judgment in issuing licences to fit and proper companies, it still prides itself in licensing some of the most well-respected sites in the world.