How they Operate
Through their enabling act, gambling commissions set rules that govern casinos in their area. They are also the only ones who are authorized to issue a license to gaming operators. The process for becoming licensed is often rather lengthy, as it typically requires an extensive check into the company’s background and operating procedures.
Gaming authorities also enforce the rules they develop. As such, players who register complaints could have their cases heard before a gaming control board in a procedure that is similar to a civil court trial. The members of this board often have the authority to levy fines and penalties, and may even revoke a license.
What they Do
Gambling control boards do not just issue licenses, as they are heavily involved in compliance. To ensure compliance, members of a board may conduct audits and perform site visits. If a casino is at risk of becoming non-compliant, the board may also recommend additional internal controls in order to keep it in compliance.
Most gaming authorities will also handle player complaints. For example, the Antigua Online Gaming Association (OGA) offers a link on their website where players can submit complaints. Some complaints that might be handled through a gaming board include unfair practices, problems with payouts, or other similar matters.
While the majority of regulators will accept complaints directly, some require players to contact the operator directly first. The Danish Gaming Authority (DGA) is one board that will only accept complaints if individuals have first contacted the casino in question and more than 14 days have elapsed without a response.
Aside from government agencies, there are several independent regulators who provide testing and certification on a voluntary basis. One of the oldest and most respected is eCOGRA, a London-based group that certifies gaming software as well as online casinos.
This organization is concerned with consistency, and implements auditing procedures similar to those of the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB). They have been approved by the UK Gambling Commission, Malta Gaming Authority, the Estonia Tax and Customs Board, and others.
Since eCOGRA is not a government agency, certification is voluntary. It is therefore an extra measure that gaming sites take to build public trust. Accordingly, if you notice a site that displays their Fair and Safe seal, you know that you have chosen a highly reputable casino.
International Association of Gaming Regulators
Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, US, the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) is made up of gaming regulators from around the world. Their mission is to “advance the effectiveness and efficiency of gaming regulation” as well as “fostering cooperation between gaming regulators in the performance of their official duties.” IAGR is not a licensing entity in itself. However, it does help licensing jurisdictions implement best practices.
Why is a License Important?
Having a license shows that a casino has met all the requirements set forth by that particular gambling commission. In particular, having a license from a non-profit group such as eCOGRA means that operators have taken additional measures to maintain ethical practices. This can give gamblers confidence knowing that the games they play are fair and that their personal financial information is protected. When playing online, you should always verify that the casino has the proper licensing for the jurisdiction it operates in.
Not all Licenses are Equal
Although a license is important, where a casino is licensed can also make a difference. That’s because each jurisdiction has its own criteria, with some being more stringent than others.
For example, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission requires software providers to include safeguards that will prevent gambling addictions. And despite casinos being a major player in the economy, the Gibraltar Gambling Commission takes every precaution to see that providers do not just set up servers there. Instead they must base their entire operations within that country.
On the other hand, some licenses barely mean anything at all. For example, Costa Rica is known to have very lax laws, so nearly anyone who pays the licensing fees can obtain one. And in Curacao, there are few requirements for start-ups, which can attract less-than-reputable casinos. If players do encounter a problem, they’ll receive little help from the Curacao e-Gaming Licensing Authority, who prefers to take a “hands off” approach to resolving issues.
Among the various licenses out there, one from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) carries much weight, since the United Kingdom has one of the strictest requirements for gaming licenses. If a casino is licensed by the UKGC, you can feel comfortable knowing the site has been fully vetted.
Some countries in the European Union don’t have clear regulations, especially pertaining to online gambling. However, for a casino to operate in those countries, a license is still required as they are part of the European Union.
Many of these casinos choose to obtain their licenses in Malta, which has strict regulations. In fact, a license from Malta carries a lot of weight in the EU due to how effective the regulatory framework is.
A casino licensed in Malta is subject to the Malta Gaming Authority’s regulations. If they operate online, they also have to abide by the Remote Gaming Regulations, which is legislation specifically designed to regulate online gambling.
Beyond the weight of a Maltese gambling license, many casinos choose Malta because of the advantageous taxation system. Malta is considered a tax haven for the gambling industry, which is why so many operators opt for licensing in this jurisdiction.
Another interesting situation arises in Canada, where online gambling is a bit of a gray area. Technically, for an online casino to be considered legal in Canada, they must have authorization from the Canadian federal government.
The authorities that regulate gambling in Canada differ from one province to another. For example, in Alberta, it’s the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, whereas in British Columbia, it’s the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch of the Ministry of Finance.
However, despite these rules, many offshore sites still offer their services to Canadian citizens. These companies are, of course, licensed, but in other jurisdictions. Some have Maltese licenses, while others choose Curacao and similar jurisdictions to get their licenses.
While the Maltese license carries a lot of weight, the Curacao license is a little less impressive. It’s easy and quick to get, quite cheap, and has the regulatory body has a reputation for being quite lax.
When gambling online, it’s important to perform due diligence and seek out a reputable casino. One of the best ways of doing this is to find out what (if any) licenses the platform holds. If you need more information, contact the licensing jurisdiction directly to find out about any complaints, violations, or penalties a casino might have.