Welcome to our complete guide to casino sites that are not on GAMSTOP (understandably sometimes misspelled as gamestop). We list casinos not blocked by GAMSTOP UK and not covered by the GAMSTOP self-exclusion scheme. Not all casinos will be covered by the scheme as they are licensed in other jurisdictions. However, if you have self-excluded and have a gambling problem we do not recommend you continue to play at any online casino and seek professional advice and help.
What is GAMSTOP?
Perhaps the most important of the reforms which have taken place over recent years has been the introduction and increasing role taken by the gambling self-exclusion scheme. This UKGC backed official body is intended to enable gamblers who feel they have a problem controlling their gambling to voluntarily self-exclude themselves from all UK licenced online casinos and gaming sites.
These UK licenced operators are then required to refuse to accept payments or deposits from these players – effectively banning them from gambling online. However, the scheme is not without its flaws – and its critics. In fact a whole new infrastructure has built up offering a variety of ways for UK based players to avoid the rules which UK licenced online casinos are obliged to follow.
But before exploring these issues, let’s take a look at the early history of GAMSTOP, how it works and what it is intended to do…
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GAMSTOP: A Brief History
The roots of what is now GAMSTOP begin with an online gambling industry representative organisation called the Remote Gambling Association (RGA). This body was itself formed by the merger of two previously existing organisations, called the Interactive Gaming, Gambling and Betting Association (IGGBA) and the Association of Remote Gambling Operators (ARGO).
The RGA’s function was to represent large international online casino and other gambling site operating companies. It is, in effect, a lobbying body formed in order to influence politicians, regulators and other powerful decision makers who decide on how the industry will operate. It is a very powerful voice advocating for the industry’s interests, especially within the United Kingdom and throughout the European Economic Area (EEA).
In order to attempt to soothe the anxieties of those looking to tighten up the rules on gambling, the major gambling companies set up a voluntary, self-regulation scheme in order to support compulsive and problem gamblers. Originally called GamStop, the body was launched in April 2018 after several delays. It set up a centralised system to allow players to self-exclude from casinos. The idea was that this would prevent them from making payments and playing on their chosen sites.
However, in the early days, this effectively meant that players could easily get round their own self-exclusion simply by registering with an alternative site. Other flaws also quickly became apparent, with the result that the new scheme failed to satisfy the industry’s critics. Many felt that the new self-regulatory system was in effect a bit like putting a fox in charge of the chicken shed – it was clearly in the gaming operators’ interests to continue to accept its highest spending and most loyal players’ money. As a result, over the succeeding years, the scheme has seen its powers increased, and it has also become more independent of the gaming industry.
Its powers are now quite considerable. Re-branded GAMSTOP, from April 2020 it is a requirement for all online gambling operators licenced by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to register with the scheme. This means that today, a player contacting GAMSTOP and requesting self-exclusion should expect to be barred from all UK licenced and registered online gambling sites.
Furthermore, the scheme must be prominently promoted on all online casinos and other gambling sites, together with additional ways of controlling player spending. These are listed under a link called “Responsible Gaming”. A separate link to GAMSTOP must also be included.
In addition to these measures, GAMSTOP itself is now totally independent from the gambling industry, which plays no further role in its regulation. This change came in September 2019, when GAMSTOP withdrew its membership from the RGA, the gambling industry body which had originally founded it.
Today, GAMSTOP is a non-profit making body, run by a totally independent board of directors with a diverse range of relevant skills. Chaired by Jenny Watson, her operational team has a wide range of backgrounds, including senior roles within the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), Victim Support, the NHS and other relevant experience.
With its new powers and enhanced status independent of the gambling industry, the scheme has already helped well over 100,000 people to self-exclude form online casinos and other gaming sites. The UK government has fully supported the scheme. Indeed, Culture Minister Helen Whately welcomed the fact that the majority of major high street banks have introduced measures allowing customers to switch off spending on gambling through mobile apps. This is yet another way to prevent vulnerable players and punters from making payments to gambling sites.
However, despite this undoubted progress, problems with the scheme continue. Player still regularly report being sent promotional e-mails and offered inducements to return to previously used casinos or to join different ones. Others report finding it easy to get round their self-exclusion by simply registering with a new e-mail address or changing the spelling of their name.
Furthermore, more sites are choosing to operate outside of the UK regulatory system, thereby avoiding the need to register with the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), or being part in the GAMSTOP scheme.
Regulation of the Gambling Industry in the United Kingdom
Recent years have seen a marked increase in the pressure to clamp down on the gambling industry in the United Kingdom. The early years of the 21st Century resulted in a rapid liberalisation of regulations regarding gambling, with an explosion in online gambling and especially sports betting. As so often though, for every action there is a reaction. Today, things are definitely swinging in the opposite direction – the pressure to increase the regulation of the industry is growing.
The History Of UK Gambling Regulation
So how did we get here? In the United Kingdom, by far the most influential legislation governing the laws of gambling is the Gambling Act, 2005. Gambling at the turn of the 21stCentury was undergoing rapid change, especially with the rapid rise of the internet. It was also the case that the regulation of gambling was a bit of a mess, with lots of little bits of law both ancient and modern applying in different circumstances.
The Labour Government at the time therefore wanted to bring all the rules and regulations for betting and gambling into one consolidating piece of legislation. This was intended to cover all aspects of gambling in the UK. The new Act, was to cover everything from bingo halls and casinos to sports betting; from lotteries to gaming and fruit machines. Online gambling was also to be specifically included for the first time. The new legislation was to be all-encompassing, with legality, licencing and regulation all included. A further amendment was added in 2014, to cover advertising.
The 2005 Gambling Act certainly was comprehensive. Including 18 Parts, 362 Clauses and 18 supplementary Schedules, it was quite a door stopper. This was a tome for insomniacs, industry insiders and lawyers only.
The main aims of the Act were to prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, and to prevent it from supporting crime in any way; to ensure that gambling was conducted fairly, and in an open and transparent way; and to protect children and vulnerable adults from being exploited by gambling in any way. The main practical effect of the new Act was to set up a new regulatory body – the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), to oversee all aspects of the nation’s gambling industry.
Now you may think that a big shiny new piece of legislation like this would probably result in more stringent laws and tighter regulations. In fact, the effect was quite the opposite. In the years following the introduction of the new regulations, online gambling has boomed. Online bingo began to take off at the turn of the century, and online casinos saw a tremendous surge as the 21stCentury progressed, especially with the advent of mobile gambling during the 2010s.
Sports betting too has seen a phenomenal rise. This is especially the case with in-play gambling – again made easier with the advent of the smartphone and easy to use apps. The ever present cockney growl of Ray Winstone, commanding punters to ‘Bet Now!’ seemed to punctuate every commercial break on Sky and BT Sports channels, and on terrestrial TV whenever a major sporting event was broadcast.
Overall, the implementation of the new Act saw a phenomenal boom in betting and gambling, and profits within the entire industry surged. This had not been anticipated, and regulators began to be bombarded with reports of gambling problems becoming entrenched in society. So much so that the tide began to turn and by the 2010s, pressure began to grow to rein in the growth of industry.
This increasing clamour for reform of the Act was made clear by the publication of the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report on the Act in 2013, called ‘The Gambling Act 2005: A bet worth taking?’
The move for reform was certainly strong within the Labour Party, now out of government and in opposition. Tom Watson MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from 2016 to 2019 was in agreement with many of the arguments, and was particularly keen to make amends for the unintended effects of his Party’s earlier legislation.
The latter end of the decade saw this pressure continue to increase, with even the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) becoming involved. In 2019, Sir Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England described how the gambling industry spends £1.5 billion a year on advertising and marketing, but contributes less than £10 million on dealing with the public health consequences.
All this constant political pressure has begun to produce results. Therefore, as we head into the 2020s, actual changes in the way the regulations are enforced have begun to take place.
Recent Changes in Gambling Regulations in the United Kingdom
In recent years, there have been numerous examples of this increasing tightening of the environment surrounding gambling. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has taken an increasingly active role, as it is no longer willing to allow the large gambling companies to simply self-regulate their activities.
In April 2019, the UKGC, working together with the Advertising Standards Association (ASA), introduced new guidance on advertising to young people. These new guidelines effectively banned the advertising of products which could be judged to be aimed at encouraging children to gamble. They also acted to prohibit any advertising of gambling at all when more than 25% of the audience was likely to be under the age of 18.
On the same day as these new advertising regulations were introduced, the maximum amount which players could stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) was reduced from £100 to just £2 in a widely anticipated crackdown on these machines. These are situated in many high street bookmakers’ shops and other social spaces such as casinos, amusement arcades and pubs.
More recent tightening on advertising rules has seen the gambling industry agree not to show advertising during all televised sporting events (although horse racing is excluded from the new rules). Both TV and radio advertising was also voluntarily restricted during 2020’s Covid lockdown.
Also in 2020, credit cards were banned as a method of payment for online betting or gaming. This means that credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are no longer accepted at UK licenced online casinos or bingo sites. Free games and promotions have also been severely restricted.
Yet the pressure goes on. In August 2020, the influential think tank Social Market Foundation published its Gambling Review and Reform report which calls for further tightening of regulations on the industry. These are likely to include such measures as a new Gambling Ombudsman, increases in taxes on gambling, and further restrictions on advertising and marketing such as football shirt sponsorship.
How do you find GAMSTOP Casinos?
It should be relatively simple to find casinos which are compatible with GAMSTOP in the UK, because it is a now a government requirement to be a member of the scheme before being awarded a licence for the UK market. The measure was introduced by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) on March 31st2020. This came shortly before the UKGC’s more widely reported move, banning payments by credit cards for all UK regulated online gambling, including casinos and sports betting sites.
This requirement means that all UK registered casinos which are regulated by the UKGC must now offer the GAMSTOP service. As the Commission stated clearly when announcing the new measures, these rules are designed to “allow consumers to self-exclude from online operators with one request rather than from each operator individually.”
It is now compulsory for all online casinos and other gambling titles licenced for the UK market to display the GAMSTOP link on their sites. It is also compulsory for every online casino to provide additional support measures. These are displayed under a further heading called ‘Responsible Gaming’. These extra options enable players to keep their spending under control in other ways. These can include setting daily, weekly or monthly budget limits, temporary exclusions (often referred to as ‘taking a break’) and further methods.
All online casinos are required to display these links prominently on the front page of their sites. The actual position will vary from title to title, but they are usually to be found near the foot of the main page.
What the loopholes with GAMSTOP?
The crucial factor here is whether a casino is actually “licenced for the UK market”. Many casinos which can be used by UK based players are not, in fact registered for the UK market at all. And indeed this is a relatively simple way for any casino operator to evade the new regulations.
The clue is in the nature of the ‘World Wide Web’ itself. Websites can be based anywhere in the world, and therefore casinos can operate and be played on whether they are licenced and registered for the UK market or not. Indeed many, if not most, of the casinos which are fully licenced and regulated by the UKGC are in fact licenced and based overseas (usually for tax purposes).
How can you be sure that a casino is licenced for the UK market and that it is reputable?
Scroll to the bottom of the home page of the casino you are interested in and look for the following indicators:
- All casinos compatible with the UK market will display a logo for the ‘Gambling Commission’, along with wording indicating that the casino is “operated under a gaming license issued by the Gambling Commission of Great Britain”, or similar. The correct name for the licencing body is the UK Gambling Commission.
- Note that most casinos compatible with the UK market are actually licenced and registered overseas. This is fine, so long as the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is also listed as the regulator, and its logo appears on the site. Territories frequently seen as the primary licencing authority include the UK Channel Islands of Alderney and Guernsey, the Isle of Man and the Mediterranean territories of Gibraltar and Malta. All these locations are recognised by the UKGC as valid for the UK market.
- All casinos which are licenced and registered for the United Kingdom market must feature the GAMSTOP logo.
- All UK regulated casinos must also display a link to a section for ‘Responsible Gaming’. This will usually be found amongst other links, such as ‘Terms & Conditions’, ‘Help’, ‘Support’, ‘About Us’ and other such headings.
- Further relevant links may also appear, such as ‘BeGambleAware.org’, ‘gambleaware.co.uk’, ‘GamCare’ and others. Note that these should be active links which direct you to the relevant sites, not just inactive logos.
All of these links and logos are evidence that the casino you are visiting is reputable and properly registered for the United Kingdom market. However, they do not necessarily indicate that it is also efficient, fair and pays out its players’ winnings in a timely manner.
Not on Gamstop Casinos
Since the tightening of the UK government’s regulations on March 31st2020, it has been compulsory for all online casinos licenced for the United Kingdom market to register with GAMSTOP and to actively promote its services. The result of this measure means that it now should be a simple one-stop process to self-exclude from all UK regulated online casinos.
However, as a result of this move, an increasing number of casinos are avoiding these restrictions simply by being licenced and registered elsewhere. This means that these casinos do not have to follow the GAMSTOP guidelines, and are free to accept players who have otherwise self-excluded.
The morality of this phenomenon can be debated, but the gambling industry is part of the world-wide market which governments across the world attempt to regulate, with mixed results. It is relatively easy for casino operators to avoid the UK government’s regulations, and they certainly have a financial interest in doing so. People who have attempted to self-exclude are likely to be habitual gamblers, and big spenders too – exactly the type of players that profit-hungry casino operators would like to encourage.
How do you identify if a casino is not covered by GAMSTOP?
At first glance, this can be difficult to spot. Non-GAMSTOP casinos look very much like UK licenced sites: they are designed and laid out the same way and offer very similar games. Many of the well-known gaming software providers are often on board, so many of your familiar favourite games will still be available for players.
Look a little closer however, and things become clearer. You will be likely to find a greater proportion of games unfamiliar to UK based players. In particular, scroll to the foot of the home page and things are likely to look very different indeed. No GAMSTOP logo will be displayed, or indeed any other kind of gambling support. There likely to be any indication of licencing arrangements or registration details either (see below for detains of licencing jurisdictions).
What payment methods are available with casinos not using GAMSTOP?
In general, many of the deposit methods provided on overseas licenced casinos will be familiar to United Kingdom based players. Unlike on UK registered sites, credit cards are still offered, but these will often not be available to UK based players. This is because of all legitimate casinos, wherever they are registered, are likely to be required to abide by their own government’s Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations. These are designed to restrict criminal activities and money laundering operations.
These regulations mean that players can be required to disclose official identification documents like passports and bank details before opening an account, and certainly before being allowed to withdraw. This is a licencing requirement for all legitimate casino operators, wherever they are located. Some are looking for loopholes, but mostly unsuccessfully.
Many players on these casinos use payment methods which offer a degree of anonymity. Paysafecard does this – anyone can buy them for cash, and their ownership cannot be traced back to the individual who bought them.
Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin also work well in this respect. However, it is likely that the accepting casino will still have to comply with the KYC regulations of their licencing authority, so problems may arise when attempting to cash out. Winnings cannot be transferred by Paysafecard and even bitcoin payments may require some identity checks in order to comply with the necessary licencing conditions.
What licencing jurisdictions cover gambling sites not on GAMSTOP?
Typically, many of these casinos are in fact licenced and registered via the Netherlands Antilles, a group of Caribbean islands administered by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The most well-known of these is Curacao. This territory is not recognised by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and is not regulated by it. You are also likely to need to look hard to find this information. Sometimes there is a Curacao flag or emblem at the foot of the page. More likely you will find the licencing arrangements buried deep within the seemingly endless Terms & Conditions. In other instances, the information seems to be totally absent.
Other possible licencing territories include Malta and Gibraltar, but this time without a corresponding licence with the UKGC.
Whilst it is obviously safer to play with a casino which is officially licenced, whatever the jurisdiction, it is clearly safest to play with a UK registered site. The UKGC may be regarded as ‘toothless’ by its critics, but casinos operating under its licence do fear its powers. It can and does fine casino operators for breaches of its licencing conditions.
In just one example, the relatively small company which operated Casino 36 was faced with costs of around £300,000 for licence omissions in 2019, while in 2020 online operators Genesis Global had their licence to operate a dozen casinos in the UK market suspended by the UKGC. Larger operators have faced fines of millions of pounds for licencing breaches.
All UK licenced casinos therefore feel obliged to follow the rules, which offer United Kingdom based players considerable protection from unfair games and other malpractices. Other licencing authorities may also enforce their rules, but it is difficult to be sure what they are. In any case, it is also difficult to know how to contact and obtain support from the Curacao Gaming Control Board, or the Malta Gaming Authority for example.
Another additional warning factor is that few of these overseas registered online casinos offer indications of ownership, or real world contact addresses which can be used in case of disputes. ‘About Us’ sections are rare, and even when they exist, they can often offer little useful information beyond an e-mail address.
In the end, the decision as to whether to play at a non-United Kingdom licenced casino is one which will be made according to a player’s attitude to risk. All gambling is risky in the sense that you can (and more than likely will) lose money. That is why online casino operators are rich, and almost all gamblers are not.
For players who have self-excluded via GAMSTOP, but who wish to re-join a casino, there may be little choice. Their attitude to risk may also already be at the top end of the scale. Ultimately, players should always consider carefully if they can afford to lose everything they are wagering, wherever they are playing. This is the case to an even greater degree when using a non-United Kingdom registered casino.