Visit any betting site and there’s a good chance you see a claim that states “licensed by the (regulatory body) gaming commission” of one or more countrie. There are several dozen gambling commissions around the world and the purpose of them is to license and regulate betting sites that operate in their jurisdiction.
Online gaming licenses serve the same purpose as brick and mortar gaming licenses, such as those issued in Nevada and Macau: to make sure wagering is offered fairly, resolve disputes, protect the integrity of the industry, raise tax money for the government, and to offer players assurance that an operator is in compliance with industry standards.
We urge readers to check the licensing status of betting websites before signing up or making a deposit. A license from a reputable gaming commission indicates that the operator has submitted to a background check and is monitored for fair business practices. In most cases, you can check the website of the gaming commission to verify that the gaming site in question has a valid license.
Not All Betting Licenses Are Equal
We also remind players that not all betting licenses hold the same weight. The simple fact that a betting site holds a license from a regulatory body is not a guarantee of safety or legitimacy.
Where a site is licensed is just as important.
For example, the UK Gambling Commission is a highly respected regulatory body that closely oversees the industry. Operators don’t just pay a fee to be licensed. The commission conducts an extensive background check, evaluates the operator’s business plan, performs regular financial audits, and provides ongoing monitoring and dispute resolution.
Many betting sites that operate out of these less-respectable gaming jurisdictions have been known to rip off players and refuse to honor withdrawals without so much as a peep from the so-called “regulators.”
To be fair, not all betting sites licensed in these lax jurisdictions are scam operations. Betting sites that accept players from certain countries have no choice but to seek a license in Panama or Costa Rica. This is because stricter licensing regimes do not issue licenses to operators that plan to accept customers from legal “grey” markets such as the United States where betting laws are either unclear or hostile to online gambling.
We don’t refer players to betting sites that operate contrary to the law where they live, but I can tell you that there are some illegal betting sites that are actually reputable.
Finding a safe betting site in a grey market is more about doing research on that betting site’s reputation than it is in looking at the license it holds.
The story is much simpler for players who live in countries where online betting is legal and regulated.
Our readers from the UK, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Estonia, Malta, Denmark and many other countries are fortunate to have respectable and demanding licensing bodies that go a long way in guaranteeing legitimacy and fairness of licensed betting sites.
How can I tell if a betting licensing jurisdiction is legit?
It all comes down to reputation. You can easily research the history of every licensing jurisdiction. You can also fairly safely assume a licensing jurisdiction is legitimate if it is home to major, big-name international gambling sites.
Gaming companies such as and William Hill are a prime example of a high profile operator that holds licenses in highly reputable jurisdictions.
You can also check some of the well-known “blacklisted” gaming sites (operators with poor reputations) and see where they are licensed. Any licensing body willing to give the green light to a low quality operation is obviously not serious about regulation or oversight.
Generally, gambling licensing bodies based out of first-world Western nations are quite a bit safer than those based out of smaller, third-world countries. First-world nations have the resources to properly regulate the industry and are much less likely to fall into the temptation of selling online gambling licenses to anyone with the money to pay.
Plus, first-world nations enter into more international agreements and are therefore subject to a higher standard of operation.
Major Online Betting Licensing Jurisdictions
Many countries around the world act as licensing jurisdictions. Almost every continent on Earth is home to at least one major gambling regulatory body. North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia all have a few countries where online gambling is regulated. The quality of these licensing bodies varies by a wide margin. As mentioned above, some governing bodies are stricter than others.
Below is a list of some of the more well-known and active licensing jurisdictions along with links to each regulator’s website and our own informational page where available.
Highly Reputable Betting Licensing Bodies:
- United Kingdom (our page)
- Isle of Man
- Gibraltar (our page)
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Italy (our page)
- France (our page)
- Malta (our page)
- Denmark (our page)
- Spain (our page)
- Germany (our page)
- Bulgaria (our page)
More Gambling Licensing Bodies: