Online gambling is very popular in the UK. According to reports by the Gambling Commission, sites licensed by them alone generate just short of £3b in annual revenue. They have over 6.2 million new account registrations per year and hold over £228m in post-up (player account balances). This doesn’t even show the full market size, as non-UK licensed sites are also used.
Best Real Money Casinos, Poker Rooms, Betting Sites, and Online Bingo for UK Players in 2018
For residents, in most cases, it makes the most sense to gamble with sites licensed by our government. With 691 companies licensed across nine online gambling segments, there are many options for this, but not all are equal. How long a site has been established, how quickly they pay, bonus offers, banking options, customer service, games offered, markets offered, and features, differ between sites. While I discuss each of these sites further, to save you time, below the Moolala.com team has included the UK licensed gambling sites we most frequently recommend.
All of the above sites are licensed and regulated in the UK. The reason that is a benefit relates in part to our traditional gambling market. Today there are 8,958 betting shops, 640 bingo halls, 146 casinos, and 1,522 gambling-machine equipped arcades located here. As of the last report, these employed 95,227 individuals and generate annual revenue exceeding £5.4 billion. It is so widespread because gambling has been legal, licensed, and regulated here since 1960.
The fact our traditional market is so well established puts the UK online gambling market at a distinct advantage. In many countries, including the United States, internet betting is for the most part outlawed. To service such markets the typical gambling site sets up shop in a legal haven. Kahnawake Mohawk Territory (a Native American reserve) in Quebec, Canada, Cagayan Special Economic Zone of the Philippines, Curacao, Antigua, Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama are where the bulk of gambling sites are based. In such locations the operators are mostly legally inaccessible. It was once like that in the UK too.
The first ever online gambling site Intertops was founded by a German, who had long lived in London operating as a UK bookmaker since 1983. This site took the first ever sports bet on January 17, 1996, but not as a UK bookmaker. They had to open from Austria due to the laws. When William Hill became the first High Street bookmaker to go online in 2000, the laws were still an issue. Their online division initially operated in Antigua. The Gambling Act, 2005 is what brought licensing and regulation to online gambling via our already well established Gambling Commission.
Now a decade into regulating gambling sites, there have been only two UK licensed ones to close not paying players. The first was back in 2006, when UK based internet gambling was still new. The other was a couple years ago when Canbet.com became insolvent in 2013. In the case of Canbet, their popularity had long since declined and the warning signs were out there. But still, plenty lost out and this shouldn’t have happened. It is our very strong opinion the Gambling Commission shares some fault.
I’m honest in the above paragraph to make sure our readers know licensing and regulation isn’t fail proof. However, when looking to sites elsewhere that operate in legal havens, there have been (no lie – not an exaggeration) well over 100 sites that closed stiffing players. Not all are bad, but there is no oversight. It is like the Wild West! There are a small handful of legit companies, mixed with ones financially struggling plus a fair share of scammers, especially in the casino niche.
In the UK we have the Gambling Commission, independent adjudicators, and auditors, which keep the games safe and fair. It might not be fool proof, but it is FAR FAR FAR better than any other gambling jurisdiction. People from other countries look to play at UK sites because they are the best regulated. For us living here, we have added bonuses that the regulation and licensing, courts with jurisdiction etc. are all in our own backyard.
In recommending gambling sites we at Moolala.com are still mindful of the rare situations like Canbet. Rather than just say “okay, they are UK licensed and therefore safe” we rather pick only from the largest and most successful websites. There are some of those we are not big fans of.
Ladbrokes and William Hill are very reputable massive brands and there is no risk of either company going broke. With their online divisions, support is located in other countries. It is poor. There are so many issues with verifying IDs – it taking time, chasing them around, customer service issues and the like. So we also don’t just say UK licensed plus biggest equals best either. We pull from sites that are truly best for players mostly picking from the oldest and most established ones.
Having now established the main reason UK sites are preferred, and how we go about making recommendations, I now give you our top site or two for each specific gambling segment. This is separate sections on online casino, online poker, sports betting, horse racing and bingo.
Online Casino in the UK
www.intercasino.com is our most recommended UK licensed online casino. The majority of their games comes from PlayTech, a leader in casino software, listed on the London Stock Exchange as a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index, with €457 million (£316m) in 2014 revenue. This gives double protection. Intercasino is the oldest online casino in the industry (sincerely, they were the first) and is UK licensed. Their main provider is UK licensed as well, and is one of the bigger public companies traded on our own exchange. Financial security and trust is no issue at this site.
Intercasino also is well-known for offering ongoing reload bonuses, so players are always playing here with something extra. Their list of slot machine games goes on and on. You’ll find the ones that are popular in our casinos and arcades such as Triple Hot Blazing 7’s, and Cash Wheel. There is also movie themed slots such as Forrest Gump, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Super Man, and Batman. This doesn’t even come close to covering it all. There are all sorts of other slots including even a Megadeath machine. Table games have everything you can imagine including Pai Gow with the fortune bonus option, blackjack, roulette, craps, let it ride, red dog and sincerely dozens more.
This is a site where the computer games are so good, that I’m also shy about mentioning one of their other great features. That feature being the Live Dealer casino. This uses webcam rendering technology to broadcast real human dealers at physical gaming tables. The bets are placed online, but all the action happens at a real live dealer studio set up exactly like a brick and mortar casino. This will come down to a matter of preference, because their computer based games are awesome. But the live dealer, while a slower pace, makes it just like you are sitting in a casino. With those you don’t have any doubts about the authenticity of a computer generating the results either.
www.leovegas.com is the casino we recommend second. This one is an odd inclusion for us, as practically every gambling site we list as recommendations are companies that have been in business since the early days of online gambling. LeoVegas only launched in January 2012. However, they have obtained licensing all over including the UK, have major investors, and technology like no one has seen before. Good for computers and laptops too, they are hands-down the best mobile phone and tablet casino in the industry.
LeoVegas integrates games from more providers than any other site. There are games here from Net Entertainment, Microgaming, IGT, Bally, Nextgen, Evolution Gaming, Cryptologic, Play’N GO, Yggdrasil Gaming, Quickspin all grouped seamlessly together. This means a massive selection of casino games from a single online gambling account. They have won a plethora of industry awards, mostly in the innovation categories, and are accredited by the industry’s most recognized watchdog Casinomeister. Though we normally don’t recommend companies that are only 4 years old, this is one is so good that it was too difficult to avoid making an exception.
Online Poker in the UK
www.888poker.com is second largest online poker site in the world, and the only which is operating cleanly. Their company is a regulated market expert that has managed to grow while refusing to service any country that will provide them legal trouble. The same can’t be said about any other online poker site. The rest all operate in at least grey markets. 888 on the other hand also operates sites like WSOP.com in partnership with Caesars Entertainment Corporation (formerly Harrah’s Entertainment from 1995 to 2010), which owns the World Series of Poker.
This company is no doubt the safest in the poker industry for players to use. They hold multiple UK gambling licenses as both operators and software developers. They are also licensed in many other countries including by two different US states. Their parent company is publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange, as well. They are also in partnership as a supplier to some of the world’s largest gambling companies, while operating the second largest poker site in the industry themselves.
Player volume is no issue here. The software is top-notch as they were a leading casino software developer before poker even came about. The poker room has been online since 2002, originally known as Pacific Poker, before they adopted the 888 brand network wide. They have operated on the casino end since 1997 and are a huge player in that niche. The poker games here are quite soft due to mass spillover from casino players. Bonuses, promotions and so much more. You name it and 888 has it for poker. This is by so far our #1 choice to recommend to poker players in the UK. As there isn’t even a close second, I end this section here.
Online Sports Betting
www.bet365.com I could almost write a book about the history of. To just give some highlights, their company and Stoke City FC of the English Premier League share the same owners. Their founder Peter Coates is from Stoke-on-Trent. The company first started as a bookmaker headquartered there in 1974, and had dozens of betting shops called Provincial Racing. In 2000, his daughter Denise purchased the domain bet365.com on eBay looking to take the family business online. Not only did she do so, but she guided them to become an exclusively online operation that has become the world’s largest sports betting site. They also offer casino, bingo, and poker too, but for sports betting they are market leaders.
What makes Bet365 quite unique is while other sites were setting up abroad to pay lower taxes, Bet365 kept their headquarters in Stoke-on-Trent. They also resisted the temptation to go public and stayed a family business. They became Stoke-on-Trent’s largest employer with over 2,000 employed, and the 7th largest private company in the UK. They are sincerely massive, and have a feel good story about loyalty to their city is involved too.
Bet365 didn’t get massive by luck. For starters, they offer far more sports betting markets than any other site. It doesn’t matter the sport or the league, Bet365 covers it. For the popular ones they have hundreds of specials that can bet. For the less popular ones, they still have a ton of markets. Their in-play live betting is so far ahead of the industry that nothing compares to it. At any hour of the day there are dozens of matches being lived stream, and hundreds of matches available for in-play bets. Just like their prematch betting, in-play there are more betting markets per match than any other site offers.
New players from the UK can register and claim a 100% up to £50 cash bonus on their first deposit which requires only 3 times rollover. There are ton of promotions including higher payouts on accumulators, refunds when a football matches ends in a 0-0 bore draw, and so much more. There are too many of these to list. Visit the promotions page of their website to see just how many awesome deals there are available.
Online Horse Race Betting
www.bet365.com is also a great site for greyhound and horse race betting. Their main feature is guaranteed best odds. No matter if you bet board prices, early prices, or use singles, multiples or showcast, if your selection wins at better odds you are paid those odds! This applies to all horse races and greyhound races. For channel 4 in particular they are constantly updating the odds to make sure their odds are the biggest available. When combining that with their best price guarantee some great value can be found. The offers get even better from here too.
For races that are televised live on Channel 4, every time you successfully back a winner at 4/1 odds or greater, you get a free bet equal to your stake (up to £50) on the next race. If the free bet is a winner at 4/1 or more you get another bet on the race after this. This can keep going until the program ends. On days there are no channel 4 races, two other races are selected to give this same offer on. Details on which they are for the day can be found on the horse race betting promotions tab of their website.
Online Bingo in the UK
www.888ladies.com offers £40 free on a £10 deposit. You can also play free bingo for 3 days for a chance to win £888. This is an amazing way to stretch a £10 deposit into a lot of bingo action. Of course Gala and Mecca are viable options too. Those are brands bingo players need no introduction to as they combine for the huge majority of our bingo hall business. But when it comes to online no one is more established in this niche than 888.
888 is the software provider of many of the most recognized UK bingo sites. This includes Foxy, Wink, Costa and countless others. Those sites happen to be good at marketing, but when you use them you are using online bingo powered by 888. I already covered in the poker section what a great company 888 is and why they are very safe to use. Of course with bingo, most UK licensed sites are very reputable. So it can come down to a matter of preference for which one you choose.