Trusting a third-party website with your personal and financial details can be unnerving. This is especially true with online casinos, which are trusted to keep your personal details safe and offer fair gaming.
Chances are that you’re over this fear if you enjoy online gaming. But it’s still critical to know that you can trust the site you’re gambling at.
Licensing can help instill this trust factor. A license means that a gaming site has received approval from a recognized licensing authority.
Of course, I should stress that not all online gambling licenses are created equally. Some of the more-prestigious jurisdictions stand out in a variety of ways.
I’m going to discuss what factors you should consider when judging the quality of a gaming site’s license. But first, I’ll dive deeper into the specifics of online gambling jurisdictions.
What Is an Online Gambling Jurisdiction?
An online gaming jurisdiction is a country or territory that a gambling site can operate from.
These jurisdictions serve two main purposes for internet casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks:
- A place to legally base an operation.
- Legal clearance to serve any country/territory under the jurisdiction’s umbrella.
A gaming site doesn’t necessarily have to base their operations where they’re licensed. After all, some sites hold multiple licenses and only choose one of these jurisdictions to operate from.
But gambling sites do need a legal area to base their headquarters. And licensing jurisdictions provide this.
Regarding the second point, a casino, poker site, or sportsbook can only serve countries that are legally cleared by the licenser.
For example, Microgaming allows its operators to serve any nation/territory outside of the following:
- United States
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Cote d’lvoire
- Equatorial Guinea
- French Guiana
- Hong Kong
- North Korea
- United Arab Emirates
Other licensing jurisdictions are much more liberal in where they allow their operators to serve. Curacao, Costa Rica, and Belize are three jurisdictions that let their licensees serve a broad range of countries.
One more reason why gambling sites obtain licenses is to instill trust in their operation. When you see that a gaming site is approved by one or more authorities, it gives you more confidence in playing there.
Factors to Consider Regarding Online Gaming Licensing
You can’t just look at one factor to determine the quality of an internet gambling license. Instead, you should consider a variety of aspects before making this determination.
Here are the key factors you should use to decide if a gaming site has a notable license(s).
Strict Licensing Requirements
Every internet gambling jurisdiction has requirements behind obtaining one of their licenses. But where each jurisdiction differs is in the strictness of their requirements.
Some licensing bodies thoroughly vet applicants to ensure that they’re backed by a reputable operator. Others barely look into their applicants and will approve nearly anybody (a.k.a. “rubber stamp”).
The former is obviously better, because properly investigating applicants allows the jurisdiction to ensure that they only approve reputable operators.
A company’s history is one of the key aspects that quality gambling jurisdictions consider. Both the company itself and its leaders will be scrutinized by the jurisdiction.
A licenser is mainly looking at the reputability of the company and if there have been any scandals in the past. This is highly important when considering that disgraced gaming operators can simply start a new company and gain licensing in a lower-quality jurisdiction.
Online gambling jurisdictions also want to know the plans of any applicant. This includes in-depth financial details, a business plan, management hierarchy, and growth strategies.
Fees are a critical part of any internet gambling licensing process. Operators must pay both a fee to receive their license and additional dues to retain it.
High licensing fees don’t necessarily mean that an online gambling jurisdiction is elite. However, the better jurisdictions tend to require larger fees.
The Malta gaming authority, which is one of the bettor license authorities, requires between €40,000 and €100,000 per license. Companies that want multiple types of licenses will need to pay €240,000 or more.
Curacao, one of the least-respected gaming licensors, only requires an application fee of€2,000. They also require a low monthly fee of €1,500.
Fair gaming is always a concern for many online gamblers. After all, there have been isolated incidents of software providers and gaming sites running faulty games.
This is why respected licensing authorities require third-party testing. Auditing firms test random number generators (RNGs) and game odds to ensure that they meet what’s advertised.
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which is widely regarded as the world’s top online gaming authority, requires its operators to undergo regular lab testing. This ensures that each site/software provider consistently offers fair odds.
Some of the different auditing firms that perform these tests include Technical Systems Testing (TST), Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), iTech Labs, and eCOGRA.
Willingness to Respond to Customer Complaints
Many gambling sites do a good job of laying out terms and conditions behind bonus offers, promotions, wins, and losses. Nevertheless, disputes still arise between the sites and their customers.
Gambling sites tend to be right in the majority of these disputes, because everything is laid out in their terms. But the players can also be right, especially when it comes to bonus squabbles.
Nefarious gaming sites may have ambiguous T&Cs that make it difficult to understand how one earns their bonus. Therefore, players can have a legitimate gripe when they don’t collect a bonus that they may have actually earned.
The player doesn’t typically have much power in these situations. However, the licensing authority can intercede on their behalf and settle the dispute.
Of course, it’s up to the jurisdiction to undertake this responsibility. Unfortunately, not all licensors are willing to do so.
This is where it pays to choose sites that are licensed by reputable jurisdictions. A good licensing authority will listen to player complaints and act on their behalf if needed.
One example of this happened in 2007, when the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) received a complaint about how Absolute Poker (now defunct) was cheating high stakes poker players.
The KGC conducted an investigation and found that a single employee was cheating players through an account that allowed them to see opponents’ hole cards (a.k.a. super user). They then fined Absolute Poker $1.5 million for failing to catch the incident.
Rubber stamp jurisdictions don’t provide the same protections. They instead leave these matters alone and let players and operators sort them out.
All online gambling jurisdictions have government backing to some degree. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be allowed to offer internet gambling licenses from where they’re stationed.
But the most-reputable internet gambling jurisdictions also tend to have more government involvement. This is good from the perspective that it creates severe punishments and consequences for any operator that abuses their customers’ trust.
For example, the UK is well known for issuing heavy fines against operators that fail to be socially responsible. In2017, The UKGC fined 888 a record £7.8 million for failing to monitor problem gamblers.
Sometimes local governments only care about pulling in licensing fees and do little to promote socially responsible gaming and protect players. You definitely want to avoid these types of rubber stamp licensors.
How Do You Find an Online Gaming Site’s Licensing Jurisdiction?
You can normally find out what license(s) a gaming site holds by looking at the bottom of their homepage. Here, you’ll see a seal(s) that represents a given online gambling jurisdiction.
Any site that holds licensing with a given authority is allowed to present these seals. But be careful because certain operators have displayed seals without gaining the proper licensing.
This is rarely a problem within the industry. But certain rogue operators are willing to stoop low enough to fake having licenses.
Another thing to be aware of is that licensedgaming sites don’t always listseals at the bottom of their websites. Operators have a choice on whether or not they want to display their seals.
I have no idea why certain operators don’t display their licensing. Whatever the case may be, you may need to look deeper into their website to find out whatlicenses – if any – they hold.
You can also look at reviews from third-party websites to find out what licensing a site has. The only catch, though, is that many reviews are dated and won’tdiscuss the latest licenses that a site obtains.
What Are the Best and Worst Online Gaming Licensing Jurisdictions?
I’ve discussed the various factors that make up a quality internet gaming jurisdiction, including strict licensing requirements, player protections, high fees, governmental involvement, and a willingness to intercede on behalf of players. But what are the best and worst authorities in terms of these factors?
The answer is somewhat based on opinion. But there are certain jurisdictions that are universally considered to be among the best.
Here’s the cream of the crop:
- Kahnawake (Indian reserve in Canada)
- New Jersey
Just because a jurisdiction isn’t among the elite doesn’t mean that it’s not worth considering. Some licensors uphold high standards in certain categories, yet fall short in one or more other areas.
Here are some licensors that are in the middle of the pack:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Isle of Man
Some online gambling jurisdictions serve as little more than a place to operate from. They have light requirements when vetting applicants and are mainly interested in collecting licensing fees.
Here are the worst gaming licensing authorities:
- Costa Rica
- Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)
Just because a licensing body is bad today doesn’t mean that it can’timprove. Antigua, for example, has come a long way over the last decade.
They were once considered one of the worst licensing jurisdictions. But they’ve since improved in terms of vetting applicants, charging higher fees, and paying more attention to player complaints.
Of course, you’re not judging online gambling licensing jurisdictions based on their potential. Instead, you want to look at what they are today in order to see how much weight their licenses hold.
Many factors go into choosing a quality gaming site. These aspects include an operator’s reputation, game selection, bonuses, banking options, website navigability, and customer service.
But licensing jurisdictions, which are often overlooked when picking a gaming hub, are also extremely important. You can sometimes judge the quality of a site by their license(s).
The main factors to consider when looking at jurisdictions include their licensing standards, fees, willingness to help players, and the level of government involvement.
I especially emphasize checking out the license requirements. A jurisdiction with tougher licensing standards prevents rogue operators from getting approved.
Overall, picking gaming sites with quality licensing boosts the chances of dealing with reputable operators. This allows you to play casino games/poker and make sports bets with confidence.
If you’re short on time and/or don’t feel like looking into licensing authorities, you can also pick up information from reviews. Simply google “[licensing authority] review“ to find out more on them.
This isn’t always as good as doing the work yourself, because some of the info can be outdated. But it provides you a quick way to learn more about internet gaming licensing jurisdictions.