UKGC issues licence warning to Bitcoin gaming operators

6 July 2015

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has warned Bitcoin gaming companies that currently offer services in the UK market that they must acquire the relevant licence if they are to continue to operate legally in the region.

The national regulatory body has written to a number of operators to clarify that although Bitcoin is an unregulated currency, gambling with the virtual currency is covered by UK gambling regulations.

As such operators offer prizes of money, or “money’s worth”, to customers, this means that the websites fall under the ‘money’s worth’ category.

Jenny Williams, chief executive officer of the UKGC, said: “We wrote to these operators because they were either advertising gambling illegally or illegally offering gambling products to consumers, or both.

“The Commission neither prohibits nor encourages Bitcoin; we are interested only in ensuring the proper regulation of gambling products consumed in Britain.

“The currency is almost irrelevant as all operators need to satisfy themselves, and us, that they can fully meet all our requirements, particularly the requirements that ensure crime is kept out of gambling and consumers are protected.”

The UK government in 2013 proposed that Bitcoin businesses be exempt from regulation and licensing as the virtual currency is not legal tender.

However, the tax authority disagreed with the proposal, stating Bitcoin should be classed as ‘single purpose vouchers’, which are eligible for sales tax.

This was followed up earlier this year with the government stating its intention to regulate crypto-currency exchanges in order to combat money-laundering activities and better protect customers.