There are many factors a punter should consider when deciding which site to bet with. The range of deposit and withdrawal methods is not usually classed among the most important but for some gamblers it might well be. In this article, we take a look at whether or not it is legal to place bets using Bitcoin (and indeed other cryptocurrencies) in the UK. In other words, are Bitcoin (BTC) betting sites legal in the UK?
The hype and media coverage around cryptos has rather died down in recent years. This is largely a reflection of them becoming more mainstream and better understood and also, quite probably, because they are no longer riding so high, or, in the vernacular of the crypto world, not quite heading to the moon right now.
In fact, Bitcoin itself is currently trading at around £22,000 per coin. That’s a lot for one coin of a made-up currency that doesn’t exist and isn’t worth anything, critics might say, but that is down from a high of around £48,000 in November 2021. Still, there are many people out there who still own coins, either BTC, which represents about 50% of the total crypto market, or one of the many (many, many) others that also exist.
So, can these bold financial pioneers, gullible speculators, depending on your point of view, use their cryptos to bet with?
Can You Use Cryptocurrency on UK Betting Sites?
Although the UK Gambling Commission does not prohibit the use of cryptocurrency as a deposit method, it is currently not accepted at any major UK betting company due to complications over ID, source of funds and affordability checks.
The UKGC Position on Bitcoin
All sites that accept UK customers have to be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission, aka the UKGC. This body licenses and regulates all forms of gambling within the UK and they have a webpage dedicated to crytpos, or digital and virtual currencies as they term it. The Gambling Commission (and more broadly the law) has long had to adapt to changes in technology, in particular the advent of online gambling and so it is no surprise that they have made clear their stance on this matter.
They look at some of the basic facts about BTC and other coins and also make the following points about digital currencies:
- The anonymous nature of cryptos means they are “attractive to individuals who want to conceal their identity and, or as well as, the source of their funds”.
- There is no central control and due to this price fluctuations are historically large.
- Criminal activity, including hacking and theft are “associated with digital currencies”.
They do not explicitly say that betting sites can or cannot accept Bitcoin and other cryptos, however, it is very clearly implied that as far as the UKGC is concerned, there is no fundamental problem. They state that where such coins are exchanged for cash, or for other cash-exchangeable tokens, such as casino chips, a valid license is required in just the same way it would be for any other deposit method.
However, whilst the Commission essentially suggests that Bitcoin and other cryptos can be used to gamble, they make clear their concerns. As well as the points noted above, they conclude by saying that any sites that want to accept digital currencies, be that directly or via a third-party payment provider, must make sure they take certain steps.
They state that the betting site must “satisfy yourself and us that you can meet your obligations in relation to anti-money laundering and that you are acting in a socially responsible way”. In theory, this should not prove too difficult, despite the anonymity associated with BTC and its rivals. They could still undertake general ID checks and also counter money laundering and problem gambling by seeing proof of funds before they entered the realm of the digital. However, in reality things could be trickier, and this is why no major UK betting sites accept Bitcoin as things stand.
UK Bitcoin Betting Sites
There are many sites that accept UK customers and also accept Bitcoin and other similar coins. However, the vast majority, and quite possibly all of these, do not have a license from the UKGC. As noted above, this is not because the UKGC has an issue per se with BTC, but rather because digital currencies have been favoured by sites that are, in simple terms, dodgy.
There are lots of online bookmakers and casinos that operate offshore and welcome, even target, UK customers despite lacking the legally required license from the UKGC. Such bookies are sometimes used by those who have barred themselves from legal sites using the responsible gambling tool GAMSTOP. Alternatively, they may be preferred by players who want to use cryptocurrencies. Last, they may be an option for organised crime groups, who want to launder money.
We cannot say this clearly or strongly enough: do not use these unlicensed betting sites. At the very best, you will encounter poor service, sub-par sites stocked with weak odds, second-rate games and lots of glitches, plus a major struggle to get your funds out of the site should you win. That’s the best-case scenario.
At the worst, you will have all of the above, plus there will be no responsible gambling tools at all and you will be allowed to deposit more money than you can afford with no checks. You may be charged deposit fees and be subject to a fee to process a withdrawal, as well as a very high minimum withdrawal level. You will be fobbed off with requests for ID only at the point at which you request a withdrawal and your documents will somehow not be accepted, or be too blurry.
These delays will drag on and, in the absolute worst-case outcome, you just won’t get your money. You lose if you lose and you lose even when you win. Plus you have a lot of stress and waste a lot of time on admin tasks that are only being put in your way so these sites can avoid paying you. And when this happens, what recourse do you have? None, because these sites may not even list any contact details at all, nor be licensed by any authority whatsoever, let alone the UKGC. But, to answer the question, they would take Bitcoin!