There are two types of online gambling site available to join. Those that have licences and those that do not. Many people will often go for the casinos and sportsbooks with licences, yet this isn’t always possible to do.
There are certain countries that do not have licensing bodies in operation. As a result, they do not provide licensed online gambling sites to players. Because of this, some gamblers may choose to turn to unlicensed gambling sites. Without a gambling operator holding a proper licence, they are not bound by specific rules. This means that they are able to run the platform however they like.
While this may seem like a bad route to take, it’s not always the case. There are some unlicensed online gambling sites that operate in a proper, fair way. Yet there are also those that are not legitimate and run scam operations. These particular variations of such sites can steal player money and withhold withdrawals. You’re not acting in a criminal way by joining one of these sites. Instead, you are putting yourself at extreme risk by doing so. That’s why we always recommend joining a site that holds an official licence to operate.
Throughout the history of online casinos and sportsbooks, unlicensed operations have existed. People have taken to joining these as well. This has often resulted in awful outcomes for the players in question. Here, we’ll take a look at the situations that these gamblers have found themselves in.
What Are the Rules Behind Licensed and Unlicensed Platforms?
It may be common for people to understand that a punishment is possible for joining an unlicensed site. Yet this isn’t actually the case. At least, that is the case unless you are active in money laundering, for example.
As it happens, you aren’t likely to suffer any punishment if you join one of these sites. The onus is generally on you to check on the licensed status of a gambling platform before you join. You can usually see the licence details at the bottom of the gambling website. In a legal sense, licensed sites are the only way to partake in gambling. Even so, it is unlikely that any action would occur against you by authorities.
Instead, the biggest risk to you surrounds your money and safety. Anything you deposit at an unlicensed site is likely fair game. At the same time, your own personal details and data are at risk of theft. Licensing bodies do not have any control over unlicensed sites. Often times, they base themselves out of locations that are out of their jurisdiction. Thus, bodies like the UKGC and MGA are unable to take action on them. This makes it difficult to tackle the rogue websites as a result.
The point is that you are much more likely to suffer issues at unlicensed gambling sites. The risks are of a much more extreme level because there is no licensing body to take action. In essence, an unlicensed website can do whatever it wants with little repercussion.
Any site that has taken the proper route and holds a licence is bound by rules. A site that does not own one of these doesn’t have to adhere to such. At the same time, licensed sites must use an arbitration service. Through this, if a customer and the site have a disagreement, there is a recourse. You can’t challenge things in the same way at an unlicensed gambling site.
What Can Happen at Unlicensed Online Gambling Sites?
Various things can happen when you join and deposit money at an unlicensed site. Depositing money into such a site could be the worst thing to do. You could find that the money you transfer into the account goes missing. While it may seem like the funds you deposit are going to the casino account, that may not be the case. Instead, the operator of the site could have chosen to keep it themselves. You wouldn’t have any kind of recourse for this, either.
You may be able to use a chargeback request if you have used a card for the transaction. Yet outside of this, you aren’t likely to come across that money again. The illegal online gambling sites are not restricted by rules of any kind. This means that they have no qualms about making off with your money, if they like. Many of these sites may appear to be operating in a genuine way on the outside. Yet it is at critical times that you may find your money is out of reach.
You may make a successful deposit. You may play the available games or place effective sports bets. You may win funds from these activities. Upon deciding to make a withdrawal, you may come to an obstacle, though. Scam sites without licences will often decide to stall the withdrawal. This sees them hold the funds back with no appropriate cause to do so. They may not even process your request through at all. A standard casino with a licence is beholden to rules surrounding withdrawals. This means that they have to process such through in good time. Unlicensed sites do not have these regulations in place.
To be fair, that is something that some licensed gambling sites have also done. Such was the case for Andrew Green and the Betfred sportsbook a couple of years ago. Yet he was able to challenge that decision and won his £1.7 million prize in the end. With an unlicensed platform, this wouldn’t be possible.
If you want to figure out the legitimacy of an online site, there is a bit of a test you can do. Take a look at the promotions available. If it’s offering a ridiculous reward like a 5,000% bonus, then there is something wrong. The likelihood is that it never intends to pay out anything if you do win anyway.
No Responsible Gambling Protection in Place
If you look at the UK, the rules dictate that all licensed sites should include information on responsible gambling. This relates to any player who is experiencing problems with gambling. At the same time, these sites have to check the source of funds and customer behaviour. This helps them to spot the signs of harm and ensure customers go through verification.
It is this responsible gambling process that gives you the opportunity to seek out help. All the relevant information to do this is on hand to see as well. Links to specific responsible gambling organisations should also be in place.
If a site is not licensed, it doesn’t have any set rule to display such information. Checks also don’t need to take place, so in most cases, they won’t. Thus, if you find yourself suffering from gambling addiction symptoms, you’re left alone. Scam gambling sites will watch on with a smile as you continue depositing money. Then they’ll continue smiling as you lose it, too. You’re left to your own devices.
Many people are likely aware that this also happens with licensed sites, though. You only need to look back to 2019 when gambling firms in the UK paid £19.6 million in fines. This came about due to their inability to protect customers and stop money laundering. Yet it is much more common when it comes to unlicensed platforms. Plus, they are the companies that get away with it. As a result, you risk sinking into a spiral of gambling addiction. That’s all due to lack of help available and the rogue sites’ interest in more money.
Always look to ensure that a casino or sportsbook offer responsible gambling information. Without it, you could be risking way too much.
Stolen Identity and Banking Information
The general situation with an online gambling site is to deposit money before playing. To do this, you will often need to enter banking details or card information. Plus, signing up for an online gambling account requires personal data. This includes your name, address, telephone number, and more. At legitimate sites, there are various protections in place. This stops others from getting their hands on your personal and banking information. You won’t find these protections in place at an unlicensed site.
There are people around the world who can hack into this information with ease. This is how Andrei Osipau managed to amass an £80,000 fortune from online gambling. In 2012, investigations uncovered his hive of activity. This saw him utilise fraudulent passports, ID cards and utility bills. From them, he opened a multitude of online accounts. Then, he went on to take advantage of the bonuses these sites were offering. At Osipau’s home, a discovery of over 5,900 scans of passports, utility bills and ID cards occurred. Those came from people all over the world. Some suspected that he obtained the scans from unlicensed, offshore gambling sites.
Any site possessing a licence would need to ensure it utilises the best security. Through this, a player’s personal information remains protected. Any documents that they upload are also kept in a secure location. Furthermore, transactions occurring through the sites should occur in encrypted format. Illegal, unlicensed sites do not have to incorporate the same technology. Thus, your funds are much more at risk of disappearing. This could occur during a transaction or while the funds are in your account.
Hackers and fraudsters are always at the top of their respective games. It doesn’t take them long to hack their way into an online website and steal vast amounts of data. They can then utilise peoples’ personal information how they like. This is much more likely to be the case via an unlicensed casino than a licensed one.
The gambling site, despite not holding a licence, may be operating above board. Yet this doesn’t stop it from suffering a hacking problem. If you look at the UK, customer money is ring-fenced as basic protection. Plus, many operators have insurance in place or hold customer money in independent accounts. So, if a site does run into difficulties with security, you stand more chance of getting your money back. An unlicensed site cannot guarantee anything of this nature.
Why Do People Do It Then?
People are attracted to unlicensed sites for all sorts of reasons, such as:
- Better advertised odds
- Betting on markets not available through licensed sites
- Bigger welcome bonuses
- Games not available in the UK on a licensed site
- Less verification and document checking
- Some will allow you to still gamble with a credit card (now outlawed in the UK)
Ultimately, though, there is no such thing as free lunch. They are offering better odds and offers, for example, because they are not paying tax and not investing in responsible and safe gambling. That is if they are legitimate at all, many simply have no intention of ever allowing you to withdraw or worse they sell on your details to criminals.
While the temptation is there for many, especially vulnerable people who may have limited themselves with licensed sites, it is never going to be worth the risk. Sadly the onus is on the customer to check who they are gambling with and while it is illegal to take UK players without a license many illegal sites do because they can’t be touched in the locations they are based in.
Be Wary and Vigilant
You do also need to be wary of online sites in general. Especially where money and gambling come into play. There are some casinos and sportsbooks that claim to hold licences. While this may be the case, they may come from regulatory bodies with very low protection. You only need to look at Curacao eGaming. This operates as a legitimate licensing body. Yet there have been more issues with Curacao-licensed platforms than many others. The same is true for sites licensed in Costa Rica. Casinos may say they hold licences, and they do, but they may not be from ideal bodies.
Even if a site does claim to hold a licence, it is better to make sure you check into it. Unlicensed sites are easy to spot as they don’t provide any licensing information. These sites don’t pay any kind of tax, so they are able to offer better odds and returns. That doesn’t mean that they will pay out better rewards, though.
If you don’t think this kind of gambling is a serious problem, think again. Experts believe that black market gambling makes up around 1-4% of all gambling activity. For an industry that is worth more than £16 billion in the UK, that’s quite the chunk of money. Keeping such a figure in mind, it is clear to see that unlicensed gambling still appeals to some. The UKGC and other licensing bodies are doing their best to keep it from taking over. Yet the likelihood is that there will always be someone looking to make money in an illegal way.