Where Is Sports Betting Legal?

by S. Ateljevic  ·  May 25, 2021

The United Kingdom has a long and fascinating history with sports betting that dates back generations. The country is home to the world’s oldest sportsbooks and the first-ever sports betting exchange. But does that mean that you can place a bet anywhere in the UK, and if not, where is sports betting legal in Great Britain? Today, much of the action migrated to online betting sites. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these betting markets are strictly regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.

After all, the sports gambling industry wheels in an estimated £700 million in annual taxes and employs thousands of people. This is a major source of revenue for the UK government, with online gaming and mobile sports betting only getting bigger.

London started introducing legislation to regulate online betting in 2005, which also led to the birth of the UKGC and granted more autonomy to local municipalities in England, Scotland, and Wales when it came to issuing licences. Keep reading to find out more about Britain’s sports betting laws and how their counterparts across the pond are working to legalize sports gambling.

Gambling Acts in the UK

The aforementioned 2005 Gambling Act was passed by the country’s parliament and is designed to ensure that gambling activities are conducted in a fair way. More importantly, the law is designed to prevent gambling from becoming a source of crime and is also meant to protect vulnerable persons like minors.

In one of the world’s leading sports betting states, gambling sites may lose their licence if they don’t follow these very stringent guidelines. As for punters, they may end up with their deposits frozen or confiscated if the gambling site of their choice breaks the law.

In December 2014, the law was amended. The updated Gambling (Licencing & Advertising) Act requires all off-shore gambling brands that operate in the UK to get a licence from the UKGC. Online casinos that continue accepting players without obtaining this licence are in breach of local laws, and media and advertising outlets are forbidden from working with such sites.

These sports betting UK legal regulations also introduced a 15% consumption tax on the gross profits of the off-shore gambling sites. Along with the rigorous licencing procedures, the taxes turned away a few of the prominent brands from the UK. Others increased prices to factor in the new taxes or moved sites from .com domains to .co.uk, with minor changes for UK players, except for VIP programmes and bonuses that went through dramatic transformations.

One of the positive aspects of this law was its role in the fight against match-fixing. Unlike some of the other states where online sports betting is legal, Britain insisted that remote operators offering facilities in the UK hold a local licence, which obliges them to report suspicious activities. The UKGC also has more of a say about the data being shared with law enforcement and sports administrative agencies.

Gambling Landscape and Security

The gambling landscape has evolved dramatically in recent years. There are over 9,000 betting shops in the UK alone, with Ladbrokes-Coral, William Hill, and Betfred holding the entire sports betting market. So where is it legal to place a bet?

There is no shortage of online gambling sites that accept real cash bets from UK punters, including 888sports, Betway, Paddy Power, BetOnline, Betfair, BETDAQ, and Matchbook. Around 500 online gambling venues are operating in the UK under the Gambling Act, with new sites springing up regularly.

Meanwhile, a growing number of online sportsbooks are publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, which underscores their legitimacy. The UKGC plays its part by issuing licences only to the most reliable online sports betting sites.

The most popular sports among bettors are tennis, and of course, soccer betting. The latter brought in £449.44 million, while tennis popularity peaked with online and in-play gambling. There are also many excellent horse racing betting sites in the UK that include great offers for punters.

It’s important to note that, unlike most countries where sports betting is legal, the UK doesn’t allow punters to place bets using their credit cards. The ban introduced by the UKGC in 2020 is meant to curb problem gambling.

But there are a number of other straightforward payment methods that are permitted in Britain. These include debit cards, Apple Pay, bank transfers, PayPal, Skrill, Neteller, and a long list of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Just like anywhere else in the world, digital currencies are becoming increasingly popular on the UK betting scene, thanks in no small part to the privacy and anonymity that they guarantee.

Where Is Sports Betting Legal in Scotland, Wales, and North Ireland?

The UK is a unitary state comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The laws passed in London generally apply to other parts of the state. But following amendments to gambling legislation in recent decades, local authorities in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales were granted greater control over land-based casino licencing. However, the UKGC still maintains its grip on all online and remote gambling venues.

Speaking more broadly about the British Isles, the Republic of Ireland has its own regulations that govern legal online sports betting. As one of the places where sports betting is legal, they formed the Casino Regulation Committee in 2006 to regulate online and land-based casinos.

The previous Gaming and Lotteries Act of 1956 had proven obsolete. The much improved Betting Amendment Act from 2015 suspended most of the Betting Act 1931 laws. It protects punters by revoking gambling licences to remote and online gambling sites that refuse to pay winnings. This act also vastly improved online and remote gambling for the most important Irish operators, such as Paddy Power Sports and Boylesports. The accommodating legislation coupled with today’s technological advances is also giving rise to outstanding esports gaming sites.

Battle for Sports Betting in the USA

The number of US states that allow sports betting or plan to do so in the near future is constantly growing. This is thanks to the 2018 US Supreme Court ruling that struck down the ban on single-game wagering.

More than 20 states have already legalized betting with physical sportsbooks as well as mobile and bet online options. Six states are awaiting legislative approval, and 14 others may see some form of betting in the near future.

But there are some states that are unlikely to accept sports or online betting. If you’re wondering where to bet on sports in a place like Utah, you might just be out of luck as the state has an anti-gambling stance written into its constitution. Sports gambling is also being obstructed by strong opposition in states like Idaho and Wisconsin.

Future of Sports Betting

In today’s world, betting is soaring in popularity. Sports betting is experiencing a golden age, with traditional sports, esports, online sports, and virtual sports betting sites getting a lot of action. In short, the future of sports betting looks bright and safe for UK punters.


Where is sports betting legal in the UK?

Sports betting is legal in all parts of the UK, including England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Where can I bet on sports online legally?

You can put a sporting bet safely and legally on any gambling site that holds a licence from the UK Gambling Commission. For additional protection, look for betting sites that provide outstanding cash-out options.

Which countries allow sports betting?

Aside from Great Britain, sports betting is allowed in many other corners of the globe, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ghana, and India. If you aren’t located in any of these countries and are wondering where else is sports betting legal, you’ll be glad to hear that the list is quite extensive and also includes countries like Kenya, Mexico, Russia, and South Africa.

What states have sports betting now?

More than 20 US states have already legalized sports betting in some form. These include Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Illinois.