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Are Gambling Laws Different in Wales from the Rest of the UK?

Photo by Catrin Ellis on Unsplash

The UK is widely regarded as having some of the best gambling markets in the world despite having a relatively robust regulatory framework in place. 

Gambling companies operating in the UK must adhere to strict betting laws set out by the UK Gambling Commission. However, moving between the countries that make up the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) can cause confusion for those unsure of individual betting rules.

Unlike the U.S. whose member states decide their own betting laws, the UK is largely governed by the Gambling Act 2005. Take a look below to learn more about gambling in Wales and how it could affect you.

The History of Gambling in Wales

Betting in Wales has been a popular pastime for centuries, with horse racing, sports betting, and casino gaming proving to be among the most favoured. 

Lotteries date back hundreds of years as a way to fund charitable causes while horse racing was mostly aimed at the upper class with nobility and royalty being the main players.

Changes in the 19th century saw horse racing become more accessible and legislative changes that led to the 1961 Gaming Act helped to expand betting operations and implement retail betting shops and casinos.

The betting industry continued to flourish and online betting entered the market in the late 20th century as a convenient way for bettors to access better odds and extensive markets.

iGaming expert Bram Welch has studied how online betting has shaped the industry and changed consumer behaviours. Security and choice are major considerations, but being able to withdraw winnings quickly is usually a key factor when choosing an online operator, with more and more online sportsbooks and casinos trying to cater to these demands with a growing number of betting markets and games, and accepting more payment methods to prioritise payout speeds.

Thankfully, the UK has implemented a regulatory framework that has encouraged the industry to develop, while providing online and retail customers with protection.

Welsh Gambling Regulator

The UK’s Gambling Commission governs betting activities in Wales under the Gambling Act 2005. The Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating the industry, issuing licences to operators, and providing guidance to businesses and consumers.

While some regulatory matters are devolved and under the control of the Welsh government, gambling is not. This means that gambling regulations and advertising are out of their remit and are dealt with by the UK government.

The only impact the Welsh government will have on gambling is through health or education initiatives.

The Welsh government has set up several task forces that offer help and advice to bettors and ensure they are protected against unfair practices.

Welsh Gambling Regulations

The UK Gambling Act 2005 that covers Wales states that the act of gambling or the creation of gambling operations is unlawful unless they meet the measures outlined in the Act.

Licenses, permits, and/or registration are required to provide betting facilities or use premises for the purposes of gambling. When permission is granted, the operator must continue to adhere to regulations that are set out for the type of gambling that takes place.

The flexibility of the Gambling Act ensures future developments can be included within the regulatory framework. This is essential for the gambling industry as online betting and technological developments continue to shape the betting environment.

One amendment to the Act that took place in 2014 ensures that remote operators must hold Commission licenses to carry out transactions with UK customers.

Betting Markets in Wales

Betting customers in Wales have an extensive collection of markets at their disposal. The sports betting market is one of the most popular, with football and rugby fans able to back local, international, and continental teams in all types of competition.

Horse and greyhound racing are two of the most traditional betting types in the UK and still have strong support in Wales. Retail and online racing markets allow bettors to place wagers on local and UK-wide race meetings, as well as international and virtual racing.

Casino betting in Wales is another popular market with slot machines and table games available in-person and online.

The National Lottery was initially launched in 1994 and is available all over the UK. In the 30 years since it was launched, over £92 billion in prizes have been paid out to lucky winners, and £48 billion has been raised for good causes.


Welsh gambling regulations are in line with other UK countries excluding Northern Ireland who regulate their own betting activities. The government’s decision not to devolve gambling regulations has helped to create a UK-wide regulatory framework that makes it easier for operators and consumers to negotiate.

The Welsh government’s involvement is limited, but they have moved to ensure the protection of consumers by providing education initiatives to minimise potential risk.

Betting operators are able to benefit from UK-wide regulations as they can provide services across member countries without having to tailor facilities based on location. This is especially beneficial for online operators who must adhere to regulations in different jurisdictions.