Bitcoin may be coming of age in the online gambling space as UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) licensed casinos will be allowed to deal in convertible digital currencies as of October 31, 2016.
Licence condition 5.1.1 of the recently updated License Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) addresses “cash and cash equivalents” and includes the “usage of cash and cash equivalents (eg bankers drafts, cheques and debit cards and digital currencies)” as allowable for the first time.
Up until now, no major or relevant licensing body has set and implemented conditions on the use of digital currencies, although the Isle of Man regulator and Malta seem to be in the moving in that direction. Most casinos and poker sites accepting bitcoin now are licensed in Curaçao, where players are on their own, with no historical hope of intervention from the licensing authority when disputes arise.
In late July, the European Commission published draft legislation to bring an end to European users having anonymity when they use virtual currencies in an effort to stem Bitcoin’s use in financing illegal activities including terrorism.
In part, the draft states, “This proposal seeks to prevent the large-scale concealment of funds [that] can hinder the effective fight against financial crime and to ensure enhanced corporate transparency so that true beneficial owners of companies or other legal arrangements cannot hide behind undisclosed identities,” stated the EC proposal.
The UKGC rules coming into effect in Q4 only apply to operators who serve the UK market. The commissions June 2016 report stated that 719 online casino licences were held by 427 online casino operators as of September 2015.
Players in the United Kingdom can play at any online casino of their choosing, but are only afforded the protection of the UKGC when playing at a one of their listed sites.