Foreign gambling sites may need a UK licence

Operators of gambling sites accessible from the UK will have to apply for a licence from the Gambling Commission even if based overseas, under proposals set out by Minister for Tourism and Heritage, John Penrose, who - for some reason - is also on charge of gambling.

"I am proposing that the Gambling Act should be amended so that remote gambling is regulated on a point of consumption basis, so that all operators selling into the British market, whether from here or abroad, will be required to hold a Gambling Commission licence to enable them to transact with British consumers and to advertise in Great Britain," Penrose said in a statement last week. The plan could have treasury officials slavering over possible tax income levied on offshore gambling operations.

Penrose said the current system for regulating remote gambling "doesn't work". He claims "overseas operators get an unfair advantage over UK-based companies, and British consumers who gamble online may have little or no protection depending on where the operator they deal with happens to be based."

He added: "It is unfair to GB-licensed gambling operators that overseas competitors benefit from access to the market in Great Britain without bearing a fair share of the costs of regulation, or of research, education and treatment of problem gambling."

Currently offshore gambling sites have to registered in a location that appears on a UK government 'white list". Penrose wants the white list scrubbed out to allow operators "anywhere in the world" to apply for a Gambling Commission licence.

Online gambling was estimated to be worth some $29.3 billion in 2010, according to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants.