Is Poker Legal in the UK?

Discover the legal status of poker in the UK, including regulations for online and land-based casinos. Find out about poker laws, and where to play it online.

Can you legally play poker in the UK? Good news — you can! Both online and land-based poker are legal. But there are certain regulations, of which you should be aware, of course.

Gambling Regulation in the UK

All in all, the UK has a well-regulated gambling environment. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is the primary regulatory body here. It’s responsible for overseeing all forms of gambling, including poker. Established by the Gambling Act of 2005, this body ensures that all gambling activities are fair, safe, and transparent​​.

Online vs. Land-Based Casinos

In the UK, you can safely play poker in a land-based casino. Or, Play jack poker online. The experience will be safe and enjoyable in both cases (though you’ll certainly get more perks and bonuses in the latter case).

Land-Based Casinos

Land-based poker is perfectly legal in the UK. The only requirement here is that it must take place in a licensed venue. These include

  • casinos,
  • pubs,
  • and members’ clubs.

The UKGC licenses these establishments. So if a place has this license, it means it has met the standards for fair play and customer protection.

Online Casinos

Online poker is also legal, provided the site holds a UKGC license. This regulation came into full effect with the 2014 Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act. The latter requires all online gambling operators serving UK customers to obtain a UKGC license​​. This ensures that players are protected and that the games are fair.

What’s important here is that you don’t necessarily have to play in an online casino registered in the UK. You can very well play in a foreign online casino. For example, you may have heard about the JackPoker site (you can read the full Jack Poker review here). It welcomes players from different countries, including the UK (as well as gives them tons of welcome perks upon registration). 

Specific Regulations for Poker

So does it really make any difference from the legal perspective whether you play poker or any other casino game? Not really, in fact. Poker, both online and offline, falls under the broader category of gambling. That is, it’s subject to the same regulations as all other games. But there are some (just a few) specific rules for it:

  • You can play poker at home with friends, as long as it’s in a private dwelling and you don’t charge any entry fee for that. And if you’re playing in a public house, there are limits on the stakes to ensure it remains a social game​.
  • For commercial poker games, such as those in casinos or poker clubs, a license is required.

How to Start Playing Online Poker in the UK

So, it’s all legal, you’re in the UK and want to get started. Here’s how to make that first bet.

Step 1: Choose the Site

First things first, you need a legitimate site. Check for a UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) license. Or, if that’s a foreign site, check if it has other licenses you can trust. Trust is the clue here. If there’s a license, it means they play by the rules, and your money’s safe.

Then, you may have a list of licensed sites you are choosing between. Here, it’s best to see what other players are saying. Trustpilot, poker forums, or even a quick Google search can tell you a lot about the site’s rep.

A Quick Tip: Hunt for juicy welcome bonuses. But do check what you need to do to really get the bonus funds.

Step 2: Verify the License

Once again, check the licensing info for your favorite. Look in the footer or ‘About Us’ section. If you’re still unsure, head to the UKGC site and check their public register.

Or, you can write to the support (usually through email) and ask them to provide what’s unclear. If the license info isn’t easy to find and the support team doesn’t seem to be helpful either, move on. Better safe than sorry, after all.

A Quick Tip: Always ask anything that seems unclear or fishy BEFORE you actually register an account with them (and surely before you deposit anything).

Step 3: Set Up Your Account

Always use your real details — name, address, birth date, and email (many sites will only ask for your email today). This is important for when you cash out. No shortcuts here.

Be ready to upload a passport or a utility bill. Again, if that’s part of a KYC policy, you’ll simply be unable to withdraw anything without that.

A Quick Tip: Get the verification done right away. If you don’t complete it after the account registration, you can simply forget it and they’ll only remind you about it when your withdrawal request is delayed.

Step 4: Deposit Funds

Then, you choose a payment method that works for you (and that the site actually supports) — credit/debit cards, crypto, bank transfers, or e-wallets like PayPal or Skrill. Of course, it’s best to be familiar with the method.

Check the info about the minimum deposit requirements. Most sites let you start with a small amount but it’s still worth checking.

A Quick Tip: Deposit and claim your welcome bonus (if the latter needs to be claimed, of course).

Step 5: Learn the Strategies

Many poker sites (in fact, most) offer tutorials, guides, and all sorts of support resources. Even if you think you’re well-prepared, look those through. It won’t take much time but you’ll brush up on the basic rules, hand rankings, and strategies.

After that, start with free or low-stakes games. It’s a safe way to practice without risking much money. Again, even if you feel confident enough, it’s a new environment.

Step 6: Start Playing!

Play different game variants. There’s Texas Hold’em, there’s Omaha, there’s a lot to try. Learn their rules and strategies. See where you exceed and where you aren’t that good. Practice, practice, practice.

Final Thoughts

So the central takeaway is that it’s perfectly legal to play poker in the UK in 2024. More than that, it’s legal and safe notwithstanding where you actually play (online or offline). Of course, you need to choose a good poker room but for the rest — there aren’t any barriers or difficulties here.