While sports betting may be a pastime enjoyed all around the world, it is legal in some countries and illegal in others. For instance, in the UK you cannot legally engage in gambling activities including sports betting, while in the United States it is legal under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). Knowing the difference between the two and understanding the law in your location can be important in ensuring you are not committing an offence.
UK Sports Betting
In the United Kingdom (UK), gambling is generally classified as a vice. For that reason, the government has enacted legislation to limit where and how you can spend your money on sports. The UK Gambling Act of 2005 introduced a complete overhaul of UK gambling laws, putting an end to betting shops and the like and paving the way for legal online betting.
As a result of this, today the UK is best known for its greyhound racing and horse racing, with a total of 40 gambling licenses being issued across the country. Football, cricket, and rugby are also hugely popular with sports fans, and there are hundreds of thousands of registered football and cricket fans in the UK. This interest in sport has resulted in sports books being popular locations for people to congregate and gamble.
The government has taken a restrictive view of sports betting, deeming it to be an activity that merely encourages gambling. Under the UK Gambling Act of 2005, sports betting is defined as:
- a bet, whether made voluntarily or involuntarily, that is settled by the outcome of a game or event
- a wager made, whether legally or otherwise, on the outcome of an event
- a stake or amount that is risked in pursuit of entertainment
In addition, the UK Gambling Act of 2005 makes it an offence to promote or offer to perform any act that is connected to gambling. That means that it is not just illegal to bet on sports in the UK, but it is also illegal to advertise or promote such activities.
US Sports Betting
The United States of America is a vast country spanning from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, often referred to as the ‘USA’. It is one of the world’s largest economies and second-largest countries, and has a largely libertarian political system. Gambling is widely accepted as a legitimate form of entertainment in the United States, with legal forms of gambling being operated in all 50 states, including Nevada’s world-famous casinos. As a result of this, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was passed by Congress.
This law made it an offence to engage in internet gambling, defined as “any wagering, betting, or similar activity conducted in whole or in part on the internet”. It also made it illegal for any non-profit organization or government entity to become involved in the business of gambling. The law was aimed at halting the rise of online gambling empires such as Poker Stars, which is owned by the firm 888 Holdings and is based in Nevada; Vantage Sportsbooks, part of Vici Ventures and based in Indiana; and FortuneJack, which is owned by the American firm WorldWinner and is based in North Carolina.
In a nutshell, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act makes it an offence for companies engaged in online gambling to knowingly accept US sports bets from within the country. It also prohibits any kind of gambling promotion or advertising.
The Legal And Illegal Differences Between Sports Bets In The UK And US
From a legal standpoint, it is important to point out that in the UK sports betting is perfectly legal, while in the United States it is not. However, in practice there are many similarities between the two. The biggest difference is that in the UK you cannot operate a bookmaking business or take bets from British citizens, and vice versa in the United States. In the UK it is against the law to engage in ‘fixed match’ betting, where you knowingly agree to fix the outcome of a sporting event. In the USA, however, ‘fixed match’ betting is specifically permitted. In addition, advertising or promoting gambling in any way, including sports betting, is generally prohibited in the UK, while in the United States it is legal as long as it is not done via the internet.
Which Countries Legalize Sports Betting?
In recent years, gambling has become so popular that it has spread from being a ‘vice’ to being a commercial activity, with legal gambling establishments having sprung up around the world. Some countries, such as Malta, regulate sports betting, while others, such as the US and the UK, do not. The main reasons for not legalizing sports betting in some countries include:
- Financial – The government does not believe that sports betting should be legalized due to the fact it would be a lucrative business for organized crime. They also cite problems with match fixing and gambling addiction as reasons for not legalizing sports betting
- Morals – Some countries believe that gambling is an immoral activity and as such do not condone it
- Lack Of Awareness – In countries where sports betting is not legal, people often do not know how to bet or are not even aware that it is an option
Wherever you may be, it is important to keep in mind the legalities and the morality of sports betting. In some places it may be completely legal, while in others it may be a criminal offense. It is also important to remember the potential risks associated with gambling, particularly if you are playing online, where you can’t control who you are dealing with. For that reason, playing online can be considered to be particularly risky.
Where Can I Travel To With A Sports Booking?
If you are planning on traveling to the UK or the US for a vacation or business trip and want to know where you can eat, sleep, and bet, then both countries are massive destinations to explore. Traveling to the UK or the US for a sporting event is also pretty popular, with major sporting events often taking place at prominent arenas and stadiums in both locations. Wherever you choose to go, be sure to have your passport and visa in hand.