Gambling has been a popular favourite pastime for centuries. For decades, land-based casinos have been the hub for gambling activities. In recent years, online casinos have begun to take over the market. According to recent reports, online gambling is set to generate global revenue of nearly $1bn by 2026. It is a fast growing, dynamic industry that has benefited from advances in technology and the popularity of smartphones.

Just like we’ve seen with other digital industries that have sprouted up over the past decade, legislation struggles to keep up with innovations and developments in the online casino industry. Governments seem to follow one of two paths: they either try to regulate the emerging industry as quickly and as strictly as possible or they delay regulating as long as they can.

Neither of these are great approaches. In the first case, the online casino industry ends up stunted and many players turn to unlicensed offshore casinos, which can be poorly run or scams. When there isn’t enough regulation, there’s the same problem. It’s easier for unscrupulous online casinos to flourish with little recourse for players.

Somewhere between these two extremes is a healthy middle ground that keeps consumers safe while giving businesses the space they need to grow. Guides to online casinos often provide a brief overview of local gambling laws and are a great place to start researching gambling legislation. Let’s examine how Wales and Ireland have dealt with the issue of how to legislate online casinos.



Though in many ways its own separate nation, Wales adheres to UK laws. This includes the laws and regulations on gambling overseen by the UK Gambling Commission. Prior to last spring, the last major changes to gambling laws in Wales and the rest of the UK were a part of the 2005 UK Gambling Act. At that point in time, there was little need to try to regulate online gambling since it was still in its infancy as an industry.

According to the UK Gambling Commission, their mission is “to prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder…, ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling”. This means that most of their regulatory work is focused on protecting the player and not hung up on any moralising notions surrounding gambling itself.

One of the key components of the new legislation is that while online casinos do not need to be based in the UK, they must be licensed there. Another is that payments at online casinos cannot be made with credit cards. This is to help prevent people from spending beyond their means and reducing the chances that problem gambling will develop.

Gambling laws in the United Kingdom, including Wales, are responsive. This means that they understand that online casinos are an industry that is developing and changing quickly, so it is impossible to foresee what issues might appear in the future. Instead, they focus on making sure the current legislation is sound and addressing problems as they arise. Unlike issues like global warming that need proactive solutions, waiting to see what develops in the online casino industry is a sensible approach.



Gambling, particularly betting on sports, has a long history in Ireland. Laws surrounding sports betting have been fairly relaxed, while laws for land-based casinos and table games have been so tight that they have prevented an industry from developing. Recent changes to the sports betting legislation have opened up a loophole that could allow online casinos to open in the country.

In the recent Betting Act Amendment of 2015, provisions were made to legalise online sports betting. In doing so, they used the word ‘remote’ which could be interpreted to include a wider range of online gambling activities.

While the 2019 Act ruled that any gambling without a license was illegal, it did not establish a clear framework for how an online casino could obtain a license. This has left the industry in an odd limbo — licensed gambling isn’t illegal but there is no way to obtain a license. Since this was a provisional act, hopefully real change will be on the cards soon.

The UK has been quick to recognise the revenue potential of online casinos and has acted to make the country a welcoming location for the industry to establish itself while still implementing laws that protect its citizens. Ireland would benefit from taking a similar approach.